Why Do My Traffic Areas Look Bad?
As professional carpet cleaners, one of the most frequently asked questions we get is, “Why do my traffic areas look so bad?” The short and simple answer is, because that’s where the traffic is! Like the Willie Sutton quote when asked why he robbed banks, because that’s where the money is.
Carpet manufacturers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in research and development to make carpet last longer, and great strides have been made. But all that research cannot overcome the inescapable fact that anything that receives the most use will wear out the fastest.
The reason traffic areas look bad is twofold, but it comes down to abrasion. As carpeting is walked on repeatedly, the constant pounding of foot traffic causes not only wear on the fibers, but a condition called abrasive dye loss. This is a condition where the color of the carpeting has actually worn off, leaving a shade closer to the natural state of the fiber.
Picture what happens to your favorite pair of old blue jeans. As the material ages the color wears off in the seat and knees, leaving those areas a lighter shade. This is exactly what happens with your carpeting.
The other effect we see is the loss of reflectivity of the affected areas. Since we see color due to reflected light, as your traffic areas wear they become duller and less reflective. This results in a grayed out appearance with a loss of sheen.
Look at the two examples pictured above. This is a 10 year old light beige carpet in a heavily used family room. The first photo is a dark traffic area in front of the sofa, which has been moved back. You can see that the carpet is not only heavily soiled but also worn. The second photo is after cleaning. Even though the carpet is clean the traffic area still looks darker that the surrounding carpet.
While it’s impossible to prevent this type of wear, two steps you can take to minimize this are frequent thorough vacuuming and regular professional steam extraction cleaning. Carpet that is properly maintained will provide years and years of acceptable appearance. Carpet that is not maintained will need to be replaced in a little as 3 to 5 years. Follow these guidelines and also your carpet manufacturer’s recommendations to protect one of the single largest investments in your home.