The Ripple Effect


Rippled carpets look awful and can present a trip hazard in your home. But what causes the problem and how can you avoid it?

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The majority of modern carpets are manufactured using a primary backing into which tufts of carpet are fixed. A secondary backing is attached using a Latex adhesive to provide strength and a degree of rigidity, and to prevent the carpet from stretching in normal use. Unfortunately, Latex has a tendency to degrade fairly quickly and although preservatives are added to slow down this degradation, the process starts as soon as the carpet is laid, through exposure to airborne gases, sunlight and foot traffic.

The deterioration is slow, usually over a number of years although higher quality carpets tend to hold up better. The process is accelerated through exposure to excessive sunlight, higher than average heat and high foot traffic.

The real problem comes however, when the carpet becomes too wet. Excessive moisture weakens the Latex bond between the primary and secondary backings, which then part company in a process known as delamination. The secondary backing, which you will remember is used to add strength is relatively resilient in most cases but the weaker primary backing stretches in normal use without the secondary backing attached to it, causing the carpet to ripple (and the damage is permanent).

We've seen it occur in and just outside bathrooms when people regularly walk on the carpet whilst dripping wet but it's more commonly a result of poor cleaning techniques and inferior equipment. Domestic carpet washing machines and DIY rental machines are small and light with tiny motors and pumps so they just don't have anywhere near enough power to extract sufficient moisture during the cleaning process. Carpets can stay wet for days plus there are other problems associated with them which are covered in our separate article on rental machines.

Professional machines are big, and heavy, housing powerful motors and pumps, and they cost thousands of pounds - there's a very good reason for that!


How to prevent Rippling

You get what you pay for with carpets, so buy a decent quality one in the first place if you can afford it, and have it properly fitted. If there's a lot of direct sunlight in the room, consider net curtains or blinds on the windows. They will slow down the deterioration (and also reduce any colour fading due to sunlight exposure)

It's stating the obvious, but dry yourself before walking on the carpet when getting out of the shower or bath - stand on a bath mat while you're wet!

Don't be tempted to clean carpets yourself on the cheap, have them professionally cleaned (by us of course!). The results will be better, the carpets will stay clean for far longer than detergent based methods (as used by DIY and rental machines) and above all it will be safe for your carpet.

If you've already got some rippling, in less severe cases a carpet fitter may be able to stretch and re-fit the carpet for you, but bear in mind the problem may come back since there's already some damage there.


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