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How to Tell Carpet Quality By Sight and Touch

Your hands and feet can tell you a lot about a carpet if you know what to look for.
Your hands and feet can tell you a lot about a carpet if you know what to look for (especially if you spill coffee on one).

If you work with carpets for a living, telling a good one from a bad one is pretty easy. But if you’re a normal person, carpet shopping can be difficult, as you’re not going to be able to determine the quality of a carpet simply by looking at it. Many different factors come together to make a carpet a high, medium, or low quality one, and you need to take most, if not all of them, into consideration in order to figure out whether the carpet you’re about to buy is worth what you’re about to spend. While we can’t teach you to gauge quality with total accuracy in a 1,000-word article (although we have hundreds more to turn you into an expert), we can teach you to be far better than average when it comes to identifying which carpets will give you the durability and longevity you’re looking for. How can you do this? Through careful examination with your eyes and hands.

What does carpet face weight tell you about quality?

Carpet face weight is a metric of how much your carpet pile weighs per square yard. Measured in ounces, it’s generally marketed as a quick way of gauging quality. However, while higher face weights are often indicative of greater durability, the equation doesn’t always hold. Make sure the other factors discussed below are also present before weighing this one too much.

Using carpet density to understand durability

The density of a carpet has to do with the degree to which fibers are stitched into the backing of the carpet; the closer the tufting, the greater the density. There’s a particular formula for it that’s generally used across the carpet industry. While this metric, like any other, won’t tell you everything about a carpet’s quality, if you can match carpets by fiber type, style, and other metrics, the higher density carpet will be the more durable.

What measuring carpet fiber twist can teach you

Most people don’t consider the twist of carpet fibers when gauging quality, and it’s to their loss, as it carries a lot of information. Carpet fiber twist has to do with how many times fiber strands are twisted together across a vertical inch of fiber. The twist number is also called the turns-per-inch, or TPI. As with density, the higher the figure, the better, as it reflects a more durable carpet. You can measure fiber twist on your own with a ruler and a bit of patience. Measure out one inch of carpet fiber and count the turns. If you’re working with a shorter pile that isn’t an inch long, try a half inch and double the twists you’re able to count to standardize it to one inch.

Synthetic or natural? Each fiber has pros and cons

Beyond fiber density and twist count, the type of fiber you’re working with makes a huge difference in the quality of the carpet. Each fiber has particular pros and cons and works well or worse in particular situations. There are many synthetic carpet fibers, including nylon, triexta, polyester, and olefin, or polypropylene; these are the most popular today. However, you’ll still see natural carpet fibers in different markets and settings, such as among people searching for eco-friendly carpets. As a result, fibers like wool, sisal, jute, and seagrass are also worth considering for certain needs.

What’s covered (and not) in the manufacturer’s warranty?

Beyond the fibers used, the warranties that come with them will make a huge impact on your long term satisfaction; use your eyes to figure out how much risk you’re taking on by how much the manufacturers are willing to take. Generally, you want as many years of coverage as possible, and additional bonuses such as texture retention are good to have. On the other hand, you’ll want as few exclusions as possible, as you’ll find many manufacturers won’t cover carpets used in certain parts of your home (e.g., kitchens, bathrooms, and stairs) due to traffic or moisture.

How carpet style impacts performance

Finally, your carpet’s style will also have an effect on the kind of quality you will or won’t get. For residential carpets, berber, frieze, saxony, and cut-and-loop styles dominate, and within any of these styles, you’ll see a range of qualities. Certain carpets work better in certain environments than others. Berber, for example, works very well in basements. SmartStrand carpets are popular where durability is a must.

The best all around carpet and vacuum cleaners

The Big Green is the best carpet cleaner we've found under a grand.
The Big Green is the most effective carpet cleaner we’ve found under a grand.

If all of this information sounds overwhelming, just focus on taking care of whatever carpet you have, as ultimately, regular care and maintenance will have as much of an impact as any of the factors above. To clean your carpets, we recommend a business-grade carpet cleaner like the Bissell 86T3 Big Green. We’ve reviewed it repeatedly (e.g., here and here) and found it to be the best carpet cleaner under $1,000.

We can't think of a better carpet-specific vacuum cleaner than the Miele Soft Carpet.
We’ve yet to find a better carpet-specific vacuum cleaner than the Miele Soft Carpet.

For a buy-it-for-life vacuum cleaner compatible with all carpets, we’d suggest the Miele Complete C3 Soft Carpet. It’s not cheap, but it’ll clean carpets of all piles while being a pleasure to use, which means you’ll use it more often (and for many more years) than anything you’ll find in a box store.

You can buy the Bissell 85T3 Big Green carpet cleaner here on Amazon. You can buy the Miele Complete C3 Soft Carpet here.

If you find our research on PMC helpful, you can support our efforts to keep maniacally reviewing home cleaning tools by bookmarking and shopping through this Amazon link. Canadians can use this link. We promise to keep fighting the good fight against every horror children, animals, and grown, yet messy humans can inflict upon a clean home.

What Do Carpet Warranties Cover, And Which Vacuums Maintain Them?

If you're buying a carpet, it's going to come with fine print. Here's what the fine print means (Pet My Carpet)
If you’re buying a carpet, it’s going to come with fine print. Here’s what the fine print means.

