Tori's friend experienced an unfortunate bleach spill after re-carpeting his home, so she learned a lot about covering up bleach stains.
Everyone's Worst Nightmare: Bleach Stains
The worst thing ever happened to my good friend: He splurged to re-carpet his entire house, and as soon as it finished, he spilled bleach on it. In a panic, he didn’t know what to do, so he immediately grabbed a washcloth and began trying to soak it up with water. Meanwhile, the carpet was beginning to change color. The following day, it was even worse. The spot was in the dead center with no way to hide it and no means of fixing it.
Together, we decided we had to fix the issue. We first began to research.
There are tons of different types of carpet, from cheap acrylic to expensive wool. Each has its own composition. I’ll give you some ideas, but let's start with the basics.
Dos and Don'ts: Bleach Stains
- Never scrub it. By “scrubbing,” I am referring to an up-and-down/side-to-side motion. All you will do is damage it more. You run the risk of literally ripping the carpet out and turning it into a giant hole.
- Second, bleach is not a color. Bleach is a color-stripper or solvent that removes the tint by basically eating it away. With that in mind, you can’t “remove bleach,” just like you can’t put nail polish remover onto your polish and then expect the polish to re-appear.
- Any repair will be trial and error.
- Stay away from RIT dye. The color won't match, and it's hard to control.
Note: I am not a carpet professional. Heck, I painted and sparkled the carpet at my store!
Solutions to Try
Hair dye worked great for one spot on my friend's carpet. The carpet is a dark brown; I would call it cocoa or espresso if I had to label it. He took a small carpet fiber from his stairs, brought it to the local beauty supply store, and found a few different hair dye kits that matched. He didn’t get the cheap kind. He got the good ones to ensure it would be quality.
A word of caution: Do not purchase hair dye from a local drug store or any dye that is on sale. It is uncommonly known that local stores don't monitor how long dyes have been sitting on their shelves.
To apply to carpet:
- Hair dye will likely look like it is turning black. That’s okay. It's part of the coloring process. But what you need is a quality blow dryer. Be sure to have a timer on hand. Most dyes take between 20–30 minutes, and you can go over, but you need to be careful.
- As soon as you apply the hair dye, begin blow-drying. This speeds up the process and opens up the carpet fibers via heat. Continue to blow dry. Like I said, it will get black-looking, but if you touch an actual carpet strand, you will see the true color of the dye on your fingers.
- The hair dye worked well on my friend's bleached carpet. We didn’t even have to rinse it. The hair dye actually dried it to the exact color. Months later, it still looks great.
Ok, there are tons of different painting options, depending on the size of your spot and the color of your carpet. A common realtor trick is to use a felt-tip marker on the spot (you can buy a marker in almost any color at an art store or fabric store). But that is only buying you time.
To use acrylic paint:
- Choose a perfectly matching paint by taking loose fibers to the store to match them up. Mix the acrylic paint with water and paint each and every fiber. Yes, it is time-consuming, but is two hours of work worth $200? $2,000? Most likely.
- Be sure to paint lightly. Applying too much paint will cause stiffness. You simply want to coat the outside. If you need to practice, buy a sample swatch, then bleach it lightly and go at it.
- You may even have to mix paints to find the right color. Never paint at night. Always paint in full sunlight.
Automotive Carpet Paint
Depending on what kind of carpet you have, you may be able to purchase an automotive carpet paint. This paint is designed to be used on thin carpet, vinyl, and so on.
CAUTION: Automotive paint can be stiff. If you have a small spot and find the perfect color match, I suggest getting a Tupperware that you are willing to throw out, spraying the paint into the container, then using a brush to apply it to the fibers. Do not just spray on the paint directly.
Interior House Paint
I have actually painted floors using latex interior paint. I painted over 600 sq ft using this method, and it worked like a charm (it was the very cheap, flat, office-style carpet).
Note: The carpet will turn very stiff, almost like a laminate. No joke. I actually wanted to turn mine into a laminate-type texture, so I resin-ed over it several times. But even after the first coat of simple indoor house paint, it was still stiff.
