What Is Carpet Dye?

If you’re embarrassed about visitors in your home seeing stain-covered or faded carpets, there are several options available to make them more visually appealing, including carpet cleaning and replacement.

Some homeowners and business owners, though, choose a third option – carpet dye. Spot-dyeing stains or full carpet dyeing can either completely change the color of the carpet or restore the faded color at a significantly lower price than replacement.

RELATED: Angie’s List Guide to Carpets and Rugs

Carpet dye is primarily applied with a sprayer and then scrubbed in. Experts say the carpet can be walked on almost immediately and it’s safe for both children and pets.

Carpet dyeing a specialty trade

Connie Lee says employees at her company, highly rated Color Your Carpet in Jacksonville, Florida, have been specially trained in carpet and paint technology and have grown their client base to include celebrities, hotels and homes.

“It’s a special side of the carpet industry,” says Lee, who has been in the business since 1988 and trains employees on how to dye carpet correctly. “We take care of the small spots, but also do full dyeing. The only competition we have is new carpet.”

Carpet dyeing, a specialty industry with a limited number of businesses that offer the service, can either be done to all the carpets in the house, a single room, an area rug, or to cover up small stains like bleach or red wine. Some industry experts say dyeing small areas on carpeting is a more popular choice for homeowners than full carpet dyeing.

“We can fix what carpet cleaning can’t get out,” Lee says. “No amount of carpet cleaning will get out some red stains, sun stains.”

Angie’s List member Ron Arnold of Center Valley, Pennsylvania, used a local Color Your Carpet franchise in September and says he was impressed with the job they did to change his carpet’s color from baby blue to warm sand.

“I would highly recommend this company to dye your carpet [if it] is still in good condition but is stained or out of date,” Arnold says. “It’s a great solution to keeping carpet out of landfills before its time.”

Is carpet dyeing the best option?

Not everyone, though, is sold on full dyeing services.

Several highly rated service providers who clean or install carpeting say they’re still skeptical of the process.

James Cubias, owner of Valley Carpet Cleaning in Granada Hills, California, has worked in the carpet business for 25 years and doesn’t believe full dyeing is the best option. Though Cubias used to work with dyes, he doesn’t anymore because he wasn’t pleased with the outcomes.

“A dyeing job usually lasts one year or so before it starts to [wear] off in areas,” Cubias says. “When it comes to spot dyeing, I say first of all you have to be the best [carpet dyer] to match colors, and I think it is just a temporary fix. After a few months, dyes start to fade, or [they will] after a carpet cleaning.”

Carpet dyeing can stand the test of time, if done right, says Rick Drew, owner of Nu-Way Systems Carpet Dyeing & Cleaning in Elgin, Illinois. He says good dyeing results come from proper training.

“We have clients who … clean their carpets annually after the wall-to-wall dyeing, and they are thrilled with how well it has held up to normal use, even after 10 years,” Drew says.

Experts often apply a carpet dye with a sprayer before scrubbing it in. (Photo by Steve Mitchell)

Best options for carpet dye

Full carpet dyeing can be a good fit for homeowners planning to sell a house, or for landlords looking to spruce up old carpet, Drew says. It’s also popular for large hotels looking to save money, or for homeowners trying to match their current décor, Lee says.

Asked whether carpet dyeing makes it more convenient for landlords or real estate agents to cover up old carpet, Drew says: “They take advantage the most, mainly because their situation often fits our criteria, and they are not wanting to change the color of the carpet, but want to put back in the color that has been lost due to sun fading and normal wear. It is not a temporary fix.”

There are almost no limits as to what color a carpet can be changed, with millions of options. However, the dye must be as dark or darker for the process to work and it must be done on nylon, wool or silk to be effective. Dye does not penetrate some carpet types, including stain-resistant and thick carpets.

“We worked with people who bought a house and the carpet is pink,” Lee says. “[Many people] don’t like pink. They can change it to a light brown or blue. Some people are either tired of the color, it’s discolored, or the wrong color for the décor, aside from the spots and stains.”

The cost savings can be tremendous, both carpet dye professionals say.

Lee says savings can be anywhere from 50 to 80 percent less than replacing with new carpet for a typical 2,000-square-foot home. Drew says homeowners can expect to save anywhere from one-third to one-half the price of replacement.

Lee’s company charges 70 cents per square foot for carpet dyeing. So, if a homeowner pays $2,000 for carpeting, for example, a dye service would likely cost between $400 and $1,000 for dye service.

Is carpet dyeing a last resort?

Drew says most of his business is focused on small stains that cannot be removed by typical carpet cleaning.

“The carpet might be nice [and you just] want to make it look like new without having to replace it,” Drew says.

Before doing something drastic, Drew recommends having a professional look at the carpet.

“We get calls sometimes from people about replacing the carpet or doing a radical color change,” Drew says. “In those cases, we often recommend looking into having a corrective cleaning done. Restorative cleaning can sometimes get the fibers cleaned.”

Corrective, or restorative, cleaning requires more time and effort than a regular cleaning and typically uses more chemicals. However, corrective cleaning does not always get all of the stains, which can make spot dyeing a viable option, some carpet cleaners say.

If you’re considering having your carpet dyed, find a qualified professional with a history of proven results. Check references and ask for a sample of what the new color would look like.

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