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Why Do Carpet Stains Reappear After Cleaning?

puppy laying next to stainIf you have carpet in your home, I’m sure you know how tedious it can be to keep them clean.  Add in a couple of kids and a pet and you are looking at a very time-consuming chore.  

A common complaint about carpets is that stains often reappear after cleaning.  Sometimes as soon as the carpets dry, boom, stains appear.  Other times weeks will go by and then all of a sudden the previous stain will pop back up.

Today’s article is going to explain why this happens and what you can do about it.  There are two reasons why stains reappear after cleaning.  One is from left-over shampoo residue and the other is from wicking.  


A residue stain is when some of the cleaning agent was not completely washed off.  When the carpet dries, you will notice discoloration that looks like the stain came back.  

Have you ever not fully washed soap from your hands?  The result is a sticky mess.  It’s the same thing when soap is not completely washed from your carpets.

The soap is not removed, it dries and becomes sticky.  Dirt, dust, and food will find their way to the spot and stay there.  This is very noticeable in high traffic areas.  Residue stains are very common and difficult to clean.  

Click here to learn how often to clean carpets.


Wicking is when a stain is so deep that it has soaked through the carpet fibers all the way into the backing of the carpet.  Sometimes the stain will go beyond the backing and stain the underpad as well.  

You’ll clean the carpet and think you have done a great job.  But low and behold, a while later, the stains will reappear.  It’s because the stain was removed from the carpet fibers, but not from the backing or underpad.  

Another factor involved in wicking is overwatering.  If you apply too much water, the water will seep down into the backing, mix with the stain and travel back up through the carpet fibers, to the surface.  

The water will evaporate, but the stain will stay.  When the stains come back as soon as the carpet dries, it’s because of wicking.  

When you know that your carpet has been overwatered, you may have to pull back the carpet to let the backing dry.  This is a big job and may need to be handled professionally.  Contact Angel Dry today to get your carpets evaluated.  

How do I fix it?

Follow these pro tips for cleaning carpets:

  • The best thing you can do for your carpet is to immediately clean stains as soon as they happen. 
  • If you have a machine and you are dealing with a residue stain, fill the machine with vinegar instead of shampoo.  Clean carpets as you normally would.  
  • Mixing shampoo with vinegar and cleaning with a clean cloth will also work.  
  • Another solution is to dip a brush in rubbing alcohol and gently scrub the stain.  
  • Regular vacuuming will help prevent wicking stains because dirt will not be able to build up and embed your carpet.  
  • Make sure you use as little water as possible when cleaning your carpets.  
  • Use a clean cloth to blot the stain stain out instead of rubbing.  Rubbing a stain pushes it deeper into the carpet.  
  • For a very wet stain, use a hair dryer to dry the spot.  
  • Always turn ceiling fans on high after cleaning carpets.  This will help carpets dry faster.  
  • Put a weighted cloth or towel over a wet spot to soak up the water.  

Final Thoughtsold carpet stain

When you steam clean your carpets, residue and wicking stains are bound to happen, even when you use a professional cleaning service.  Luckily, there is a better way to clean carpets.  For over a decade, Angel Dry has been cleaning carpets the “dry” way.  

Dry carpet cleaning uses very little water, machines, and organic powders to clean your carpets.  This method of cleaning will not leave behind any residue stains.  Usually when we leave your house, the carpets will already be dry, which means you won’t have to worry about wicking stains either.  Our products are residue free, biodegradable, and nontoxic.