No carpet is stain-proof! While many retail salespeople may paint a picture that a product is bullet proof and most spills clean up with water, this is not always the case. However, armed with the proper knowledge, proper stain removal solutions, a little practice, and a boatload of patience, you should be able to remove the majority of spills before they become permanent stains.
For clarification, we should distinguish between spills, spots, and stains. A spill is a fresh accident. With most carpet, fresh spills will come out with ease, if removal is attempted quickly. Most spills require time to attach to carpet dye sites before you have difficulty removing them. Bringing in a professional cleaner on a 2-3 year basis to reapply a fresh topical treatment will help prolong the time before this attachment occurs and is well worth the money. These treatments increase surface tension (like a Teflon® frying pan) to allow spills to bead on the surface. These treatments wear away and wash away over time, so a reapplication is necessary.
If the spill remains for an extended period a spot will likely develop. A spot will remain visible after the spill has dried and may require more time, expertise, and possibly even specialty stain removal solutions to remove. An ordinary soda spill with high sugar content may fall into this category. If not properly removed the sugar will continue to attract soil and the spill will reappear. A red drink spill would be a more difficult spot because these drinks use the same dyes that the carpet industry uses to dye its fiber. These spots may require professional assistance with specialty chemicals if no dealt with immediately. They may develop into a permanent stain.
Permanent stains are…well…permanent. These may be stains where color is added to the fiber like iodine or betadine, or they may be stains where color has been stripped, as with bleach or acne medications. In some cases, a carpet cleaning professional may be able to bleach this area devoid of color and redye the area. A good redye professional can return this area to its original color with little or no visible color difference.
Other stains may be removed and might reoccur. Reoccurring stains may be attributed to a number of factors, including the use of detergent solutions that attract soil. Another common reason for resoiling is wicking. Wicking is the evaporation or drawing up of soil/stains from the base of the carpet tufts or from the carpet backing itself. The photo below shows a red food dye stain on the carpet surface and on the backing. As you can see, some stains may be absorbed by the carpet backing and spread. This is a primary reason why you should act quickly in removing any carpet stain.
The recommendations under this heading are a general rule of thumb for most spills. Follow these recommendations carefully and the number of permanent stains that you encounter will be limited.
Carpet stain removal is easy! Most carpet cleaning solutions (stain removers) can be found under the kitchen sink. There is no need for a professional carpet cleaner once you understand proper stain removal procedures.