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Kitchen Chemistry Can Save The Day!

 Coffee Spill 236

You just spilled coffee on your new carpet. In a panic, you rush to grab a bottle of “store-bought spot removal product” and get ready to apply it liberally to the splash zone.

STOP! SLOWLY BACK AWAY FROM THE COFFEE SPILL.

Take three deep breaths. Everything is going to be ok – as long as you don’t use the spot removal product! Instead, try a little kitchen chemistry.

Just about everything you can spill on your carpet (including regular coffee) will dissolve in water, and thus intense chemicals aren't needed to “resolve” the situation. Many store bought spotters contain bleaches and/or concentrated detergents that, in addition to being unnecessary, can actually harm your carpet. So, if you do spill something on your carpet, try this:

  1. Soak up as much as you can by blotting (never rubbing) with a clean towel.
  2. Pour cold water on the spot and again blot with a clean towel. Keep doing this until the spot disappears or water alone ceases to be effective.
  3. For any residual – mix a 4:1 batch of hot water with ONE drop (no more) of dishwashing detergent, and either baking soda or distilled white vinegar (see note). Gently pour that solution on the spot and blot with a clean towel until it is fully gone.

Note: The decision about using baking soda or distilled white vinegar depends on whether the spilled substance is acidic or alkaline. The cleaning solution needs to be on the opposite side of the pH scale to neutralize the spill, so for spills that have an acidic pH, use baking soda in the cleaning solution. For alkaline spills, use distilled white vinegar to create an acidic cleaning solution.

The good news is that most soils are acidic, so if you have any doubt, mix up an alkaline solution with baking soda.

Things like coffee, tea, juice and pet urine all start out as acids, but pretty quickly (in about a day) metabolize into alkaline substances. If you get to them right away, they’re still acidic and you can use baking soda, but if you discover them the next day, go with the distilled white vinegar. If you ever have any doubt, check out the Stain Emergencies section of our website.

Paint, nail polish and inorganic oils require chemical solvents to dissolve, so give us a call if you’re dealing with something like that. Otherwise, kitchen chemistry can resolve most spills or spots and won’t hurt your carpet!


Check Those Filters!

filtration 237Every so often, we'll have a job where we see gray shading around the baseboards of a room. This typically happens on the upper floors of a house around exterior walls (or under doors). As with everything we encounter, we use all our expertise and every potential cleaning agent to make the carpet look as good as possible. Sometimes, we can remove it completely, and other times we can lighten it, but unfortunately this "filter shading" is often permanent.

Why does this happen? "Filter shading" occurs when a house's HVAC air filters stop removing the microscopic carbon-based particulates in the air. Because houses aren't perfectly sealed, air flows through the seams where floor and wall meet, moreso on the upper floors. As air, rich in microscopic carbon is pulled through the seam, carpet along the baseboard acts as a de-facto air filter and traps those particles. Their microscopic size allows them to get deep into the fibers, and since carbon is insoluble, it doesn't respond to steam cleaning. Our thorough approach will remove any water soluble (non-carbon) elements, and we will also apply reducing agents to try and alter the chemical structure of the shading so it doesn't show as much. Most of the time, however, that gray shading is permanent.

So, the best way to deal with filter shading is to prevent it before it occurs, and the following steps will help immeasurably:

  • Replace your air filters regularly so they do their job pulling particulates out of the air
  • Vacuum around baseboards often
  • Smoking contributes to the fleet of airborne particulates, so smoke outside whenever you can