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Permanent stains on area rugs and wall-to-wall carpets are the result of soiling from spots or spills that have, for various reasons, become permanent. They cannot be completely removed by either do-it-yourself or professional means.


There are several reasons why spots and spills can become permanent:

  • Carpet and rug fibers act as wicks. Liquid spilled on the fibers will be drawn up to the fiber tips as they dry. If the material is not removed quickly and the tips are allowed to air dry, the stain will be concentrated on the top of the fibers and this can cause permanent staining.
  • A spill can become absorbed by the fibers of the carpet or rug and, just like a dye, it can permanently discolor (or bleach out) or recolor those fibers.
  • An earlier spill may have caused an irreversible chemical change to the fiber or its dye.

Although most carpet fiber produced today has stain-resistant qualities (some built into the fiber itself), no carpet is stain-proof!

You can avoid damage to your carpets and rugs from permanent stains by having a soil and stain protector applied after a professional cleaning.


dog pee on rug



Urine is undoubtedly the #1 cause of permanent stains on area rugs and wall-to-wall carpets. Pet urine that is allowed to accumulate can actually be detrimental to the environmental quality of the home. The odor from the urine as well as the stain it leaves behind contributes to the damage.

What Causes Urine Odor?

The odor found in urine saturated area rugs and wall-to-wall carpets comes from the bacterial action which takes place under the rugs or carpeting. Urine left unattended can permeate the fibers and go into the back of the carpet or rug and even into the pad and the floor below. As it dries, urine becomes microscopic urine salts. These attach to the backing of the carpet or rug until times of high humidity, when they will be reactivated and become food again for bacteria causing the return of the urine odor.

Procedure for Urine Odor Removal from Wall-to Wall Carpeting.

For urine-saturated wall-to-wall carpet, it is usually more cost-effective to remove and replace the carpet and pad rather than to attempt odor removal. It is important as well to clean and/or sand and seal the floor under the carpet or rug before replacement. 

Procedure for Urine Odor Removal from Area and Oriental Rugs

On the other hand, odor in area and oriental rugs can be completely removed as long as there is not a glued-on backing holding the fibers to the rug (such as in tufted rugs).

Area and oriental rugs can be brought to our cleaning plant for odor removal, which will completely remove the urine salts by dissolving and thoroughly rinsing them out of the rug. (See our article on Urine Decontamination.) Unfortunately, urine stains cannot, as a general rule, be removed successfully, though they can sometimes be lightened.

What Causes Urine Stains?

Different types of fibers react to urine differently. On some, stains will almost immediately become visible. Others may not show stains at all. Although a professional decontamination for urine and a thorough cleaning may lighten some visible stains, urine stains, in general, are permanent.,

Below are some reasons why:

  • The urochrome pigment in urine can produce a strong yellow coloring and subsequent stain.
  • The age, diet, and medications taken by the pet (or human) can also color the urine and stain the carpet or rug.

Other Urine Issues

Urine stains and odors are not only unappealing, but there are also other issues to be dealt with concerning urine:

  • If not cleaned up quickly, urine can make dyes in the fibers unstable, causing either a bleaching effect or color bleeding.
  • Urine left to accumulate can lead to a condition known as dry rot which causes cellulosic fiber (such as the cotton in the urine-saturated oriental and area rugs) to disintegrate.
  • The presence of urine in a carpet or rug sends an irresistible invitation to moths to settle in.


Although solid feces are much easier to clean up than urine, loose feces or diarrhea can be just as difficult as urine and can also be detrimental to the quality of the home environment.


Cat owners seem to be the target of vomit stains, much more so than dog owners. But dogs, children, and adults often contribute as well. Stomach acids, medicines, and food dyes can cause permanent stains as well.


Certain types of fibers, such as wool, cotton, silk, and some nylons are particularly susceptible to permanent staining from coffee, tea, wine, etc. Be aware of hot liquids, especially. Of course, bleach and household chemicals (see below) can cause permanent staining as well.


These types of chemicals can cause color changes or bleaching action on different textiles.

In the acne medicines, the chemical causing these color changes is Benzoyl Peroxide, a strong bleach and color remover. Interestingly, though, it does not become fully activated until the moisture in the carpet or rug is increased. This is often the case during a professional carpet cleaning, or, in the case of sunscreens, children and adults sitting on the carpet while still wet from the pool!

Chlorine from the pool water can also be a culprit.


The list is very long and includes ammonia, chlorine bleach, peroxides, pool chemicals, shoe dye, pesticides, cosmetics, paints, etc.


Sticky greases and oils, especially from cooking, can change the fibers chemically and produce a yellow film on the carpet that cannot be removed.

Some oils can actually dissolve into some types of synthetic fibers, thus becoming part of the fibers themselves. These are impossible to remove without further damaging the carpet.

(Please also see Soil Filtration Lines.)


The small gritty unattached soils from the outdoors make up the majority of dry particulate matter which constitutes about 80% of the soil in a carpet or rug. These will eventually lead to the carpet fibers becoming abraded or can even cut the fibers.

Though technically not a stain, abrasion can make a carpet or rug look dirty because of the way light is diverted as it hits the individual fibers. The use of entry mats both in and outside the entry and exit doors and daily vacuuming of traffic areas with weekly vacuuming of other areas can accomplish the removal of these soils before abrasion starts to happen.


Start spot and spill removal as soon as possible.

ABC is here for you when you have questions about particular spots and spills. Our office is open from 8 to 5 Monday through Thursday, closing on Fridays at 4:30. We are also here from 10 to 1 on Saturdays. You can also contact us here.

Our Spot Guide here for information on how to remove most spots and spills using ordinary household chemicals.

Consider an application of Soil and Stain Protector after a professional cleaning.

Make sure to place walk-off mats inside and outside of all entry doors.

Top of Permanent Stains on Area Rugs & Wall-to-Wall Carpet

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ABC Oriental Rug & Carpet Cleaning Co.
130 Cecil Malone Drive Ithaca, NY 14850


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Stop by our office and pick one up.  They are $5.00 + Tax but if you have carpets or upholstery cleaned in your home or business, just request a free one from your Technician.

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