• These pictures illustrate a traffic pattern. You can clearly see the areas most traveled. In the picture on the right, even though the carpet is clean you can still see the walking pattern. This is permanent damage caused by wear and tear.

    The Trouble with Traffic Patterns

    Traffic patterns can be very frustrating to a homeowner. They appear slowly over time, and tend to look mild in comparison to spots that occur. Yet, when your carpet is cleaned and the spots are removed, traffic patterns may remain dark.  Many people mistake the darkening for a buildup of dirt, but in reality the carpet fibers have frayed because of wear.

    Damage over Time

    Traffic patterns develop over an extended period of time. As the original protective coating on carpet wears off, dirt becomes embedded in between the fibers. Dirt has half the cutting power of glass. The carpet fibers begin to split and fray.   Friction from walking across the carpet in the same location over and over accelerates the process.  The fibers then tangle and mat together.  The problem is under your feet, and not in your line of sight. Consequently, most people don’t notice them until the damage is already done.  Once the damage occurs, it cannot be corrected.  It appears as a dark spot on your carpet until a light is shone directly on the fibers.

    Matted hair on an animal, such as a dog can change how the animal’s coat appears. It becomes dull and unkept. Sometimes the problem becomes so severe that the animal’s fur must be shaved. While carpet is not an animal, the matting changes the structure of your carpet fibers, just like matting changes the look and texture of an animals fur. Cleaning your carpets will remove the dirt, and improve the look, but it can’t completely untangle the matting that has occurred. Even after a good cleaning, the traffic pattern will look darker than the rest of the carpet because the matted fibers do not reflect light the same way new carpet does.

    You cannot prevent wear patterns from developing, but you can slow down the process considerably.

    • Make sure to clean your carpets as recommended by the manufacturer.  Dirt has half the cutting power of glass. As you walk across your carpet, the dirt cuts your carpet fibers.  Clean your carpet regularly to remove the dirt, and slow down the fraying process.
    • Purchase a carpet rake and brush your carpet once a month before you vacuum to increase the life of your carpet. Brushing helps to untangle the fibers, and remove dirt. Grooming your carpet can make all the difference.
    • Always wear house shoes instead of street shoes, socks, or going barefoot. While socks provide some protection, they still allow oils from your feet to permeate the carpet fibers. These oils will attract dirt to the carpet, and accelerate the development of traffic or wear patterns.
    • Avoid walking on the carpet in bare feet, or socks after putting medications or lotions on your feet. These products are magnets for dirt.
    • Rotate your furniture. Rearrange furniture to alternate locations where you walk. Your carpet will wear more evenly.
    • Apply the protective coating or soil retardant after each cleaning. When carpet is new, it has a protective coating applied, but it wears off in approximately one year of normal use.  You may not notice the difference it makes until coating is not reapplied, but eventually it will become very apparent.

    Learn More


    What a great article! I honestly feel like this is something each and every customer should be able to read before there carpet cleaning. No matter how well we try and set expectations in this industry and explain to customers about traffic patterns, there is always certain people that assume traffic patterns and fiber wear can simply be cleaned and "removed". Very informative article. I hope you don't mind if I share!


    You may share as long as you credit us.

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