There is an increasing number of complaints about color loss, mysterious stains and damage occurring on carpet, rugs and upholstery. These can be due to bleaching and color loss of the dyes. The rise in occurrence of bleach damage parallels the popularity of consumer products containing strong oxygen-type bleaches. These products are sold to consumers for spot and stain removal. They carry a trade name akin to “oxy-“ or “oxi-“ something. This prefix connotes an oxygen bleach (and oxidizing agent) as the main ingredient, by contrast with the more familiar chlorine bleach.
There are several causes that can contribute to fiber damage and dye loss, which unfortunately are permanent when they occur. First is the lack of care and attention by the consumer or user to pretest the product. But all product directions prescribe that it must first be pretested in an inconspicuous location. Many consumers avoid this step, although it’s critical in determining if the dyestuff is sensitive to color change or loss of color from the oxi-type bleach.
A second cause of latent bleach stains is using these bleach products without proper mixing or dilution as required. Recommended dilutions are low, e.g. 1/4 tablespoon per 16 ounces of solution. The adage “if it works, then more is better” is never safe when using bleach! Overuse can indeed result in permanent color loss. Third is the product’s use on upholstery, bedding or textiles instead of carpet and rugs. When used on carpet and rug fibers, the solution might be safer. But on upholstery, there is an even greater risk of color change or dye bleeding. Directions often specify rinsing out these stain removers after use. We know however that rinsing is not always done as required. In addition most bleach-containing products state that they should not be used on wool, wool blends, silk, leather or non-washable items.
The oxi- or oxy-type bleaching products for stain removal may contain sodium perborate, sodium percarbonate or hydrogen peroxide. There is also color loss and bleach damage that can result from using benzoyl peroxide acne medication and cosmetics. These products, when used in very dilute form, might be color-safe on most textiles. But if used improperly or at higher concentration they are capable of damaging textile dyes, resulting in a permanently bleached-out area of color change or color loss.
Cleaners and restorers are often asked about, or improperly blamed for, these mysterious bleach stains. Yet the latent bleaching and damage was likely present before, or the color loss had already begun. Such color changes can be less obvious or obscured by dirt and soils prior to cleaning, only to be revealed after a thorough cleaning.
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