What is Carpet Browning and How to Avoid it

by Mary Evans

It can happen over time, but it's even more common to see those brown stains after cleaning your carpet. If you're wondering why that might happen or what you can do to solve it, in this article we'll explain everything there is to know about how to solve it and make sure it doesn't happen again.

In almost every case, browning is caused by excess of moisture. While it's drying, the moisture deep inside the carpet soaks up dirt and soil. While the moisture is evaporating, the dirt and soil climb up the fibers and stay there once it's completely dry. Thus, the brown color. It's caused by a process called wicking. And although it's not dangerous, it's very unpleasant (and not very hygienic).

And what's worst... This happens most of the time after you've cleaned it!

But don't worrry! The solution is pretty simple.

Let's take a deeper look and solve this issue once and for all!

What causes Carpet Browning?

As we've just mentioned, Carpet Browning is the cause of excess moisture in your carpet. That excess moisture can happen for a variety of reasons such as water damage in the house, excess use of humidifiers in very small rooms, etc.

But the most common scenario is when the browning appears after the carpet has been cleaned. That's called Carpet Wicking.

Carpet Wicking occurs when too much cleaning solution is used to deep clean a carpet. Because a lot of solution has been used, then a lot of water has to be used to rinse the carpet. So much in fact, that's very hard to remove the excess water.

That excess water is what's causing the carpet browning.

The problem is that when the browning appears most people tend to clean it again. But when they do, the browning appears again. It almost seems as if there's an unlimited amount of dirt deep in our carpets.

You would have to clean your carpet dozens of times before you start seeing the browning dissapear. And even then... nobody could guarantee that it would go away completely.

But don't worry! There's a simple solution.

How to Avoid it

As in most things in life, prevention is the best method to avoid carpet browning. But how to prevent browning can change depending on whether you're cleaning your carpet yourself or hiring someone to do it for you. So let's take a look at both options.

If you're cleaning yourself

Using the right tools to clean and dry your carpet is essential if you want to avoid carpet browning.

That's why you need a wet vaccum.

A wet vacuum alone can't guarantee that the browning won't appear. You also have to use it regularly and according to the manufacturers instructions.

But I can guarantee that the browning will appear in a couple of years if you don't use a wet vacuum.

Later on, I'll give you more information on what wet vacuum I consider the best. But if you're just looking to prevent browning, the Armor All, AA255 is a great option:

(Check price on Amazon)

I love it because it's very inexpensive and it can save you tons of money in the long run. Sure, it's not the best vacuum ever... But since you don't "have" the problem yet, it will do.

If you're hiring a professional

Almost every single professional knows what carpet wicking is and has seen or cleaned carpet browning in the past.

If they're causing browning, it's either because they're not good professionals or they simply didn't put the time and care that a carpet needs.

Either way, stay away from carpet cleaners who've had clients complain about browning!

Check YELP or their Google Maps Reviews to make sure that nobody has complained in the past. Making sure that Carpet Browning doesn't happen is a professionals ABC's. If they're not getting that right, who knows what else they could be doing wrong!

And if you're unsure of what Carpet Cleaner you should hire, check our find a professional carpet cleaning company. We've independently selected the best carpet cleaners in every State!

Things you need to clean Carpet Browning

If carpet browning has already occured, you can still take care of it with the right products. Let's take a look first at what products you should have before attempting to remove brown stains.

1. A low PH Cleaner

The first thing you're going to need is a low pH acid cleaner. You can buy it on any janitorial supply store. Make sure it's about 2.0 to safely remove the browning and maintain the carpet in the right shape.

If you're unsure of what Acid Cleaner you should buy, you can simply buy this one:Brown Out Carpet Neutralizer and Stain Remover - 1 gallon.

(Check price on Amazon)

It's more expensive that the one you could buy in you local store, but you'll make sure you're buying the safe product.

2. Deep Cleaning Brush

This is what most people miss when they're trying to clean carpet browning. They think that with time and patience any brush will do.

Well... that's usually not the case. And even if any brush works... it will take for ever.

If you have a drill, I would recommend buying a Drill Brush Attachment. Any pack could work, but make sure the attachment is flat (such as the one in the next picture), because they also sell the round ones and they don't work nearly as well.

