Pooling or Pile Reversal Defects

Are you familiar with carpet pooling or watermarking? If you plan on buying plush carpet, you need to be. It a phenomenon that takes countless plush carpet owners by surprise, and this isn’t a good thing. Carpet pooling ruins your carpet (or at least makes it appeared ruined), and it’s not considered a manufacturer’s defect, meaning you can’t ask for a refund. Don’t let this scare you off from buying plush carpet, but if you do plan on buying it, please read on.

What is carpet pooling, aka carpet watermarking?

To clear up any confusion, the phenomenon I’m describing is can be referred to by 3 different names: carpet pooling, carpet watermarking, or pile reversal. It gets its names because it looks like a wet area on the carpet, like a big weird-shaped water spill. The wet appearance is a result of the way light is reflected. For some reason (explained later), the carpet tufts get a slight bend in only one area of the carpet that causes them to reflect light opposite of the rest of the carpet—this makes the spot appear dark when the rest of the carpet is bright and bright when the rest of the carpet is dark. The problem is, once it occurs, it is very unsightly—we’ve even had some people describe it as “embarrassing”—and it won’t go away.

Not a manufacturer’s defect

There are theories for what causes carpet pooling, but the truth is the cause is unknown. What is known is it occurs in 1% of plush carpets (this is an estimate, but the point is not a huge number), and it seems to not occur in any other style of carpet. It’s also not considered a manufacturer’s defect since the cause is unknown. Some people speculate that it has to do with electromagnetic forces. I know this sounds crazy, but the reason is there have been cases where someone had their plush carpet get a watermark; then they replaced their carpet, and the new plush carpet developed the exact same watermark in the exact same spot in the house. The moral of the story is don’t expect the manufacturer to count this as a defect and replace your carpet for you.

How to protect yourself from carpet pooling

There’s no treatment or way to prevent watermarking. My best advice is to discuss this phenomenon with the retailer. Tell them you’ve heard of it, and it’s a concern since you want to buy plush carpet. Ask for a written warranty that includes watermarking. Politely tell them that this is the only way you will consider buying plush carpet, and since you’ve decided you want plush carpet, the only way you will consider buying from them. Since they want your business and it’s a relatively rare occurrence, there’s a decent chance they’ll take the risk by including it in your warranty. If you can’t find anyone to write carpet pooling into the warranty, you may want to consider a different type of carpet.

Captain’s parting words!

Plush is a beautiful, luxurious style of carpet, so I hate to have this article ruin its reputation. It’s still worth buying, and I would even consider it for my own home. You just have to be aware that, while carpet pooling does not happen often, it occurs enough for it to a problem—a problem not covered by traditional carpet warranties. This is why you want to be sure to bring up watermarking with your retailer and ask if they can give you some reassurance that it won’t happen by writing it into your warranty (emphasis on written—don’t just take their word for it). Be aware some manufacturers may claim to have watermark resistant carpet, or retailers may deny that it even occurs; if you run into this, kindly ask them to put their statement in writing.

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