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Pristine Cleaning Gal

My Carpet Still Looks Dirty After Cleaning

If the carpet still looks dirty after cleaning, it may not be dirt that is causing the problem. It might be wear and tear. Wear patterns develop as carpet ages and people and pets re-walk the same paths over, and over again. These walking paths can start to look dark and dirty, and after it is cleaned they may improve, but the darkening might remain. But how can you tell if the darkening is dirt, or wear and tear?

Dirt Test

Checking to see if the carpet is just dirty or if the darkening is a wear pattern is easy. You will need a bright flashlight to perform the test. Turn on the flashlight, get close to the carpet, and shine the light directly on the dark areas. If the darkness magically seems to disappear, you are looking at a wear pattern, not dirt.

Why did the darkness disappear?

Carpet that has developed a wear pattern has had a structural change. When a carpet is brand new the fibers are tightly woven together. As the carpet is walked over a couple of things happen. Dirt, which has half the cutting power of glass, starts to cut away at the fibers. The cut fibers will start to fray, and then tangle together. Think of the fur on a long-haired animal. The tangles eventually become matted, and the coat no longer looks shiny. Instead, it looks dull and dingy. The same principle applies to carpet fibers.  

Carpet fibers that have split, tangled, and eventually matted will continue to look dark even after being cleaned because the light no longer refracts off the carpet the same way it did when it was new. Some areas of the carpet will not look as dark because they are not traveled as often as the darkened areas. Typically, the darkening will be the dead center of the walking path. You will notice it most down the center of the hallway, in front of the couch, and near the entry points of the home.

Can you prevent traffic areas?

How to make sure carpets don’t look dirty after cleaning

Eventually, all carpets will succumb to the law of entropy. However, there are several ways you can slow the progression of deterioration.

  • Use a carpet rake and vacuum regularly. Vacuuming is important for the removal of dirt. At a minimum, it should be done at least once a week, but more frequently if you have the time and energy to do it. The carpet rake will help to loosen dirt, collect hair, and lift the nap of the carpet. Think of it as grooming.
  • Have the carpets cleaned regularly, as recommended by the manufacturer. Carpet manufacturers recommend cleaning the carpets once every year, to a year and a half by a professional. Not only will this help to slow down the damage, but it is also important to keep your warranty intact.
  • Avoid over-cleaning. Washing the carpet is important, but if you do it too often it will accelerate the aging of the rug. I recommend checking out our blog “How often should I clean my carpet? for more details.
  • Apply the carpet protectant. It doesn’t really matter which carpet protectant you use, as long as you reapply it every time you clean the carpet. Carpet protection will not prevent stains, but it does reduce the impact of dirt cutting across the carpet fibers. Carpet protection helps to slow the fraying, tangling, and matting that changes the way light refracts off the carpet.

Unfortunately, if wear patterns are already present then they will not go away. The carpets will still look dirty after cleaning if wear patterns exist. The best you can hope for is to lighten them up. It’s time to look at replacing the carpet if the unsightly darkness is more than you want to live with.

Ready to Clean?