- Tips for Removing Candle Wax From Carpet
- By Jeff Cross — posted 03/15/2011
Candle wax is the most common type of wax to be spilled on carpet, and one of the most difficult waxes to remove due to its high heat and coloring. Other types of waxes that can find their way into textiles include those used in polishes, cosmetics, hobbies, cooking, and more—but these are usually easy to remove with extraction and dry solvents.
Your customers may think that the removal of candle wax should be easy. At times removing the visible wax is easy, but there often are residues and colors left behind that make the job much more difficult than originally anticipated. Follow these tips to get the best results.
Understand Wax Before Cleaning
Wax can come from many sources, such as beehives, petroleum products, plants, animals, etc. Most waxes used in candles come from petroleum by-products, commonly referred to as paraffin wax. This type of wax typically melts slowly and allows the user to enjoy a burning candle for hours, if not days.
In order to appreciate how wax can bind with fibers, think of the characteristics of fibers. Olefin and polyester are oil-loving fibers, and thus will tend to bond faster and stronger with anything petroleum-based, like candle wax. Although it may not be noticeable during cleaning, you will often find it more difficult to remove the "greasy" aspect of the candle wax from olefin and polyester. At the same time, these fibers repel the colors that can be in the wax. Nylon may be more forgiving to the waxy part of the spill, but not as forgiving to the colors in the wax. In general, it is a nightmare when it comes to removing wax from these types of fibers, but it can be done.
Removing the Wax
Most carpet cleaners use hot water extraction. By using high heat, these machines can often extract the wax from the carpet using "chop strokes," which are short, forward and backward movements of the cleaning wand. If you decide to use this method, remember that adding heat to the fiber can also aid in driving color into the fiber, because the fiber dye sites are more absorbent during the cleaning process. In other words, try to get the job done in a few minutes; don't let the fiber cool and dry, as that makes the color more difficult to remove later on.
If you do not have the ability to remove wax with hot water extraction, you can use a heat transfer method with a typical steam iron. Some recommend using unprinted paper with the heat transfer process, but often a better choice is to use a white cotton towel that can be disposed of after the spotting procedure is completed. The white towel is more absorbent and protects the carpet better from burning or melting. Place the towel over the hardened wax and with the iron on low, place the iron on the towel and allow it to soften the wax. Gently push the iron onto the towel, allowing the newly melted wax to absorb into the towel. Repeat a few times as necessary to remove as much visible wax as possible. Follow this by using a citrus gel solvent spotter to remove more of the paraffin residues, and extract.
Colors in Wax
The cleaning world would be a better place if your customers only burned clear candles—but they don't. They tend to like the red ones, the orange ones, the blue ones—anything with bright colors. Those colors can absorb into the carpet fibers, which means you have a dye stain to remove after the wax is removed. No doubt the type of stain will be synthetic.
Most synthetic stains require a reducing agent (bleaching agent). Typically, these will be sodium bisulfite or sodium metabisulfite, although there are others on the market. They work by stripping oxygen molecules from the fiber, altering the color so it becomes invisible. According to directions, mix up your reducing agent, unless the product you choose is a one-part chemical; then wet out the fibers, working the chemical into the pile with a spatula or other spotting tool. Using a clean, damp towel, place the towel over the stain and add heat in increments of approximately 15 seconds using an iron. If you are nervous about using this amount of heat, a steamer can be used, such as those used for removing wallpaper. Caution: The use of any bleaching agent can remove original color.
Make sure you also obtain a signed work release before proceeding. Keep checking the results under the towel, and always keep the towel damp in order to avoid burning the carpet. You should notice positive results after one or two applications of the reducing agent. If you do not, completely rinse the fiber and move to an oxidizing agent (similar instructions for application and use of towel and heat). If you still have a lack of success, rinse the carpet again and wet out the fibers with an oxidizer, cover the area with wax paper and put a heavy object over the stain. Allow 24 hours dwell time and recheck your work (you can have your customer do this if you choose). If this does not work, you could resort to a stronger bleaching process and recoloring of the carpet, or a bonded insert may be used.
Check out this video where Ruth Travis demonstrates carpet cleaning techniques. Watch it now.
Jeff Cross is the senior editor of Cleanfax magazine and an industry trainer and consultant, and offers carpet cleaning marketing, disaster restoration marketing, and contract cleaning marketing seminars and classes through Totally Booked University, and also IICRC technical training for carpet and furniture cleaning, spot and stain removal and carpet color repair. For more information, visit his Web site at www.cleaningprofessor.com or www.totallybookeduniversity.com.