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Have you ever wondered why your carpets wrinkle after they’re cleaned? If not, great! You’re carpet is in excellent shape and you don’t need this information…yet.

Ripples, Wrinkles, and Buckling can occur for several reasons and I’ll outline the main culprits here. But lets start with what is actually happening to the carpet first and I’ll focus on residential, tufted carpet that has been stretched in; which is the most common type to experience this condition.

The technical term for wrinkles is Latex Displacement or Expansion Differential (either term is acceptable). Tufted carpets have 4 layers:

  1. Face Fiber
  2. Primary Backing
  3. Latex Adhesive
  4. Secondary Backing

Each layer of the carpet has a natural absorption rate. The issue starts with that layer of latex adhesive. Latex is water soluble and will absorb significantly more moisture than the 2 layers it’s sandwiched between. Both backing layers are typically made of polypropylene, which absorbs .025% moisture (virtually nothing). The latex is swelling and has to go somewhere so it manifests itself as wrinkles.

It’s important to understand that moisture absorption is the catalyst for wrinkles appearing but it’s not the cause of the problem. The problem already existed. Carpet cleaners get blamed for wrinkles all the time but they are rarely the actual cause. The good news is that once the latex completely dries it will usually go back to its original wrinkle free state. These are the actual problems causing the wrinkles:


  1. Latex degradation
  2. Low quality latex (high filler load)

Latex used in carpet manufacturing is notorious for have a high filler load of calcium carbonate. This causes the latex to go further in the manufacturing process but will shorten the usable life of the carpet. If you pull the carpet back and notice if there are lots of little white crumbs on the cushion.


  1. Improper stretch
  2. Incorrect cushion (too high)
  3. Incorrect or damaged tackstrip
  4. No acclimation of product or installed too cold
  5. Seams and transitions not properly sealed

Improper installation is the most common reason for wrinkles; and not by a little bit. In my years of independent carpet inspections I would estimate more than 80% of the wrinkling complaints were due to installers that were not following the rules (either knowingly or unknowingly). Carpet must be installed using a powerstretcher – that is the rule and there are no exceptions. It must be stretched in the length and the width evenly. Most installers soft stretch the width to minimize seam peak but this causes wrinkling within a short time. Carpet cushion should not exceed 7/16” and should be of high quality. Cushion that is too soft or too tall will allow the backing to overly flex with high traffic. Tackstrip that is old or damaged must be replaced. The pins on tackstrip must also be the right height for the cushion used. Did you even know that carpet should be acclimated to the environment? Installing on a cold day where the carpet sits outside or in a garage will cause is to shrink up. And once in the home at a comfortable 72o + that carpet will relax. Another very common mistake is not sealing the seams or the transitions from wood or tile floors. Any delamination starting at these points will be directly related to installation error.

Environmental & Use Conditions:

  1. High humidity (only when combined with another factor)
  2. Flooding
  3. Improper maintenance
  4. Age of the carpet (it doesn’t last forever folks)
  5. Wrong carpet for the traffic load (unrealistic expectations)

Carpets have a usable life cycle. It’s the homeowner’s job to maintain carpet the right way so that it lasts as long as it can. That includes proper vacuuming, spot cleaning, and hiring the right cleaner to meet manufacturer’s warranties. Not all carpet is made to the same quality level and carpet designed to last 5 years is not going to hold up for 10 years in an active home.

Professional Cleaning:

  1. Overly wet for extended time period
  2. Specialty spotters reached the backing and dissolved the latex

Can the carpet cleaner be at fault? Yes, it is possible. If the carpets stay wet for too long (and we’re talking days not hours) that can weaken the backing. Also if spotters that are made to dissolve adhesives are used, that can contribute. It’s unlikely that solvent spotter such as these are used throughout an entire room though.

reference: excerpeted from article by S. Arkon
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