10 Common Carpet Cleaning Problems

With a properly done professional carpet cleaning everything usually goes smoothly. On occasion though, there may be a problem that occurs after the cleaning. This could be because of an equipment problem, chemical problem or just something odd about your particular carpet. Here are some of the most common problems.

1. Carpet Wrinkles

Sometimes, after a cleaning your carpet might develop wrinkles or bumps. This is obviously very concerning but do not panic. Carpet cleaning can not cause your carpet to loosen. It just can not happen. So, why does this occur? It all comes down to how the carpet is manufactured and the type of carpet.

The backing of your carpet commonly uses clay as a filler. This clay will attract and absorb moisture. When it does, it gets bigger. This causes your carpet to expand and develop wrinkles or bumps. This can be made worse if your carpet is Olefin or polypropylene because this material does not absorb moisture. Instead, moisture that hits it runs down the fiber, directly to the backing.

Improper cleaning can also cause the carpet backing to get overly wet. If too much pressure is used with not enough vacuum, your carpet can be over wet. Even with proper cleaning though, carpet wrinkles are a fairly common phenomenon.  In fact, I often warn my clients that this can happen if I suspect that they have one of those carpets.

The good news is that this condition is easily remedied. All that you need to do is allow the carpet to dry. Once it dries, the carpet will slowly but surely return to normal.  This can take 24 to 36 hours in some cases. Even after the surface of the carpet feels dry to the touch, there may be moisture still in the backing. You can speed the drying time by using portable fans, ceiling fans and your home HVAC system. You might be surprised at just how good of a dehumidifier your air conditioning is.

2.  Returning Spots

Sometimes spots come back after a cleaning. This is usually caused by operator error. In most cases, too much moisture is being used to clean the carpet. In other cases, the spot was not cleaned thoroughly enough to remove soil from deeper in the fiber. In those cases, the soil from deeper in the fiber wicked up as the carpet dried. Yet another cause could be that a clear residue was left on the carpet and the sticky residue slowly attracted soil to the spot.

In any case, the solution to the problem is to call the company back who did the original cleaning. The cleaner should re-clean the area being careful to do two things. They need to thoroughly clean the spot and they need to take time to recover as much moisture as possible. They should do extra extraction passes and place fans on the spot to get it dry quickly.

3. Surprise Pet Odor

This particular problem is for pet odors that you did not know about. You might have pets in your house or the former owners perhaps had pets. Before the cleaning, there was no odor but  few hours after the cleaning, you notice an odor. What is happening?

This problem is neither your fault or the carpet cleaners. What has happened is that you had an old urine stain that you did not know about. It could have been from your pet or from the previous occupants pet. There was no or minimal odor before and when it got wet, it got reactivated. The salts in urine attract moisture and draw it in like a sponge.

To correct this problem, you have two choices. One, you can call the carpet cleaner and ask them to come back and spray a deodorizer on the area. Expect to pay for this service if you did not originally point out the area to the carpet cleaner and did not request deodorization. Option two is to just wait it out. If the odor was undetectable before the cleaning, it will return to that state once it fully dries. Try to dry out your carpet quickly by using fans and your air conditioning system.

4. Dark Traffic Areas

Sometimes after a cleaning you notice dark traffic areas and dark areas in front of furniture. Your first thought might be that the carpet cleaner failed to clean these areas properly but look again. The condition might actually be something called traffic lane gray. It is not something caused by the cleaning and it is not caused by an improper cleaning.

Traffic lane gray occurs when the carpet fiber wears down and gets dulled and  scratched. The carpet in that area, because it has become worn, reflects less light. This makes i appear darker than the surrounding areas. You can confirm this by looking at the carpet closer. It will look worse from a distance because of the lack of reflected light. If you examine it closely, you will see that the individual fibers are worn.

So how come you are noticing this now and never noticed it before? Two reasons. One, the rest of the carpet looked dark before and after it is cleaned, you can pick out the worn areas. And two, after a cleaning you pay closer attention to how your carpet looks.

Traffic lane gray can not be corrected but it can be prevented. Vacuum your carpet at least once a week to remove abrasive soil and clean it once or twice a year. Rotate furniture to spread out the wear and to change the traffic paths. Also, place matts at every entrance to your home and try to get people to remove their shoes upon entering your home.

5. Bleach Spots

Sometimes after a cleaning, you notice light spots or even white spots on the carpet. These could look like drips or possibly hand prints that are lighter than the rest of the carpet. Sometimes the spots are red or blue, caused by a particular color being bleached out of a carpet. A beige carpet, for example could lose the red dye and you could be left with a very light blue spot. So did the carpet cleaner bleach your carpet?

I can assure you that in most cases the answer is no. No carpet cleaner will use anything on your carpet that can bleach it. I wouldn’t even carry any chemical on the truck that is capable of bleaching a carpet. The most logical explanation is that something was spilled on the carpet previously. It weakened the dye and when your carpet cleaner came across the spot with a steam wand, they reactivated the bleach and removed the color. Not their fault, it is a pre-existing problem.

