Flooring Inspection Safari: Causes of Dirty Carpet

soapy carpet spot | carpet expert Glenn Revere

In a previous post, I discussed why a three-year-old carpet stayed clean after its first cleaning, but quickly soiled after its second cleaning. Sometimes, even a brand new carpet starts to “soil up” after just a few weeks. Here’s why.

Carpet mills have to add a detergent-based lubricant to any synthetic fiber (nylon, polyester, or olefin) when they spin it into carpet yarn. Otherwise, the heat from the spinning process could damage the fiber. This is called a spin finish. This lubricant is normally removed during the production process. But mistakes happen. Sometimes the spin finish stays in the carpet instead of getting removed. You can’t see it. When the new carpet is installed in your home, dirt starts to stick to the detergent. Before you know it, your carpet gets dark in the walkways. White socks turn dark on their soles.

We test for this condition by lightly misting a small area with distilled water. Then we gently agitate the fibers with a bone scraper or soft bristle brush. When we see the spin finish foam up, we have found the culprit.Typically, only the tips of the carpet tufts attract soil. When we separate the pile and use a lighted magnifier, we can check the full length of the tuft for any other contaminants. Some types glow under ultra-violet light, so we’ll shine UV light over the fibers and look closely.

Fortunately, a thorough hot water extraction with just clear water (no cleaning chemical) removes the detergent-based lubricant and makes your carpet look new again. Once the lubricant is gone, your carpet will stay clean just the way you expected in the first place.


Who is Glenn Revere?

Glenn Revere has been a carpet expert since 1973. He’s a certified flooring inspector and the author of All About Carpets, the only book written to protect and inform you about your carpet choices, from carpet buying and carpet warranties to carpet care and maintenance. You can find him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.


Photo: Glenn Revere

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