Attack of the Zombie Carpet Stains

Just under 3 years ago we moved to a house that had lovely, spotless ivory-colored carpets throughout.

Within two months, the carpets in the family room and master bedroom had developed some major stains.

Now, don’t get me wrong - we’re slobs and have certainly been known to spill things. But we simply hadn’t had time to mess 'em up that badly. Evidently, we were seeing long-presumed-dead carpet stains, resurrecting themselves.

We’d had something similar happen with a stain at our previous house. A casserole containing soy sauce and other things had spilled. We had it cleaned by a professional, the stain was gone, but within a year or so it had reappeared.

What’s up with this? How does this happen?

(hey, it’s one thing if my slobbish past catches up with me, but it seems awfully unfair when someone else’s slobbish past catches up with me!)

I was a professional carpet cleaner for a summer nearly twenty years ago. You have illustrated why you need to clean up a stain as soon as possible.

My guess is that the stain soaked all the way through the carpet and into the liner so what you have is a stratified stain. When the carpet was cleaned, the stain on the surface and a bit below the surface was removed. Over time, the stuff below worked its way up to the surface.

You didn’t say which method was used to do the cleaning and you probably don’t know in this case. I have no idea if carpet cleaning technology has changed in the last couple of dacades but I think that you want to use a deep steam cleaning on this stain.


Another possibility is that whoever cleaned a spot in the past used to much cleaning product and/or didn’t thoroughly remove it all and left a sticky spot.

Hajario’s explanation is more likely in the case of the stain I made (spilt casserole) because it came back in exactly the same shape as the original stain had been. Regarding the stains in our current house there’s no way to tell though.

I am confused though: Hajario, if the stain has been removed from the uppermost fibers, how might it migrate up from the lining? Would there still be little molecules of soy sauce / whatever down below, that wick upward due to normal humidity in the air or something? I’m pretty sure our carpet was steam cleaned, as it was done by a professional outfit.

Or is it possible that though the visible stain was removed, there’s some colorless residue that later oxidizes and darkens?

Oh well… in my case, at least, the carpet is now gone (replaced by hardwood) so no longer a problem.

One summer when I was in college I cleaned carpets and during a different summer I removed and installed carpeting. My home now is entirely hardwood floors and tile. That should tell you something. Carpets are nasty, nasty things. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff I saw.

Professional carpet cleaning outfit? It is to laugh. Many, maybe most, of them are scammers and do horribly bad jobs.

Anyway, stuff works its way through the carpets up to the top and down through the bottom. I’ve pulled old carpet out of houses and found piles of dirt underneath the carpet padding, like enough to fill up several dust pans in a small living room. This is years of dirt that’s worked its way down.

I think that it’s particles of soy sauce or whatever working its way up. After the soy was cleaned from the surface, there was a big pocket of it in the center. My guess is that this stain was in a traffic area. If it was under a couch this wouldn’t have happened.


:::cue Psycho-esqe screeching violins:::

Verrrrrry interesting - in fact the known-quantity stain was in the highest-traffic part of the house, just inside the front door. And the “left-behind” stains in the new house were all in the family room, or in a high traffic area in the master bedroom, so that makes sense.

Of course under-the-couch stains wouldn’t matter so much :slight_smile:

Unless you’re a poor college kid cleaning carpets for $5/hour. The under and behind the couch stuff was the worst; five year old Fruit Loops, never found chocolate Easter Eggs, rodent shit, etc. Some peeps would rearrange their furnature to hide the stains instead of getting them cleaned right away.


I can sympathize. We installed off-white burber carpet in the family room. Just a couple weeks after the installation, a friend brought his latest flaky date over. He, (the date) promptly dumped his super tanker of diet coke in the dead middle of the room. That was two years ago.
I’ve rented steam cleaner and had professional cleaners. I’ve even got down on hands and knees with my special secret cleaner and a water exrtactor. Scrubbed the stain, poured clear water then used the extactor then re-rinsed and extracted. The ghost coke comes back in a week or two.
We’re going to selling our house soon, and as much as I hate doing it, we’re probably going to have it cleaned just before showing it. So the new owners will probably be revisited by the stain of Christmas past.
Unless of course, someone here comes up with a fool proof remedy… Huh? Huh?

Certain stains oxidize :eek: over time. While drying “clear”, over time the chemicals break down and develop a color. :smack: