As professional carpet cleaners, wicking is something we’ve all experienced at one time or another. Recently a carpet cleaner asked what causes wicking. And although there are a number of explanations that could be given, here’s a simple way to explain what’s taking place.
Wicking is a result of capillary action as moisture moves up the fiber during the drying process. To illustrate, if you were to place a wick into a glass of Kool-Aid you could watch the colored drink transfer up the wick. The same phenomenon occurs with carpet fiber. There are variables in the absorbency of different types of fiber and that affects the rate of wicking. However wicking can occur with all types of carpet fiber.
Wicking is most frequently caused by residue from soil that wasn’t completely removed during the cleaning process. However before you convict yourself of being a less than adequate cleaner, it would be reasonable to consider that removing 100% of the soil down at the backing of the carpet can be extremely challenging or perhaps impossible at times. And that’s why wicking is a very common problem.
Wicking is especially a concern when you’re dealing with commercial glue down “CGD” carpets. A commercial glue down carpet exhibits limited airflow when performing HWE cleaning, and the tuft bundles are frequently crushed and compacted thereby trapping soil at the base of the fiber. Another factor is that olefin fiber is also the least absorbent type of carpet fiber, so moisture moves very quickly up the fiber as it dries. Therefore an olefin carpet can be a particularly problematic carpet for wicking.
As carpet cleaners we’re called upon to clean carpet fiber – the fuzzy stuff up top. But we also need to consider what lies underneath the fuzzy stuff. What various kinds of debris and soil have seeped down to the base of the fiber? How much crud has penetrated into the backing? Has soil gone through the backing and is now trapped in the pad or on the sub flooring? If our carpet cleaning methods were able to totally address the backing and the sub flooring we’d be actually be cleaning a lot more than the fuzzy stuff.
Since we can’t clean the sub floor (except in isolated areas with a Waterclaw), what’s laying at the base of the carpet has the potential to cause a wicking problem. It’s unavoidable at times. However there are some simple methods that can be employed to reduce or eliminate the condition. Here are some techniques that can minimize the condition of wicking while cleaning the carpet.
1. Clean as thoroughly as possible.
2. Accelerate the drying. Use fans, crank up the HVAC system, and or increase air flow to the building. Post-bonneting can also help to speed dry the carpet.
3. Cleaning with encapsulation products, or at least finishing off the carpet with an encap product can go a long way to prevent wicking.
The high concentration of polymer in a good encap product will help to get a wicking condition under control. And if your encap product contains a built in fluorochemical, it can also retard the wicking process.
There’s one situation where wicking can present a particularly challenging situation, and that’s when we encounter recurring spill stains. I’ve spent most of my years in business cleaning commercial carpet and recurring spills are a frequent problem. Of course, recurring spill stains can present a problem for residential cleaners too. In fact it’s fair to say that most cleaners would agree that recurring spill stains are the most common wicking problem they encounter.
What if there was a simple way to eliminate spill stains and never have them return again? What if the remedy was so effective that you could literally bank on the results? What about adding “No More Spill Stains” to your commercial marketing? There are several techniques for dealing with recurring spill stains, but here’s a little trick I learned that completely eliminated recurring spill stains in our commercial carpet cleaning business…
The Encapman’s Never Fail Spill Stain Remedy:
Make sure that you follow these steps TO THE LETTER, and your spots WILL NOT return. How can I be so certain of this? It’s because we’ve cleaned literally millions upon millions of square feet (miles) of carpet and we’ve treated an unimaginable number of spill stains with this technique — and it works. Even if the spot is cleaned again at a later time the spot will not re-wick later.
NOTE: TAKE YOUR TIME and follow these steps carefully.
1. When approaching a spill stain, isolate the stain and thoroughly scrub the carpet surrounding the perimeter of the stain using a quality encapsulation detergent, leaving the stain untouched. DON’T SCRUB THE SPILL SPOT – LEAVE IT DRY.
2. Next, aggressively scrub dry passes over the spot. Criss-cross the scrubber back and forth over the stain and continue to scrub continuously for a full minute or two.
We don’t want to get the area wet with any additional detergent. This way, the spot is being aggressively cleaned with minimal moisture.
This is not a totally dry scrub; moisture is actually being captured from the surrounding area and is being drawn across the spot as the scrubber criss-crosses back and forth over the stain. However, the moisture is being kept to an absolute minimum.
By scrubbing for a full minute or two, the spill stain is receiving an extremely thorough scrubbing.
3. Prepare a spray bottle of a good crystallizing encapsulation detergent and mix the spray bottle at a rate of about 50/50 with water and detergent. This is an exceptionally effective spill stain remedy. After scrubbing the spot thoroughly as described above, spray the spot with a few squirts of the 50/50 encap stain mixture.
4. The final step is to make one final quick dry pass over the treated spot with the scrubber to work the concentrated encapsulator down into the fiber. Now the spot won’t return!
This trick for eliminating recurring spill stains transformed our carpet cleaning business. It enabled us to sell “Spot Free” cleaning to our commercial clients. Our customers LOVE it, since nobody has ever been able to remove spill stains as effectively before. The only time we’ve ever had a problem is when one of our technicians cuts corners and spends less time than they he should have. If they don’t spend at least a full minute or two DRY scrubbing each individual spot first – the process is not going to work. However if you’ll follow these steps carefully you can be 100% certain that any recurring spill stain can be eliminated.
Although wicking and recurring spill stains are a common condition in our industry, it is possible to successfully clean carpets without experiencing wicking. And when you do come across a spill stain that could possibly reappear after it’s been cleaned, this simple trick can insure that the spill stains will never be seen again.