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The situation: some workmen put down a polyethylene drop cloth, and then set a halogen light on top of it. So now I have spots approximately 2" in diameter, where the former melted into the latter.

After reading Wikipedia, it appears that polyethylene has a melting point of approximately 250F, while nylon carpet material is 450+, so my current plan is to use paper towels and an iron. However, that's risky.

Are there any better solutions?

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Is there a question you intended to ask? – The Evil Greebo Oct 3 '11 at 12:24
@Greebo - I thought that "any better solutions" implied a question. You are welcome to rewrite in any way that you see fit. – kdgregory Oct 3 '11 at 13:05
My bad - I missed the last sentence somehow. – The Evil Greebo Oct 3 '11 at 13:06
Is holding the workmen responsible for the damage caused out of the question? – The Evil Greebo Oct 3 '11 at 13:08
Yes, they've already agreed to do whatever is needed. But that probably means replacement, and I want my office back. Will try the iron after the painter leaves, and update either question or answer with results. – kdgregory Oct 5 '11 at 11:29

Using a household iron works, with caveats.

First: several sheets of paper towel between the iron and the carpet. These are here primarily to protect your iron (and your shirts!). I was hoping that it might also might be something that the plastic preferred to stick to, but that didn't happen.

Second: no steam, and set the heat on wool (about 1/2). I slowly worked my way up the heat dial: the synthetics settings weren't hot enough (as expected), the cotton setting (3/4) wasn't appreciably better, and the linen setting (full) made the plastic adhere more tightly to the carpet (fortunately, I tried this near the end, to get the last bits out, and it actually had the benefit of making them disappear).

The process: put the paper towels over the spot, then let the iron sit for 20-30 seconds. This will soften the plastic, such that it can be removed either by pinching between your fingers or using tweezers. Fingers are preferred, as tweezers tend to tear out small pieces. In retrospect, a dull knife (such as a table knife) would have been a good tool: it would go on bottom, pulling the plastic away, with a finger on top to apply pressure.

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I would think that a variable temperature heat gun would give you better results. First, the temperature can be set more precisely than an iron so you run less of a risk of melting your carpet. Secondly, you can also aim the heat gun at a smaller area and remove the debris while you continue to heat it, whereas with the iron you will have to remove the heat.

Another benefit is that you won't contaminate your iron and wreck your clothes.

Heat Gun

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Having used a heat gun just like that to remove paint, I wouldn't want to get it anywhere near my carpet. Even at its "coolest" setting, it's still extremely hot (also, I don't agree with the assumption that it's temperature can be set more precisely: irons must maintain very narrow ranges of temperatures to avoid damaging clothes). – kdgregory Sep 10 '13 at 12:08

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