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Spill, Spot, Stain: What's the Difference?

Spill, Spot, Stain: What's the Difference?

Spills, spots and stains have the power to permanently damage or discolor carpet. When it comes to carpet maintenance, building service contractors (BSCs) are challenged to identify various soils and discolorations to discern the right way to treat and remove them. There are many advantages to proper carpet care, including satisfied customers, so it’s important for BSCs to understand best practices for managing spills, spots and stains as well as reducing their occurrence.

Prioritizing Carpet Care

Carpet with neglected stains may compel facilities to replace carpet prematurely, which adds to landfill waste. Wall-to-wall carpet replacement is a time-consuming and expensive process in itself. It also hinders accessibility to certain areas of a facility, causing an added headache for managers and potentially upsetting customers and residents.

Treating spills, spots and stains will create longer lasting and better-looking carpet. Improved carpet appearance has a direct effect on customer retention and profitability. Recent Harris Poll research reported that more than half (58%) of Americans assume an entire facility is not clean after encountering dirty carpet. Additionally, half would spend less time in the facility and 56% would look for an alternative place to go. Facilities are increasingly relying on BSCs to help them maintain cleanliness in order to retain their customer base and enhance loyalty.

Understanding Carpet Care Terminology

BSCs are the trusted caretakers of carpet, playing an important role in prolonging the lifespan of flooring assets by properly addressing spills, spots and stains. While some may use these terms interchangeably, cleaning professionals must understand the key differences and how to address each.

  • Spill – Accidental spills are the primary culprit that cause spots and stains. The type of spill differs depending on the setup of the facility and its purpose. Most organizations can expect food and beverage spillages, but there is also the possibility of spilled mechanical oil, wax, paint and other liquids and solids. For wet spills, use a clean dry rag to immediately blot up the excess moisture until it no longer appears on the rag. If it is a large spill, you can use a wet vacuum to suction it before blotting it dry. Remember to wear PPE when cleaning spills to prevent the spread of bacteria.
  • Spot – When an organic substance spills onto carpet, it creates a spot. These substances will not permanently alter the carpet fiber, which is their differentiating characteristic from carpet stains. The sooner you can treat carpet spots, the better. Just like approaching a spill, first blot out the moisture to prevent it from sinking deeper into carpet. Then, gently apply the appropriate chemistry to the spot and brush inward with a bristled spotting tool to agitate it. Make sure to blend the surrounding area for a consistent appearance.
  • Stain – When spots and spills are left unattended, they can become permanent stains. With time, the substance embeds itself into the carpet fibers causing discoloration that can leave a lasting impression on guests. Some types of carpet stains are more difficult to remove, but it’s not impossible to do so with the right solution. Make sure you have a variety of cleaning solutions in your arsenal. Liberally apply your specialty chemistry and agitate the carpet while simultaneously lifting the carpet pile. Allow the chemistry to work for the appropriate length of time as instructed by the manufacturer. If a stain reappears several days after chemistry application, repeat the process.

Prevent the Impact of Spills

The best way to address carpet spills, spots and stains is to enact preventative measures to minimize their occurrence. To help building residents, visitors and employees limit these accidents, consider the following strategies:

  • Setting guidelines for patrons – Some facilities may want to prohibit patrons from bringing in outside food or beverages to avoid spills in carpeted areas. BSCs should encourage customers to include signage at the entrance as a reminder. For facilities that allow food and drink, it’s important to remind customers and staff to keep a cap or cover on containers when they’re not being used.
  • Training employees to check for accidents – It’s possible that spills, spots and stains will arise when BSCs are not onsite. BSCs should train facility employees to periodically check for spots and blot up any excess liquid or material until the BSC can address it with the proper cleaning chemistry and tools.
  • Providing access to trash and recycling bins – To help prevent accidental spills, BSCs should install an appropriate number of trash cans and recycling bins throughout the building for easy disposal and empty these once they are full. When trash cans are overflowing, contents can spill out and customers may be more inclined to place their trash on a nearby shelf or the floor.

BSCs should prioritize properly addressing spills, spots and stains to improve carpet care in the facilities they manage.There are stain blocking products available to protect areas prone to frequent spills. These blemishes can dirty carpet and give customers or residents the wrong impression of the facility’s cleanliness. Expectations for cleanliness are at an all-time high in the wake of the pandemic. BSCs that meet these expectations will have happier customers and a reputation for excellence.

For more information about carpet care, and low-moisture encapsulation machines and chemistry, contact Whittaker at 800.422.7686 or sales@whittakersystem.com.

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