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Do you get odd spots on your carpets that look like stains or spills, but they’re not? Have you experienced an unexpected color change-even in a newer carpet? It’s often related to a phenomenon the carpet industry calls pile reversal. It isn’t actually a stain or a defect. It happens when the pile of your carpet changes direction unexpectedly and permanently, making it look like a dark spot or color change has appeared. Pile reversal is also called pooling, puddling, or watermarking because it often looks like someone spilled water. The bad news is there isn’t much you can do about shading once it happens. The good news is there are steps you can take to prevent it.
What Is Carpet Pile?
Pile describes how the fibers of your carpet are attached to its backing. There are three main types:
- Loop or uncut pile leaves the carpet loop in place. Loops can be the same height or different heights for a textured look. Loop pile is usually less soft but more durable than cut pile.
- Cut-and-loop contains a mix of cut and uncut yarn.
- Cut pile carpet features fibers that are cut to create a softer yarn. Cut pile carpet is available in different lengths and thicknesses.
Why Does Pile Reversal Happen?
When cut pile carpets are manufactured, the yarn tufts run in the same direction, creating that smooth look we want and expect. But sometimes, the fibers in a carpet become permanently reoriented. When the pile direction shifts, light reflects differently and makes your carpet look like it has changed color. It’s not a result of a manufacturing defect and remains something of a mystery in the industry. However, we do know a little bit about factors that contribute to pile reversal.
- Shading happens in cut pile carpets and is more common in plusher, denser fibers.
- It’s more noticeable in solid color than patterned carpets.
- It can happen in all types of fibers, including wool, nylon, and other synthetic materials.
- Pile reversal isn’t related to quality or manufacturing practices and can happen in the most luxurious carpets.
- It doesn’t seem to be related to cleaning or maintenance methods.
- The location of the carpet or rug in your home does seem to be connected to pile reversal. People notice the same phenomenon with different carpets in the same location, so it’s likely related to foot traffic.
What Can I Do About Pile Reversal?
Pile reversal is usually permanent. It doesn’t mean your carpet needs to be replaced. Your carpet can still be beautiful and comfortable for years, even when pile reversal occurs. Pile reversal can be made less noticeable with regular vacuuming or using a carpet rake, but there’s typically no way to fix it permanently. It is always worthwhile to contact your installer to have them assess the situation and offer a possible remedy. However, you can take steps to prevent it, including mixing up your choice of carpet.
- Choose a loop or mixed pile for high traffic areas. It won’t be as soft as a cut pile but will be less likely to reverse.
- A cut pile carpet with more texture and twist is less likely to experience pile reversal. Twist is the number of times the carpet fiber is twisted per inch of length during manufacturing. Higher-twist carpets tend to be more durable and can resist pile reversal.
- Choose matte fibers, which are less reflective, for higher traffic rooms.
- Patterned carpets are less likely to show shading if pile reversal occurs. They’re another excellent choice for frequently-used rooms.
- Don’t confuse pile reversal with flattened pile. When carpet fibers get crushed or flattened in high-traffic areas rather than shifting orientation, it’s easy to fix with a professional cleaning.
Choosing the Best Rug for Every Room with Loudoun Valley Floors
If you experience pile reversal in your carpet, don’t panic. There’s no need to replace it unless your carpet is ready for an update anyway. Reach out to your carpet professional to get their input. Keep vacuuming and invest in a carpet rake to keep things as uniform as possible. Professional cleaning can also give a reversed pile a temporary refresh. If you’ve struggled with shading in a specific area of your home, it may be time to make different choices when you replace. Loudoun Valley Floors’ experienced team can help you choose the best carpet for every location. There are so many gorgeous options for pile, texture, pattern, and thickness. We can help you find just the right carpet for every room and care for your carpets so they’ll look gorgeous for years to come.