Vomit Stains.... yes, vomit stains

Posted by Todd Hinde on 11/7/2013 to Stain Removal

Definitely not the most glamorous of stains to remove.  But when it happens it’s good to know how to deal with it.  In the field you’re liable to encounter several very different situations and it’s being able to identify what you can and can’t do that’s going to increase your success ratio dramatically.  We’ll talk a bit about the stain itself and then move into the different scenarios.

The most important thing to realize is that you’re dealing with more than just ground up food and food dyes.  Stomach acids and bile make this stain much more difficult to remove if you don’t counter them from the beginning.  So let’s start with the first and definitely easiest scenario.

Vomit stains on synthetic fibers (olefin, nylon, etc.).  After physically removing as much of the contamination as possible (which the home owner has already done hopefully) treat the stain with a good enzyme pre-spray like Dirt Chaser or Pro-Zyme.  We’re doing this for a couple of reasons.  The first is that we need to bring the pH of this stain back over to the alkaline side.  An acidic environment works against us during the second stage of stain removal.  The second reason is the enzyme content will go to work on any of the proteins that may be present in the contamination.

Dwell time is important. Since we’re dealing with a biological process make sure you give the pre-treatment at least 10 to 15 minutes to work on the staining material before you thoroughly hot water rinse the area and proceed to the second stage.

Stain Magic.  I know some of you are saying “Hey, there may be synthetic food dyes in there” but just from personal experience the best place to start is going to be an oxidizer.  This is not to say that I have never had to go back and treat some stains with Red Relief but by and large Stain Magic has taken care of the problem.  Just mix fresh solution, wet stained fibers, and agitate to assure penetration.  Most stains will disappear as the Stain Magic dries.  Some of you may have Stain-1 on your trucks and while Stain-1 is effective in most situations this is really a job for Stain Magic.

Vomit stains on natural fibers (wool and cotton). We utilize the same principles as those listed above but we have to adjust the products we’re using.  Pro-Zyme and Dirt Chaser are too alkaline for these fibers.  If you remember from your IICRC classes you know you shouldn’t be using cleaners over pH 8.8.  So instead of these we’re going to use a more moderate pH enzyme product like Molecular Modifier or Odor Zyme.  And rather than the regular strength formulation of Stain Magic we use the Stain Magic for Wool (no, Stain Magic for Wool isn’t just regular Stain Magic with a neutralizer).  Some of you may be pointing out that any enzyme treatment on wool can theoretically attack the proteins in the fiber and cause damage on the microscopic level.  While this is a possibility, in practice we have yet to see any significant damage beyond that already caused by the staining material.

Remember, before you attempt any stain removal procedure your going to pretest the area to check for dye bleed. While the products may be formulated to be more gentle towards the fibers themselves always test for dye stability because bleaching out a carpet can ruin your whole day.

Vomit stains on natural fibers (sisal or jute)Vomit Stains on Cellulosic fibers (Jute, sisal, sea grass) are the most difficult of all stains. First clean the stain just as you would for wool. Then use Pros Choice “Red-1” to remove some of the food dyes.  Stain Magic will remove color very quickly so do not attempt to use it on these cellulosic fibers.

If your stain removal process does not completely remove the stain, all is not lost. You will probably be able to hide the stains by using Pros Choice “Dinge Away” and or “Color Modifying Cosmetics”. If the spot is lighter than the carpet or just off-color you can correct it with CMC’s.  For spots are darker you will use Dinge Away.

So, to recap:  Identify the fiber type you are dealing with and use the appropriate product.  Bring the pH back over to the alkaline side with an enzyme, then use Stain Magic or Stain 1 to remove the color from the stain (with the understanding that some stains may require Red Relief).  And as always if you have any questions or run into any problems in the field give our tech support department a call at (800) 368-1247.