The Florida Times-Union

Keith of Color Your Carpet in Jacksonville, applies dye to a carpet with a large syringe.
WILL DICKEY/The Times-Union


Freshen carpet with good dye-job

When new floor covering just isn't practical, you may want to consider this colorful solution.

The living room carpet looks so horrid you bought area rugs to cover numerous spots, but a fresh juice stain spreads just past one rug's fringe. And the dog's favorite route to the door becomes evident when dirty tracks ruin another area rug.

New carpet would be nice but just isn't practical, whether because of cost or the reality that the dog and the juice-sipping kids will be around for a few more years. That makes it time to consider carpet-dyeing, said Keith of Color Your Carpet in Orange Park.

"In many instances, the actual pile of the carpet is fine," he said. "It's just discolored . . . traffic patterns usually are just dirt and loss of color." When the pile is structurally sound, Keith determines the carpet's original color and what dye mix is required to restore faded areas or what blend will make the entire carpet a new color. For Carol Grieve of Orange Park, dyeing her beige dining room carpet a dark green gave it a face-lift. When Keith did the work about 18 months ago, Grieve's carpet was about 10 years old.

"You know how carpet gets," she said. "They get old, they get matted down and soiled and ugly. After a while, you just can't really clean them any more." Since the dye job, Grieve's carpet looks fresh and new, and the color is very even, she said.

Dyeing carpet is a specialized business. A Web search turned up only two companies in Florida (Keith's and another one based in Ocala) and two in Georgia (Augusta and Evans) that advertise dyeing services. A few carpet cleaning companies also claim to offer the service.

Juli Catlin of Catlin Interiors in Jacksonville is aware of carpet-dyeing possibilities but said she limits its use in her interior design business because she often finds carpet simply needs to be replaced. "I consider it if a person wants to get a year or two more out of the carpet," she said. "For instance, if my son is home one more year before going off to college, I don't want to redo the family room while it's still getting that much use." Another of Catlin's interior design clients installed wool carpet that should have lasted 20 years. They ended up staining it within six months. In that case, Catlin said, dyeing was a great solution.

Though there are many possibilities with carpet dyeing, there are some guidelines. Dyeing can restore the original color to faded spots or areas. However, if the original dye in the damaged area is light, fixing the appearance might require changing the color of the entire carpet. This means going to a darker shade, if only by a few hues.

Keith also offers his customers color advice and innovative solutions. For one customer Keith recalls, the original plan was to dye a burnt-orange shag carpet marred by gold streaks in high-traffic areas. So that all the sections would match when the room was complete, Keith had to return the gold areas to their original orange. "She decided she really liked the [restored] orange, and that's where we stopped," he said.

Another customer was battling dirt tracks left by her husband's muddy work boots, Keith said. The solution? Dye the carpet from a lighter shade that showed the mud to a brown that was closer to the color of the mud.

Keith said that basic dye rates run from $1.55 to $1.75 a square foot, compared to replacing medium-grade carpet that averages $3 to $5 a foot. Dyeing costs vary depending on the complexity of a stain or the carpet's color pattern.

Dyeing does the trick for Tim Coleman, rooms division manager for the Holiday Inn Airport in Jacksonville. He wasn't familiar with the process when Keith dropped by with a sales presentation, but it turned out to be good timing for both men. "I had just noticed some bleach spots that I had to do something about," Coleman said. "I had never used carpet-dyeing anywhere." His other options were to patch the carpet, risking an obvious difference if there was fading in the older carpet, or to replace entire sections of carpet.

Keith now has the ongoing job of fixing various spots in the hotel's carpet, from recreating the bleached-out design in intricately patterned areas to making other spots match their surrounding, more solid color.

On a recent visit to the Holiday Inn Airport, Keith applied a neutralizing solution to a bleach spot in a hallway. "If I didn't take care of that [neutralizing], no matter how perfect I got it, six months later, anytime it got wet, [the spot] would be back," he said, adding that bleach and carpet cleaners continue to do their job long after anyone remembers having used a carpet cleaner.

Once the neutralizer had time to do its job, Keith added a mix of black, orange and blue dyes to 8 ounces of hot water to get the correct shade of blue. (Each dye mix is unique because it has to consider any dye remaining in the carpet fiber.)

Then, because it was a relatively small spot rather than an entire room, he filled a syringe with dye and -- like a tattoo artist using a needle to get ink under the skin -- carefully squirted a thin stream of dye into the pile of the carpet. Moments later, it was obvious to people sitting on the floor and staring at the spot that the dyed area was slightly brighter than the surrounding carpet. No problem. A quick mix of orange dye and a few squirts later and the spot blended easily with the non-dyed area.

For larger areas, Keith uses a spray wand that he equates with a large-scale airbrush. If a job is relatively straight-forward, Keith estimates, he can dye from 4,000 to 5,000 square feet of carpet in a day. The dye has no obvious smell, so a person can remain at home while the work is being done, and it is safe to walk on within a minute of being applied, he said.

Customers are asked to limit their pets' access to a room while it's being dyed. That rule came about after a Color Your Carpet worker doing a job for a franchise in another state accidentally sprayed a dog that got loose. The dog was fine, but it took weeks for the dye to wear off its fur.