The Difference Between a Spot and Stain

The Difference Between a Spot and Stain

Most people tend to refer to a mark that is left on a carpet, sofa, or furnishing as a ‘stain,’ but depending on what it was caused from, it might only be a ‘spot’ and therefore, needs to be treated differently. Let’s look at the differences.

Spot the Difference


A spot is what is created when something has been smeared, dropped, spilled, or smashed into a fabric or carpet. When the mark is first made, the substance doesn’t permanently bond to the fiber right away. If left alone, a spot can look like a permanent stain, but it can be completely removed when treated properly.

Examples of Spots:
• Dirt
• Dust
• Almost all foods that do not contain artificial dyes or food coloring

Here are some easy tips to remove spots, from The Carpet and Rug Institute.

• Act quickly!
• Blot, don’t scrub. It seems counter-intuitive, but scrubbing hard could cause stains to embed further into the fabric. Using a dry cloth or paper towel, gently blot the stain away.
• Use plain water! Cleaning products may not be as helpful as you think and sometimes the best method is plain water. There is no permanent solution.


A stain is formed when a substance is spilled that has the ability to permanently damage the carpet fiber. The item can permanently alter the color of the carpet fiber by adding color or removing color from the fibers in the carpet.

Examples of Stains:
• Bleach
• Hard surface cleaners
• Some medicines
• Materials with a higher or lower pH than the carpet dye itself

Bottom line

The stain removal process can be a little more detailed. First, you must identify the type of stain you’re dealing with and whether it’s: solvent-soluble (crayons, greases, butter); water-soluble (beverages, wine, chocolate, mud, washable ink); or non-soluble stains (sand, metal shavings, or any sticky film). Solvent-soluble stains can be cleaned with a solvent cleaner. Water-soluble stains work well with Detergent-based cleaners. When you have non-soluble stains you should vacuum first before using an appropriate cleaning solution.

An important thing you should bear in mind, however, is that when dealing with spots on fabrics, carpets, or soft furnishings- no matter what type of cleaning product you are using- you should always test the product in an inconspicuous area first. Also make sure to use the product as sparingly as possible to avoid getting the carpet oversaturated, as this can cause carpets to ‘lift’ from the floor.