BUNZL Cleaning & Hygiene Supplies Blog

Spots and Stains: Can You Tell the Difference?

From spilled cups of coffee and leaking pens to trodden-in dirt and oily boots, surface spots and stains on carpets and other soft furnishing are par for the course in busy commercial environments. However, spots and stains are not the same thing, and understanding the difference between them is key to treating and removing them effectively, and in a timely manner.

spots and stains

In this blog post we’ll explain how spots and stains are different, how to identify both of them, and most importantly of all, how to treat and remove them.

The difference between spots and stains

spots and stains

When a mark is made on a carpet, sofa or other soft furnishing, most people tend to refer to it as a ‘stain’ – but depending on the cause of the stain it could be a ‘spot’, and may need to be treated very differently.

A ‘spot’ is when the outside of the fabric fibres have been discoloured by a foreign matter, which can be removed with the correct type of cleaning. You can often ‘feel’ a spot on fabric or carpet, as it is on the surface of the fibres.

On the other hand, a ‘stain’ is actually when the fibre has been penetrated and its colour has been permanently changed. Bleach is one example of a true stain – even marks from substances like red wine or ink are ‘spots’ that can be removed if they’re treated in the right way, with suitable and effective cleaning products.

How to remove spots from carpets and fabric

spots and stains

Spots usually fall into two main categories:

  • Water soluble – organic, protein-based substances such as food and drink spillages, and bodily fluids and waste
  • Solvent soluble – greasy or oily substances such as tar, crayon, lipstick, and car oil

Water soluble spots are effectively treated using a water and detergent-based cleaning product, but you should also consider using biological cleaning products, which contain natural enzymes that ‘eat’ away at a substance even hours after it was initially spilled. This makes them especially effective for removing older spots that you may had thought had become permanent stains!

You can find out more about biological cleaning products and the fascinating way in which they work in our Ultimate Guide to Biological Cleaning and Antibacterials, and take a look at our Biological Cleaning range which includes products like InnuScience NU-Karpetkare Carpet & Fabric Cleaner, an all-in-one product that can be used as a spot remover or for a deeper clean.

On the other hand, solvent soluble spots should not usually be treated with water-based cleaning products as they do not dissolve in water. Solvent-based cleaning products are typically recommended for oily and greasy stains, however products such as Diversey Care Spot & Stain Remover have been developed with a unique formula that can tackle all types of common spots, from both water and oil based substances.

An important thing to bear in mind however is that no matter what type of cleaning product you are using, when removing spots from carpets or soft furnishings, you should test the product in an inconspicuous area first. You should also then use the product sparingly to avoid over-wetting the carpet as this can cause carpets to ‘lift’ from their backing. Tread carefully!

To see our full range of effective and specialist spot removers and stain removers, take a look at our Spot & Stain Remover range so you can be prepared for all types of accidents.