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Filtration Soiling

By Michael Hilton

Filtration soil is a term used to describe dark, grayish lines that may appear on carpet. This is not a carpet defect, but a situation in which dust and other airborne pollutants can accumulate on the carpet face fibers in areas with a concentrated flow of air over the carpet or through tiny cracks or other open areas under the carpet. The soiling condition can occur quickly, or it may develop over a period of months or years. The level of soiling is dependent upon the volume of airflow and the level of pollutants in the air. Filtration soiling is not a result of the quality of carpet selected. The condition will obviously appear more pronounced on lighter colorations than darker colorations.

Filtration soil areas may appear around baseboards, under doors, along the edges of stairs and possibly away from walls where plywood sub flooring materials have been joined. Generally, the concentrated air flow will be from an upper level to a lower level of the home.

As indicated, filtration soiling can occur under closed interior doors where a central heating, ventilation, and air condition (HVAC) system is utilized. When possible, open Interior doors to reduce filtration soiling that may develop under closed doors while the HVAC system is in operation.

Filtration soil may be fireplace or automobile emissions, residue from furniture polishes, fine sand or clay particles, cooking oils, or a host of other soils or a combination of soils. Oily airborne contaminants trapped by carpet fibers will serve to attract more dry soil.

It is difficult to identify effective methods to reduce or prevent filtration soiling. Preventing airflow through carpet and carpet edges by sealing cracks in the subfloor, as well as under baseboards and edges of stairs, may reduce filtration soiling problems. Keeping air inside the home as clean as possible can be accomplished by reducing indoor air pollutants, such as cooking emissions, fireplace smoke, burning candles, cigarette smoke, and emissions from cleaning chemicals; and by the installation and regular replacement of high efficiency HVAC air filters.

While no one cleaning technique may be successful in all filtration soiling situations, recent innovations in soil- and stain-resist treatments applied to carpet have reduced the effort previously needed to remove the filtration soil. However, the complete removal of contaminants from the soiled areas can be complicated, depending on the type of contaminant materials present. To achieve the best results, the services of a cleaning professional should be considered.

Filtration Soiling Removal

Filtration soiling can be especially difficult to remove, since the soil particles are primarily fine particles that are allowed to build-up on carpet pile fiber over time. These soils can be a combination of water soluble and solvent soluble solids. Additionally, oily soil such as auto emissions, greasy kitchen soils, and other oily airborne soils can be quite difficult to remove even under normal soiling conditions. The type of soil that causes filtration soiling will vary over time (and by location) and complete removal may require a variety of aggressive removal approaches. At times, it may be much less difficult to restretch the carpet and trim away the soiled areas rather than attempting to remove the soiling. While no, one removal technique will be successful in all filtration soiling situations, the following process may be effective in a variety of soiling situations. In most filtration soiling situations, a carpet cleaning professional should be consulted for more effective removal.

For water soluble soiling caused by many internal pollutants, an alkaline traffic lane cleaner (detergent solution) can be effective. Follow dilution recommendations and apply solution directly to the soiled area. Allow adequate dwell time (usually 10 - 15 minutes). Agitate the area with a pile rake or other mechanical agitation.

  • Using a crevice tool, apply an alkaline rinse solution, and high water temperature, extract the alkaline traffic lane cleaner solution completely.
  • Repeat as long as there is improvement or until soiling has been removed completely.
  • For soiling caused by insoluble outdoor soils, follow above procedures and follow with an application of a high foaming shampoo solvent solution or a dry solvent directly to the soiled area. Allow 10 - 15 minutes dwell time and agitate the area with a pile rake or mechanical agitation. Use caution! Do not Saturate!!! Dry solvents will breakdown synthetic latex which holds the carpet backing together. Most dry solvents sold in the Home Depot paint department used to clean nylon paint brushes will work.
  • Thoroughly extract the solution from the pile and repeat if necessary. ( It may be necessary to use a defoamer to extract the high foaming detergent solution) Continue to repeat as necessary.

Many detergent solutions, not completely rinsed, will cause rapid resoiling. Use a spot removal extractor to thoroughly rinse all detergent solutions from the carpet pile fibers!!!

About the Author
Michael Hilton was the original creator of Carpet Buyers Handbook. Having owned and operated a carpet wholesale company, Hilton has a vast knowledge about all-things carpet related as well as other types of flooring.

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Carpet Color Change
Carpet Color Fading
Carpet Dye Defects
Local Color Change
Filtration Soiling
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