Causes of Carpet, Rug and Upholstery Browning
and How to Prevent or Cure

Carpet wicking and browning

What is carpet and rug browning? Browning is a phenomenon in which, after the carpet or rug is cleaned and has dried, the fiber tips turn dark.

What causes carpets and rugs to brown? Carpet dries from the tips. Therefore, as the cleaning solution evaporates from the tips, the water rises to the surface bringing with it everything dissolved in it, and then the water evaporates leaving everything else behind as illustrated above. This leaves on the tips soil and high-alkalinity residue plus anything else left in the carpet such as high shampoo levels, cola, coffee, etc. This upward flow of moisture on fiber surfaces during drying is referred to as wicking. The factors contributing to browning are slow drying, overwetting, and cellulosic material (jute backing).

In the beginning of this industry, most detergents used were nothing more than glorified concrete floor cleaners, which are highly alkaline and frequently caused browning. Carpets and carpet backings were not as good then either. Equipment now does a better job of leaving the carpet dry. Most carpet-cleaning professionals are now better trained and most (but not all) know better than to over wet a carpet or to use overly strong detergent solutions. Also, the mills less commonly use jute backing.

An application of a formulated organic acid agent such as Brown Out® will neutralize this residue not only preventing browning, but actually leaving the carpet cleaner and brighter. Additionally, the use of Brown Out on wet-cleaned upholstery and rugs will reduce the likelihood of dye bleeding by setting the dyes. It is easier to correct browning on carpet with pile yarns made of synthetic fibers than of natural fibers such as wool, hemp, silk or cotton.

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