Is your carpet appearing to turn gray or black along the edges of your room? Do you have black lines forming on your carpet along the walls, under doors, around air vents, or along the edges of your stairs? You likely have a problem known as filtration soiling occurring.
What causes it?
Filtration soiling occurs as a result of air being forced into the room or space at a higher rate than it can escape from the same area, via the ventilation system. The air then seeks alternative escape routes, which usually end up being the gap between the carpet and the wall trim and under closed doors.
As the air is forced through these gaps, it passes through the carpet, which acts as a filter to the air. Any pollutants in the air are trapped by the carpet, and turn the carpet gray or black in that area. Common pollutants that can contribute to the problem include smoke from cigarettes and candles, cooking oils, fireplace ash, and dust.
This soiling does not occur as a result of insufficient vacuuming or improper vacuuming techniques (although consistently failing to vacuum the very edge of the room can help to amplify the problem). It is a problem that can occur in the cleanest of homes, and is not considered a reflection of house-keeping abilities.
How do you get rid of it?
Discoloration of the carpet caused by filtration soiling is very difficult to remove. The particles are extremely fine and thus end up firmly embedded in the fibers of the carpet. In some extreme cases, it may not be possible to fully remove all traces of the soiling.
For this type of soiling, it is best to let the professionals handle it. Contact your local carpet cleaning company and advise them of the situation, and ask for their advice. The cleaning method that is likely to be most successful is hot water extraction (commonly known as steam cleaning). A cleaning solution added to the water in the machine will help in the removal of the soiling.
How do you prevent it?
There’s an old saying that definitely applies to the occurrence of filtration soiling: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There are measures you can take to help prevent filtration soiling, or at least help to minimize its effects. Once it has occurred, however, it is difficult and sometimes costly to remove.
Start with the HVAC system
The first step to preventing filtration soiling is to be sure that your ducts are clean. As the air is forced through the ventilation system, it picks up whatever dirt is in the ducts, and carries it into the living areas of the home, and thus potentially into the carpet. Experts advise that having your ducts cleaned on a regular basis is one of the best ways of preventing this type of soiling in your carpet.
Additionally, be sure to change your HVAC (furnace/air conditioner) filter on a regular basis, as recommended by the type of filter you use (some last longer than others). The filter traps a good portion of airborne pollutants, preventing them from travelling through the duct system and out into the main areas of the home.
Another way to reduce the problem is to eliminate the gaps through which the air seeks to escape. As much as possible, keep interior doors between rooms open to allow the air to move freely through the opening, so that it does not travel down and into the carpet to escape under the closed door.
Gaps between the carpet and baseboard trim may be sealed using an expandable foam sealant. Depending on the size of the gap, you may need to pull the carpet away from the wall in order to access the entire area and avoid getting any of the sealant on the carpet. The carpet would then have to be re-installed over the tack strips using a stretcher or a knee kicker.
Reduce the pollutants
Finally, some lifestyle changes may assist in the reduction of the problem. Avoid smoking inside the home, and reduce or avoid the burning of candles in the home. (If you enjoy the ambiance and aroma of candles, try using battery-operated flameless candles or using an electric warmer to heat fragrant wax.) Ensure that your home is as dust-free as possible with frequent vacuuming and thorough dusting.
And if you can’t beat ’em…
And of course, it goes without saying that lighter colored carpets will show the problem to a much greater extent than dark carpets. If you find that, despite your best efforts, the problem continues to occur, you may opt to replace your carpet with a darker color to mask the issue and give yourself some peace of mind.
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