Carpet Color Loss – Fading and Yellowing
Terms such as yellowing are often unclear. “Yellowing” may not mean yellow in color. Yellow complaints often range in color from gray to yellow to green. The frequency of these complaints is greater on lighter and pastel colors. Commonly carpet color loss problems are seen on white, light gray and light blue residential style carpets. White carpet is not common on commercial installations; therefore, on commercial installation we see the most problems with grays and blues.
Carpet Color Loss May Be Shading
Much of the time when a carpet is inspected the reported carpet color loss will be readily identifiable as shading, soiling or abrasion. Abraded fibers are usually a more of a gray or brown discoloration but will often appear as a yellow discoloration depending on the color of the carpet.
Problems Commonly Considered Carpet Color Loss
- Aerosol Overspray Discoloration
- Antistat Discoloration
- Cellulosic Browning
- High pH Discoloration
- Nitrogen Oxide
- Optical Brightener Fading
- Ozone Fading
- Pesticide Discoloration
- Soil – Traffic Lane Gray
- Stain Resist Treatment Yellowing
- Sun Fading
- Tannin Stains
- Water Stains
- Yellow Oxides
Understanding Color Change Differences
With many different problems often referred to as the same, you may wonder where start. Actually, it is not as difficult as it seems if you come at it from the right direction. Here are a few tips that may help you to pin down the problem:
Identifying a Concern
- Check for shadows. Is there less or no difference when window coverings closed?
- Check the carpet with a high intensity lamp such as a shop lamp. Do you see more spots than were originally visible? Are the areas in spots, stripes, follow a pattern, or in another shape all together?
- Is the problem only in the traffic lanes? If so this is likely a soiling condition.
- What does it look like under ultraviolet light? Does it look a brighter yellow, glow blue, green or some other color or is there no change in the carpet’s appearance between the discolored area and the rest of the carpet. If it glows blue or blue-white, consider Optical Brightener. If the area glows yellow or yellow-green, consider urine. Point of note is that you will sometimes find Optical Brightener discoloration and urine in the same locations as the consumer has performed routine spot cleaning there.
A Few Additional Steps in Identifying Concern
- Does the area appear as a color loss?
- Is the discoloration only under furniture or rugs or is it symmetrical as if it has been under furniture or rugs it may be formaldehyde yellowing.
- Is the yellowing only in darker areas and not above seaming tape or tackless strip? If so, consider BHT yellowing. BHT yellowing from cushion is always a big concern. While most residential carpet installations will be over cushion, many commercial installations will be direct-glue-down and cushion will not be a factor.
- If the discoloration is near windows and sliding doors consider sun fading.
- If the discoloration is overall but looks like fading, you may want to consider gas fading.
- The discoloration is predominant around walls, consider flea and bug sprays.
- The carpet is kind of brown on the tips, the problem showed up after cleaning and the carpet has a jute back, or the pile yarn is cotton or wool, cellulosic browning may be the culprit.
- The discoloration is around a bathroom vanity or other area where you see aerosol products.
- Is the discoloration near a vinyl floor or other areas where waxes and other floor care products are used? (Wipe the area with a clean towel and see what type of residue you attract).
- Is the pH of the yellowed area highly alkaline?
For Further Assistance
We have discussed in this article a few of the more common causes of carpet color loss and perceived color loss. The steps listed are a number of the steps a professional inspector will go through in determining the cause of a problem. Perhaps this information will help you determine what it going on with your carpet. If you need further assistance you should consider hiring a Certified Carpet Inspector.
This article has been modified from Carpet Inspectors Handbook by Terry Weinheimer and Kevin Weinheimer. The Weinheimer Group is a nationally recognized floor covering inspection company serving the states of Oregon and Washington. They are available for service nationwide.