They’re called filtration soil stains. Carpets are often subject to black soil lines at doorways, along the sides of stairs, and along the baseboards, and in my experience, most homeowners and businesses place the blame on the wrong causes.
What’s even worse than incorrectly placing the blame for those black lines though, is the manner in which home owners attempt to remove them. The end result is damaged carpets, furniture, woodwork, and baseboards.
The best way to remove the lines and black streaks from soil filtration is to call in a professional. The work is time consuming and labor intensive. You can expect to pay more for this service, especially if done well.
Even professional carpet cleaners may have limited success removing the lines completely, but if they are allowed to persist, the damage can become permanent, greatly reducing the value and longevity of your carpets.
What causes filtration soil lines?
Filtration marks are the result of oils and fine particulate molecules that bond to carpets, furniture, walls, and ceilings because of an electrical charge. The old adage, opposites attract is certainly true in this case.
The lines are created because as your furnace or heater runs, the air being loaded with added pollutants, rises and cools, then falling back down and depositing itself on cooler surfaces. This is because warm air is attracted to cooler surfaces.
The air seeks out cooler surfaces like outside walls, other rooms, or passage to cooler places like in the walls or under floors. A building breathes through these cracks and crevices, and as it passes from one place to another, carpeting acts as a trap for the pollutants.
Most homeowners and business people have never really considered that the largest air filters in any building are the carpet, upholstery, and drapes. This is why the lines appear at doorways where the doors are always closed or along the baseboards. As the air passes through the fabric, the oily particles are trapped and the black soil filtration appears.
Why is it so hard to remove?
The oily soils are so small, that they not only form an electrical bond, but they may also fit very nicely onto the very sites on the fiber designed to hold the color of the carpet, also known as “dye sites”. It makes the filtration soil hard to remove with carpet cleaning solutions alone.
Homemade cleaning solutions will probably have little or no effect on the soil, and may actually damage the carpet and prevent it from being able to be removed.
If you decide to tackle the job yourself, you will need to assemble a few basics.
Carpet Cleaning Solution, or Carpet Spotting Solution
A small brush with fine bristles, a small dish brush would work
A Citrus Solvent Gel
Start by cleaning the spot with a mild carpet cleaning solution, and agitate the spot by gently tamping ( tapping the bristles on the carpet and solution). Do not scrub the spot! You can unravel the fibers or damage them, leaving a fuzzy and possible irreparable spot.
Rinse the solution with clear water and blot the excess with a towel, again NO SCRUBBING!
IF the spot comes out, consider yourself blessed and fortunate. Don’t expect that result, because it rarely happens.
IF the spot remains, again the likely outcome, grab your citrus gel. The reason for using a gel is because solvents can destroy the backing of the carpet and separate it from the carpet face, known as “delaminating or delamination”.
This carpet damage can be repaired only from the back of the carpet by a professional. Gels are less likely to seep into the back of the carpet and cause damage. Search for carpet gel at a local carpet cleaning supplies store, look in the yellow pages to find yours.
Should you remove the spot yourself?
ATTENTION: Use the following method only on synthetic carpet fibers, applying hydrogen peroxide or ammonia to natural fibers like cotton, wool, silk, hemp, or any other natural fiber may cause it permanent damage. Seek the advice of a local professional.
Apply the gel and again tamp it with your brush. Before rinsing, if the spot still remains, then you will need to apply the hydrogen peroxide.
Apply the Hydrogen Peroxide with a trigger sprayer. Let it dwell on the stain for a few moments, and then spray a little ammonia on the spot. Ammonia will activate the Hydrogen Peroxide. This is a great trick for red wine stains as well.
If the spot is along a baseboard or next to woodwork or wood flooring, some additional precautions need to be taken. I’ve seen more than one paint job or finished piece of wood in need of repainting because of poor planning.
Use a piece of wood, plastic, or cardboard to protect surfaces from chemical damage or damage from the agitation or brushes. I’ve found that a piece of plastic cut from an old milk or water jug works exceptionally well.
Can filtration soil be prevented?
Soil Filtration lines can be prevented to some degree with a little forethought and planning.
First of all, have Fabric Protector applied with every cleaning. Some companies have programs in place that offer a discount on future cleanings when fabric protection is used, while others offer a stain and traffic area service for free. It often goes by a name like “Always Clean” or “Ever Clean” .
Secondly, consider having a the air spaces along stairs and baseboards caulked or sealed before staining occurs, or when the filtration soils are removed. A professional company may be able to offer these services concurrently with the filtration soil removal. Always ask, because it will most likely cost less to call out one service company than two.