Pro's Corner

How to Correct Those Pesky Wickbacks: Realistic Guidelines to Nip Them in the Bud

Stains that seem to disappear only to reappear later, possibly resulting in a callback, have aggravated carpet cleaners for decades. Will we ever be able to put these stains into the category of past memories?

Why do some stains wick back after drying and what is the best way to prevent them? There are two requirements for stains to wick.

  1. Some water-soluble soil must remain in the carpet usually deep in the pile, even in the backing of the carpet. 
  1. The unusual property of water, known as capillary action, allows it to flow upward against gravity.

No matter how careful our cleaning is, we can never remove 100% of the soil. In one experiment, 10 square feet of carpet in a high-traffic entryway was vacuumed for over 40 minutes and particles of soil were still being removed with each pass.

One way to deal with this in the past was to apply an absorbent compound like Stain Absorb on top of the affected area. The staining material would then wick into the absorbent substance. This method was very effective but came with the drawback of requiring someone to vacuum up the absorbent compound after everything dried. Fortunately, advances in technology have enabled more effective methods that don't require a second trip.

How to Remove as Much Soil as Possible

None of us can afford to be as meticulous as the folks experimenting with vacuuming the entrance, but we want to remove as much soil as possible. How can we accomplish this?

The first step is to remove as much soil as possible. That means there is less to wick up. When you see evidence of spilled coffee, soft drink, urine, or other water-based spills, here's what to do:

1.      Apply an appropriate spotter

2.     Place your Flash Spotter tool over the stain. Introduce water around the outside of the stain. One simple way to do this is with a valve at the end of your solution line. As you direct the water flow around the perimeter of the stain, the water is pulled through the carpet and into the Flash Spotter, flushing away the offending stain. When you observe through the clear plastic top of the Flash Spotter that the water is running clear, you know you have removed as much as you can. Continue with your vacuum a little longer to extract as much moisture as possible.

Now it's time for the last step, your insurance policy.

3.  Spray apply Encapuguard to the area of the stain. I like to carry a trigger sprayer on my belt with the Encpauguard mixed a little stronger than standard dilution, then I can apply it to any stains I might come upon.

4.   A little airflow to speed up the drying process is always helpful but not always required.

Save time. Save money. Prevent callbacks. Be sure you have the Flash Spotter and Encapuguard on your truck for every job. You and your clients will love the results and you can say goodbye to those annoying wick backs.

by Scott Warrington


Featured Products 


Flash Spotter ToolWater Claw Flood Extraction Flash Spotter Spot Extraction Tool


Encapuguard green-3

Bridgepoint Systems Carpet Protector Encapuguard Green, 1 Gallon


Enjoyed reading this post? Read the following articles:


7 Spotters For All Lifes Messes

Why I Changed My Opinion About Using Brush Pro Dry Compound When Commercial Cleaning Cover

Special Agents at Work 7


carpet cleaning, Stain Removal


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