There are so many things in your home that can bleach a carpet. One of the most common is acne medication. Have a teenager in the house? They tend to use benzoyl peroxide and get it on their hands.  They innocently touch the carpet and leave a residue on the carpet that is capable of bleaching it. Another common perpetrator is bathroom cleaners. Check the label and you will see that most use some sort of bleaching agent. Just carrying a bottle across a room could cause an innocent drip. Speaking of drips, got a small coin sized bleach spot or two outside of a bathroom? Use a maid service? They tend to carry buckets of bleach from bathroom to bathroom and drips happen.

The good thing is that bleach spots can usually be fixed but it may be hard to find someone who can do it. Some but not all carpet cleaners will do bleach repair. You will need to call around to find someone who can handle the job.

6. Streaks In Carpet

Streaks in carpet can be caused by a malfunctioning jet on a steam cleaning wand. It might be partially clogged or worn out to the point where all of the water is sprayed out int he center of the jet instead of being fanned out. Streaks will appear as lines, about one inch wide running the path that the carpet cleaning wand took.

To correct the problem, your carpet cleaner will need to return to your home and re-clean the carpet with a properly functioning carpet cleaning wand.

7. Wavy Lines In Carpet

Sometimes after a carpet cleaning, a wavy line can appear in a carpet. This is called pile distortion and is not caused by your carpet cleaning, but rather exposed by it. The carpet cleaning has lifted the pile, exposing a natural phenomenon that can happen to carpet, especially dense higher end carpet.

The wavy line you are seeing is the dividing line between two sections of carpet. YOu know how cut pile carpet has a dark side and a light side. If you run your hand across a carpet it will look lighter or darker. Run it back the other direction and the opposite effect will happen. Well, with pile distortion, your carpet has shifted and reversed. The line you see is the line between the fibers that have shifted and the fibers that are still in their original position.

Unfortunately, this condition is not something that can be corrected. Once the carpet settles back down, it will become less apparent but this is just a trait of pile carpeting. Ironically, the more expensive and denser your carpet is, the higher likelihood of this occurring.

8. Strange White Haze

On occasion, there will be a white haze that appears on a carpet after a cleaning. It occurs after the carpet dries, seemingly out of nowhere. This has several possible causes.

The first possibility is that the carpet owner has used carpet fresh or perhaps baking soda on the carpet in the past. This stuff is incredibly hard to remove from the carpet and usually ends up settling at the base of the carpet fiber. Then, when your carpet cleaner comes along at wets the carpet, the powder wicks up to the surface, forming a white haze.

The next possibility is that your carpet cleaner used a powder concentrate cleaning solution and used too high of a concentration. As the carpet dried, it left the residue of the white powder on the carpet.

The solution to this problem usually lies in vacuuming the carpet thoroughly after a cleaning. In most cases, the powder residue will easily separate from the carpet, leaving you with a nice and clean floor. In some cases, you might have to ask the carpet cleaner to return and rinse the carpet. A low pressure fresh water rinse should be able to remove the residue without leaving enough moisture behind for more material to wick to the surface.

9. Split or Loose Seam

When carpet is installed it is pieced together from multiple sections  of carpet. Most rooms will consist of just one piece of carpet with seams attaching it to hall carpet and to closets. Larger rooms might have seams running down the side or the middle of the room, depending on the size. A good installer will generally place the seam at a location where it is not very apparent.

As your carpet ages, the seams can become loose and weak. A carpet cleaning can expose a loose or weak seam and provide the final straw that breaks its back. Carpet cleaning itself will not cause a seam to fail but it might cause a weak or failed seam to come loose.

This problem is easily fixed. As a DIY approach, you might be able to repair your seam with a simple hot glue gun. Simply expose the seam, apply hot glue and lay the carpet back in place. Put a heavy weight on top of the carpet and allow it to cool completely. In many cases, this is all that you need to do. If the seam is badly damaged, you might need to have it professionally repaired. A carpet repair person can install a new seam with a new piece of seaming tape and a seam iron. The repair will make the area as good as new and will be log lasting.

10. Crunchy Carpet 

Sometimes after a carpet cleaning, you might notice that your carpet is stiff or crunchy. In most cases this is caused by a cleaning residue. The carpet cleaner could have uses too high of a concentration of cleaner or they could have used an encapsulate cleaner that is designed to dry to a brittle crystal that will be vacuumed out. Either way, it is an easy problem to cure.

In most cases, the crunchiness of the carpet will go away on its own without any intervention. Common foot traffic will break up the residue and vacuuming will remove it. 99 out of 100 times, this will do the trick, so give it a shot. If, after a few days, the problem has not gone away or is very troublesome, you might contact your carpet cleaner and have them return to do a clean water or acid rinse. This will remove any remaining residue and restore the texture of the carpet.