(Check Price on Amazon)

3. Wet Vacuum & Towels

The 3 thing you're going to need is a wet vacuum and a couple of towels.

Everyone has a couple of old towels home, so let's talk more about what wet vacuum is best to remove browning. Don't worry about the "how to" part, we'll get to the Step by Step Solution in a minute.

There're currently 2 great vacuum cleaners on Amazon that work great to remove browning. These are the options:

Option number 1: CRAFTSMAN 16 Gallon

(Check price on Amazon)

Option number 2: Vacmaster 5 Gallon

(Check price on Amazon)

I honestly like the two of them a lot. It really comes down to how much space and how many gallons you need. If you have a big house and you need to clean a lot of carpet surface, buy the 16 gallos Craftsman. If not, go for the Vacmaster 5 gallons. Either way, both are fantastic.

Step by Step Solution

Now that we have everything we need, let's start cleaning the browning!

1. Spray the Cleaner and deep brush

The first thing you're going to do is to apply the low pH (or the brown neutralizer) to the carpet.

Don't over use it!

Remember that the reason why your carpet is brown is due to excess moisture. Over applying can cause re-browning. Add enough amount to cover the stain.

Once you've applied the solution, use the cleaning brush (and drill) to deep clean the stain. If you see that you need to use more solution, go ahead and use it.

You don't have to go too deep into the carpet, but the deeper you go the better.

2. Dry using the Wet Vaccum and towels

Once you've cleaned the carpet it's time to dry it. This is the most important step!

If you want to get the best results, there's two things you must do to dry the carpet as much as possible. Remember! The drier the carpet, the better the browning will disappear.

First, use your Wet Vacuum to dry the carpet. Follow the manufacturers instructions to make sure you're doing it right. Second, place a couple of dry towels on top of the stain and let it sit for at least 24h. You'll probably need to put something heavy on top of the towels to ensure that the towel is in contact with the carpet as much as possible (as opposed to just "sitting on top" of the carpet).

3. Repeat until Browning Dissapears

If after step 2 the browning remains, try to repeat the process. But this time, change the towel every 2-3 hours. This is only necessary in very tough cases.

And that's it! Your carpet should be clean by now.

Other Possible Causes

BHT Yellowing

BHT Yellowing

Some people think that their carpet is browning, when the carpet is actually Yellowing due to BHT. This is more common in older carpets because carpet manufactureres stopped using it years ago.

BHT (aka Butylated Hydroxy Toluene) was a widely used carpet preservative. Normally it shouldn't cause any problems because it would sublime up and through the carpet into the air. However, if the BHT is trapped it can interact with the carpet on a chemical level and cause that yellowing to happen.

If you carpet is yellowing, check this post to find out how to clean it.


As you've seen, carpet browning is not a very big issue and you can easily take care of those stains yourself. You basically have to make sure that your carpet is as dry as possible after cleaning.

However, the real issue comes when you're hiring someone to clean all the carpets of your house (or a couple of rooms). You'll pay them because you'll think that they've done a good job, and then the browning will start to appear a couple of hours (or days) later.

If you don't want that to happen to you, please consider hiring a trained professional.

Rug Cleaning World is an independent website, and we don't accept payments from any Carpet or Rug Cleaners. That's why we only include the very best carpet cleaners in our Carpet and Rug Cleaning Directory.

If you've had a bad experience with previous cleaners, look no more!

Mary Evans Picture

By Mary Evans

Vacuums, Steam Cleaners, Robot Cleaners, etc.

My name is Mary and I'm a mother of 3! I worked for a big company for 10 years until I decided to stay at home to take care of my family. Every since cleaning has become sort of my hobby and profession at the same time. I write about vacuum cleaners, steam cleaners, etc. I just find it a lot of fun!

P.S. Don’t forget, if you have any question or doubt you can ask an expert here, and will try to answer it in the shortest time possible.

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Mary Evans Picture

Mary Evans

My name is Mary and I'm a mother of 3! I worked for a big company for 10 years until I decided to stay at home to take care of my family. Every since cleaning has become sort of my hobby and profession at the same time. I write about vacuum cleaners, steam cleaners, etc. I just find it a lot of fun!

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