The only advantage is that you can get color matching done at any Home Depot or Lowe's and get the exact color you need. If you get a water-based paint, you can further dilute it and individually paint each fiber.
Check out my blue-painted carpet floor (it's blue with three colors of sparkle to look like an ocean. The carpet used to be a hideous gray with stains on it.)
Depending on what color your carpet is, a pen, sharpie, or marker may be all you need. Take your fibers to the store and find a match.
Tips: If you find a marker in a close shade, put a dab of water into a glass jar or cup. Dissect your marker so all you have is the interior and put it into the mug. You may or may not have to cut it open. If it is a marker, use a knife or razor and slit it open then place the center piece into the dab of water and let it turn into “dye.” Add more water as needed.
You may need to purchase more markers of this color and repeat the process for perfect coverage. If it is an ink, just let it drain into the water. Either way, you can adjust the color to be lighter by adding more water.
Cutting the Stain Out
As a realtor said, depending upon the size of the bleached area and the style of carpet, cutting out fibers can work. If it's just a few hairs, pulling or cutting them may be just fine.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
bleachy idiot on July 23, 2019:
bleached a part of my carpet like a moron, read a lot of articles saying to try soap and water, about to try that and when that fails I'll do what you say haha
Jerry Roper on October 14, 2018:
Thanks for a well written article. Occasionally carpets may have permanent stains from hair dye and other chemicals. In an attempt at removing these stains, bleach spots with remnants of the original stain remain. We can help here. There are methods available in removing all of the stain and then re-dying the carpet with carpet mill dye. The look and feel would be the same as the original surrounding carpet. We can also assist if any of the different methods mentioned in your article should fail. Trial and error can be a challenge. We are just a phone call or text away. We have the advantage of working directly with the homeowner when the professional is not available in their area or unable to repair these stains.
Edward Morrison on September 11, 2018:
Mix 4 cups of warm water with 2 tbsp of white vinegar. Pour this solution over the stained area of your carpet. After letting it soak into the stain for about 5 minutes, rub the stain with a cloth or sponge. The bleach stain should gradually start to disappear.
Yo Sola on January 11, 2018:
Anyone can paint and adjust a clear stain on a dark mat. What most need to know is how to remove a dark stain on a clear mat. I am so disappointed to waste my time that I have put your web address in my container of unusable sites so that if I ever forget this the computer reminds me. I'm about to complete 25 sites on this list and then I'll spread it on social networks to help people avoid them.
LouisvilleCarpetDyeing.com on April 20, 2017:
As a HIGHLY-trained professional carpet repair and dyeing expert, bleach spots are the bread and butter of my business, and I have to tell you that each and every one of these DIY hacks suggested in this post are not an effective solution in any way, shape, or form.
To properly understand the chemistry of bleached carpet, you must first know how bleach works. Bleach is active and will remain active forever, until it is neutralized. Nuetralizing bleach is again, something that a HIGHLY trained color repair specialist will know how to do.
Next you must determine carpet fiber type. Not all carpets have dye sites. Usually you'll find that the cheap builder grade (polyester blends) are not dyeable, and can only be repaired via a bonded insert or permanent section, more commonly known as a "patch."
If the carpet is nylon or does have dye sites, the next step is to understand color theory. If the carpet is beige, and the bleach has removed some of the blue, your bleach spot will appear orange. If it has removed blue and red, it will appear yellow. If it is a HIGHLY concentrated bleach solution, it will have removed blue, red, and yellow, and your bleach spot will appear white. (this is why you don't use brown crayons, hair dye, carpet paint, or any other products not inteded for this specific use).
A true carpet colorist will understand how to create a perfect color match, by knowing which colors make up the target color (in this case, beige is our hypothetical color).
For more information on carpet dyes and bleach spot removal services and Professional Carpet Dyeing Companies near you, please visit LouisvilleCarpetDyeing.com
where you will find a cornucopia of carpet dyeing information.
Founder of Louisville Carpet Dyeing & Repair/Certified Carpet Repair and Color Restoration Specialist