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Debunking the Carpet Reversal Mystery

This problem typically occurs in the kind of densely constructed plush carpeting often installed in large hotels and ballrooms

June 25, 2013

The condition known as “carpet reversal” often develops after carpets have been cleaned using the extraction method. And very often, customers blame the problem on the technician, as it creates a permanent change in the appearance of carpeting that has to do with the way in which light reflects off the surface of the carpet’s material. 

This problem typically occurs in the kind of densely constructed plush carpeting often installed in large hotels and ballrooms. 

When carpet reversal occurs, some areas of the carpet will appear light when viewed from one angle and dark when viewed from another direction. Worse, the condition may get more noticeable over time. The carpet may look as though it has water damage, or as though it did not properly dry in some areas after cleaning. This is why carpet reversal is sometimes referred to as “water marking.” 

“The first thing carpet cleaning techs should know is it is not their fault,” says Doug Berjer, CFR Product Manager. “Why the carpet lays uniformly when installed and then becomes distorted, showing light and dark areas after cleaning, is somewhat of a mystery.” 

According to Berjer, while it may be difficult, technicians must explain to customers that carpet reversal is not a defect in the carpet, nor is it caused by technicians or the carpet extraction process. There is not a quick or permanent fix that will correct the problem. 

Here are some suggestions that may correct carpet reversal:

  • Clean the problem area again using carpet extraction.
  • Brush or rake the carpet, trying to get the carpet piles all going in the same direction.
  • Vacuum the problem area.

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Jeff Bishop
July 5, 2013
While "shading" (variation in light reflection as fibers are bent or re-oriented; AKA pooling, watermarking, pile reversal) primarily in cut-pile commercial can be caused by initial traffic, when it extends under walls or from one separate section of carpet to another in the same area, it is most likely related to slight subfloor variations in levelness. If one observes a newly poured concrete slab after a rain storm and partial drying, one can see the slight variations in levelness. Ultimately, these variations can telegraph through the carpet and cause pile re-orientation. Cleaning with HWE followed by grooming can improve the problem, as long as no one walks on the carpet ever again! There is no permanent correction. If the carpet is replaced with a similar style, shading will soon appear in the new carpet as well. JB



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