With the holiday season over, carpet cleaners are likely to receive calls about visible carpet stains once Christmas trees and their skirts have been removed.
The most common stains appear as brown irregularly shaped rings, normally caused by overwatering the tree to keep it fresh. This condition is called “cellulosic browning.”
Correcting cellulosic browning or water stains is easy if you analyze what caused the browning, especially if on synthetic carpet fibers that don’t cause cellulosic browning by themselves.
Because the tree is cellulosic, when it’s exposed to the water, it begins to breakdown the lignin from the soft cellulosic portions of the wood and they become waterborne. As the water is spilled onto the carpet, it can carry enough of the lignin or cellulosic materials to leave that residue behind - causing the brown stain.
The second most common stain is not from the tree itself, but from the tree skirt. The bright colors commonly found on tree skirts are often created by overdyeing or packing the material full of dye.
Many of the dyes in these skirts are considered “loose” dyes as they have not fully bonded with the fabric. These loose dyes are prone to transferring from the material onto the carpet, even without water. This process is called “crocking” (the transfer or movement in a dry or wet state that requires agitation). Just the agitation from a gift sitting on top of the dry skirt can be enough agitation to cause the loose dyes to crock or transfer to the carpet below.