Claims file: Small areas of discoloration

Home Columns Claims file: Small areas of discoloration

by Lew Migliore

It is funny how complaint issues seem to run in spurts; this issue deals with small areas of discoloration. What are small areas of discoloration? They are small spots that appear randomly in a carpet from seemingly out of nowhere. When consumers contact you with this problem, they always think that something is wrong with the carpet. They don’t think it could be something they or someone else did in the house. This is because you can spill or drop something on the carpet that may not affect it immediately only to have a discoloration show up months later.

How can this be? Things that come in contact with carpet don’t always affect the color immediately. Those things can be food stuffs, beverages, cleaning agents or personal care items. Acne medication (benzoyl peroxide), for example, could sit on a carpet for months and have no affect on it. Then, one hot, humid day, the carpet could show off the most perfect hand print you’ve ever seen. Benzoyl peroxide is an oxidizing agent, that is, it will bleach out and destroy carpet dye. It will sit dormant until a catalyst affects it—hot, humid weather—and then the color can be changed in a minute.

To see how this works, get a small piece of nylon carpet, rub a very small amount of acne medication on your fingers, then rub that on the carpet (it doesn’t have to be a glob of the stuff, just what will transfer off your fingers). Then get a cup of water, put it in the microwave until hot, take it out and place the small piece of carpet on top of it. In less than 2 minutes the carpet will change color. After you remove the carpet from the top of the cup it should look exactly like the discoloration in the carpet if, in fact, it is acne medication that caused the problem. Most residential type nylon carpet can be affected. This does not mean there is something wrong with the carpet. It is just what can happen when oxidizing agents come in contact with the carpet. It’s like running over a nail and getting a flat. It doesn’t mean the tire is defective but when it gets punctured, the air escapes and the tire will deflate.

Small areas of discoloration are an issue that has plagued the industry for decades. It has gotten worse because there is more chemistry used in cleaning agents, personal care products and food stuffs that can affect the color in carpet. The cleaner used on tile floors could track off onto a carpet and cause the dye to fade. Water dripping from just shampooed hair can discolor a carpet. Skin creams transferred onto a carpet from lying on the floor can discolor carpet. Chemicals used today for cleaning work better and faster but what makes this happen can also harm carpet color.

Aside from all this, carpet can be affected by sunlight, ozone and oxides of nitrogen.

These three influencers are naturally found in the environment. Sunlight, or ultra violet light, will fade color and is especially damaging to the color red. It can also discolor and damage vinyl and wood flooring. Ozone can fade and cause blotchy discoloration particularly with blue colors. And oxides of nitrogen, NO2, can cause a carpet to develop a yellowish hue.

The effect these things have on carpet color does not necessarily mean the carpet is defective. More often it means someone wasn’t paying attention when they specified or sold the carpet into the space for which it is being used. But then, carpet sold into a residence is not typically specified for use and one would expect it to be merchantable for service.

However, that does not change the fact that there are a myriad of products and color compromising influencers found in every home or business than can affect carpet color and cause small areas of discoloration. People just have to be careful with what they use.

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