And, how do I get a bleach stain out of my carpet?
Keep in mind that when bleach is applied (or spilled) on colored fabric such as carpet or upholstery, the bleach strips out the color by breaking the chemical bonds of the color at the molecular level. The amount of color stripped out of the carpet or upholstery is going to depend on how long the bleach sits on the area. Regardless of the amount of color stripped out, the bleach stain is going to be permanent and the remedy therefore, is not about stain removal, but is about color restoration.
Below are some steps you should take to prevent additional damage from a bleach spill and some approaches to restoring the color in your carpet or upholstery.
eStep 1: Contrary to that Google search or Wikipedia article, do not use vinegar
Once the accident has happened and bleach is on the carpet or upholstery, move quickly to neutralize the effects of the bleach. Allowing the bleach to sit too long untreated could result in the bleach ‘burning’ a hole in the carpet or fabric, chemically speaking.
A quick web search will yield a treasure trove of information—or should we say, mis-information (even on Wikipedia!) about how to neutralize bleach. Many sites recommend applying a mixture of vinegar/water to the affected area. However, this is not safe and you should never use vinegar or any other acid when trying to neutralize chlorine bleach.
According to this article on Chemistry Stack Exchange:
“Technically, since Cl2ClX2 (Chlorine) is volatile, soaking material in an acid like vinegar would probably eventually result in all of the bleach/chlorine coming out of the material. However, this is a really bad idea from a health/safety perspective.”
Step 2: Protect your lungs and skin and remove the bleach soak
When working with bleach, it’s important that you take precautions to protect the air you breathe and your skin. Ventilate the area and use rubber gloves before handling it. You could use towels to blot the area until you have removed the soak—but be careful not to rub the stain or you will run the risk of spreading it. Removing the soak is just the first step.
Step 3: Flush, extract and neutralize
We highly recommend calling a professional carpet cleaning company in Colorado Springs who can thoroughly ‘flush’ the affected area with water and remove it with high-power extraction such as with a truck-mount steam cleaning machine. Once the bleach is removed, there is still a chemical residue that needs to be neutralized. A professional can assess and determine the best approach for neutralizing the bleach by using bisulfite, metabisulfite, thiosulfate or peroxide.
Step 4: Restore the color
Once the bleach has been removed and the area chemically neutralized, then discussions can begin about how you want to restore the color to the carpet or upholstery. This can range from dying the area to patching it.
Spilling bleach on carpet and upholstery is a bummer. Moving quickly and safely to extract and neutralize the area are important first steps to fixing the situation. And remember—never use vinegar on a bleach stain because it is unsafe to do so.