Carpet comes in a vast array of colors, types, cuts, finishes, etc, and can be the perfect warming touch to any room or area. But alas, it can easily become dirty, worn, lose its dye stability, delaminated, or separated from the backing of the carpet, etc making the once perfect touch for the room an absolute eyesore. Replacing carpet can come at a great expense as well. So, how, as a consumer, can you make the investment in your carpet last as long as possible? Throughout this article, I intend to show you exactly what to do to maintain your beloved carpets and get the most out of every penny invested in them.
The most important thing to do when maintaining carpets is to vacuum thoroughly and often. Often a minimum of 3 times weekly is recommended by the Carpet and Rug Institute for healthy carpets. Dirt, sand, and dry soil particulate matter are collectively the number 1 reason for premature wear, especially when combined with pivotal distortion from foot traffic. If you took a grain of sand and looked at it through a microscope it would look like a semi-cuboidal shape with razor-sharp edges. Once that sand can work itself down in between fibers of the carpet pile it can cause very severe damage to a carpet.
In comparison, if you looked at a single tuft of carpet under the microscope it would have the appearance of a rope. This appearance is created by the factory and permanently “set” by the Heat Set and Twist portion of the carpet construction. That little rope can easily become frayed when next to razor-sharp cubed-shaped objects like sand which creates the appearance of premature wear. The other part of this proverbial equation is pivotal distortion. Pivotal distortion is created in any area of the floor where it is impossible to walk in a completely straight line. While walking, simultaneously turn your body weight on the ball or the sole of your foot and turn wherever your weight is centered. This slightly slower and grinding type of motion will create a wear spot wherever it is located, again especially if dry soil particulate matter is present in the area of pivotal distortion further exacerbating the problem.
Next, keep in mind that not everything off the shelf at your local grocery store is the best product to use in your own home. In fact, most carpet spotting agents on the shelf will have a warning label on the back advising you to test it out in an inconspicuous area of your home and the cleaning agent may remove the dye stability of your carpet leaving you with a bleached out spot where you once had an unwanted stain. It is always best to start simple, keep it low and slow because whatever you put on the stain to remove it will need to be neutralized when you are done cleaning the spot to prevent rapid re-soiling from a chemical residue left behind.
For most carpet maintenance, it is recommended to have your carpets professionally cleaned once every 12-24 months. Also, pay close attention to your carpet warranty for new carpets as there are several fun ways that the warranty can easily be voided. It does vary from one manufacturer to the next but most new carpet warranties can be voided for reasons such as but not limited to: water damage of any kind, improper maintenance of the carpet (including a professional cleaner that does not vacuum before performing a hot water extraction), improper installation, improper pad for the carpet, etc. As you can see some of these reasons to void a warranty may well be completely out of the control of the homeowner or the tenant.
Lastly, for the overall life of the carpet, the use of fiber protectors is heavily recommended. Fiber protectors come in a pretty wide array of options and price ranges. Standard fluorochemical fiber protectors have been on the market for quite some time and do work fairly well at preventing permanent staining as well as promoting soil suspension. These chemicals are water or solvent (oil) based and cover the exterior of the fiber protecting the fabric and allowing liquid spills to run off the material before it can sink into the fiber to damage it. One of the latest developments in the field of chemical fiber protectors is the advent of using hydrostatic elements with solvent-based carriers added to them. The addition of the hydrostatic element allows the chemical to break the surface tension of the fiber itself to allow the chemical to carry much further than original fluorochemicals deep into the fiber allowing the fiber more protection than standard fiber protectors because the protector is now in the fiber and not just on it.
All of these factors can independently affect the overall lifespan of a carpet. All of the negative situations can easily combine to create a perfect storm that ends with the premature destruction of your carpets. But when properly kept, properly cleaned, and properly protected a good quality carpet can easily last 20 years in a home. For perspective, the average life span of a carpet in a rental property is 7 years. So, to get nearly triple that amount of time by properly maintaining your carpets and adding carpet protectors to the mix is a deal in comparison to the cost of replacement.
Tim Nixon. IICRC Master Textile Cleaning Technician, Journeyman Water Damage Restoration Technician.