If you’re about to spend thousands of dollars in rugs and carpeting in your home, you’re probably going to want a warranty to support what you’re buying. Carpets today come with a range of warranties, and it’s important to know what you are and aren’t getting in case life gets in the way (as it always does). Today we’re going to look at some of the most common warranty and coverage protections for carpets, as well as what they mean and the degree to which they should affect your purchasing decisions. We’ll also cover our preferred residential carpet cleaners and vacuums to help keep your carpets in top condition longer.

Carpet wear and quality assurance warranties FAQ

Nearly every carpet bought new today will include a wear or quality assurance warranty; it’s the most basic warranty in the industry. It guarantees that the carpet won’t fall apart. While that sounds good, keep in mind that it doesn’t cover anything else besides your carpet spontaneously disintegrating before your eyes.

Appearance retention and texture retention warranties typically cover…

This warranty is perhaps the most important of any you’re likely to see. It offers protection if the carpet loses its texture, or original appearance, due to fiber unraveling and untwisting. Carpet fibers start out twisted from the factory, but wear and tear tends to unravel them; this is what leads to carpets looking fuzzy and flat.

As a result, many carpets won’t carry this warranty, and it’s important to read your warranty information thoroughly. Your warranty will act like a crystal ball, allowing you to see what the manufacturer thinks of their own carpet’s longevity and quality. A 30 year appearance retention warranty, for example, lets you know the manufacturer actually expects their carpet to last that long (or else such a warranty wouldn’t exist), and that you’re almost certainly going to be getting a resilient and durable carpet. At the other extreme, a lack of such a warranty is a good sign your carpet’s going to end up in front of your house or in a landfill in the next five years.

What do stain and soil warranties cover?

Stain and soil warranties have to do with carpet stains and removing them. To understand what’s covered in this warranty, it’s important to understand the difference between soiling and staining.

Staining refers to a color transfer caused by contact between a foreign substance and your carpet. For example, if you spill coffee, red wine, or orange juice on your carpet, you’re going to see brown, red, or orange stains unless you clean them up.

Soiling, on the other hand, refers to stains caused by residue in carpet fibers mixed with dirt. Residue can refer to pretty much anything, including oil from your skin through the soles of your feet. The residue attracts dirt, and the mixture creates an embedded stain.

Because manufacturers sometimes consider stains and soils separate things (even though they’ll look and behave similarly), you’ll want to make sure you have warranty coverage for both and that the coverage is sufficient, as it can vary for both in the same carpet.

Most stain and soil warranties will also exclude certain substances from warranty coverage, including herbal teas, bleaches, urine, mustard, and other unusual substances. Quality carpets, however, will include “no exclusions” warranties, which will cover anything spilled. Kraus Perpetual Carpets are an example of carpeting with this kind of coverage. Overall, the fewer exclusions you have to abide by, the better.

Are fade resistance warranties worth it?

Fade resistance warranties refer to protection against fading over time from exposure to air pollutants and direct sunlight. More carpets offer this coverage these days than before. However, whether you have such coverage or not, you’ll still want to try to keep your carpets in shade via curtains or blinds during your local peak sunlight hours, particularly if you have carpets in rooms (e.g., sunrooms or south-facing rooms in the Northern Hemisphere) that catch a lot of sunlight. If you do have such a warranty, we’d say it’s well worth it.

Are carpets on stairs covered in warranties?

It’s important to note that many carpets on stairs don’t have warranty coverage, even when the carpets have coverage for installation everywhere else in a home. This is because many manufacturers consider stair traffic “abnormal wear and tear” despite the fact that stairs are a normal part of many houses. Stairs do receive high levels of traffic as well as greater force since people step harder on stairs than they do on flat surfaces thanks to gravity.

However, once again, some carpet manufacturers have begun offering stair coverage too; one example is the Mohawk SmartStrand collection. As always, you’ll want to read the fine print to be sure.

Bathrooms and kitchens are two additional areas in homes that often don’t have manufacturer warranty coverage, as these two areas in a home are typically exposed to a lot of water through water vapor (moisture) and spills.

Which carpet cleaners and vacuums help preserve warranty coverage?

If you want to clean your berber, get a Big Green.
If you want to increase your odds of keeping your warranty,
get a Big Green.

While no carpet cleaner or vacuum can guarantee warranty coverage, especially against a manufacturer that offers poor coverage to begin with, we’d always recommend investing in quality carpet care appliances to increase your odds. When it comes to carpet cleaners, we consistently recommend the Bissell 86T3 Big Green  because it consistently does a good job on pretty much any kind of carpet you can buy for a home.

The Miele Soft Carpet is a good choice for cleaning carpets and increasing their lifespans (and your odds of warranty coverage).
The Miele Soft Carpet is a good choice for cleaning carpets and increasing their lifespans (and your odds of warranty coverage).

When it comes to vacuuming, we’d recommend the Miele Complete C3 Soft Carpet for carpets you want to keep around for a long time. It’s capable of vacuuming carpets of all piles without skipping a beat. Like the Bissell, it’s also a buy-it-for-life machine, and despite its high initial cost, it’s a worthwhile investment. It’s also pretty much a required one when it comes to cleaning and maintaining soft carpets, which tend to stop most normal vacuums in their tracks.

You can buy the Bissell 85T3 Big Green carpet cleaner here on Amazon. You can buy the Miele Complete C3 Soft Carpet here.

If you find our research on PMC helpful, you can support our efforts to keep maniacally reviewing home cleaning tools by bookmarking and shopping through this Amazon link. Canadians can use this link. We promise to keep fighting the good fight against every horror children, animals, and grown, yet messy humans can inflict upon a clean home.