Pile Reversal and Tracking

There’s a weird happening that occurs with wall to wall carpeting, usually in very high traffic areas. Nobody really knows what causes it, but improper carpet installation is often considered the blame. This phenomenon is called pile reversal, pooling, puddling, or watermarking. It entails the shading of a cut pile carpet, where some areas turn lighter and some turn darker. It’s called watermarking, as it makes it look like large areas of the carpet are wet. Here’s Aladdin’s guide to pile reversal.


What causes pile reversal is the changing direction of the carpet’s pile, which leads to a strange appearance as light then reflects differently on the surface of the carpet. Pile reversal, however, is not caused by the carpet cleaning process, and it does not mean that the carpet is really damaged structurally, and will fall apart. However, it’s appearance will likely not be able to be remedied.


Pile reversal used to be more of an issue in the past – nowadays, carpet manufacturers have made improvements in how they are created, so the incidence of carpet pile reversal has steeply declined.


False Pile Reversal

Sometimes people blame a carpet’s changing appearance on pile reversal, when in reality it’s false pile reversal – a true phenomenon known as tracking. Tracking is a crushing down or flattening out of the carpet due to heavy traffic patterns over the carpet’s surface. Unlike pile reversal, however, tracking can be remedied by extraction based carpet cleaning performed by a licensed professional. Tracking can be avoided through regular vacuuming and raking of the carpet. Another phenomenon often mis-blamed on carpet reversal is footmarking, which, similar to tracking, is a result of heavy traffic or someone dragging a heavy object over a carpet – leaving localized marks or footprints.

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