FM Articles

Understanding Your Carpet Life Cycle


Think maintaining a car is different from maintaining a facility’s carpet? You’re right: Maintaining a carpet is more involved and can potentially save you more money in the long run. Why? Commercial carpet installation costs can soar past the $100,000 mark, depending on the size of your space. Despite the differences in maintenance costs, owning a car and caring for a carpet have a few commonalities.

Take a new car, for example. You don’t wait until the odometer turns to 30,000 miles to change the oil; you begin that maintenance at the 5,000-mile mark. You systematically take care of must-dos over the months and years: tire rotations, fluid checks, air filter changes. And you start off the bat with preventive measures because you want to get the maximum ROI out of your wheels.

The same philosophy of preventive and consistent care should hold true when facility managers buy commercial carpets, yet it doesn’t always. While carpet can last up to 20 years when properly maintained, facility managers often plan for a life expectancy of 10 years or fewer because many end up waiting until their carpets look dated before instituting maintenance protocols. By then, it’s too late to give the carpet a full restoration, and the only hope is simply to keep the carpet looking decent as long as possible. And waiting’s just one of many errors people make when it comes to caring for carpeting.

Top Carpet Maintenance Faux Pas
What are the most common commercial carpet maintenance missteps? The first is not heading off the “cattle trail,” or the area that becomes worn down by years of foot traffic. It takes a while for a cattle trail to become visible, but once the carpet fibers flip over and begin reflecting light differently, that change in appearance is impossible to reverse. Routine vacuuming can help keep a noticeable cattle trail from forming immediately, but regular vacuuming isn’t a complete maintenance plan. Without interventions like restorative deep cleanings, the fibers along the cattle trail may continue to become bent and destroyed as foot traffic grinds down the carpet’s fibers and forces dirt and debris down toward the padding.

Another problem is cleaning the carpet with a strong alkaline or strong acidic solution. The product could end up stripping the fibers of natural stain-preventing properties. Your hard surface cleaning practices can have an unexpected impact on your carpet, too. Hard surfaces adjacent to carpeted spaces are frequently treated with quaternary disinfectants that, if not properly rinsed off, can end up being tracked onto the carpet and can result in rapid resoiling.

A final mistake is not considering the effects of sunlight on the carpet’s appearance. Let’s say you carpet a cross-bridge that connects the parking garage and the office building. At first, the carpet will look beautiful. However, if incorrect chemicals are used to maintain the carpet, you could end up with an accelerated color fading problem.

Of course, there’s some good news: You don’t have to shorten the life cycle of your carpet. A properly maintained carpet may be able to last 10, 15, or even 20 years. To develop better maintenance practices for your flooring, embrace these best practices for each stage of your carpet’s life cycle:

  1. At installation, prepare for long-term success.

As soon as your carpet is installed and properly vacuumed, apply proper fiber protection. Getting started early will allow you to substantially stretch out the life of the textile. If you wait until your carpet is 6 to 8 years old, you’ll just never regain the luster. Quite frankly, you can expect to see diminishing returns on your carpet’s appearance unless you implement fiber protection right away and continue maintaining it down the line.

This is also the time to start a regular vacuuming and interim cleaning schedule. A good practice is to vacuum every day for higher-traffic areas, and at least once a week for other areas, depending on their usage. For your interim cleanings, opt for a dry foam rather than a traditional liquid cleaning agent. Bypassing water-based cleaning systems can help you reduce all sorts of potential mold and mildew problems that can negatively impact your occupants’ health and safety.

  1. During the carpet’s ‘midlife,’ focus on rejuvenation.

By the time you’ve had your carpet for several years, you’ll notice it doesn’t look the same as it once did. Even with routine maintenance, your carpet can’t help but undergo some wear and tear. At this point, periodic restorative cleans will take the place of interim cleans because the carpet fibers will need some pile lifting, a rinse of the surfactants being used, and a neutralizing of any interim cleaners.

A restorative cleaning process means going all-in, just like taking a car to the shop for “the works.” For instance, your building service contractor might use an alkaline pre-spray on the carpet and then apply a safe, gentle agitation method to raise the fibers while extracting and removing any suspended soil from deep toward the carpet backing. Post-restoration, you’ll notice a huge improvement in the carpet’s appearance and performance.

  1. Keep moisture from aging carpet’s fibers.

When your carpet hits 15 years old, the fibers could be close to delamination and unwinding, so it’s essential to minimize or eliminate as much water and moisture from cleaning processes as possible. If you’ve kept up with maintenance and minimized the exposure to moisture and water processes during cleanings, you can often eke out a few more years of carpet lifetime.


How can you manage to prevent quicker degradation during your carpet’s final years? Aim to only use drier processes than ever, including a dry polymer cleaning. Again, excessive moisture and improper drying is the enemy of textiles. The less exposure your carpets have to water or liquid solvents, the longer they’ll perform. As aging carpets’ fibers are no longer tightly wound and they’ve begun lying flat, they create ideal conditions to trap mold and mildew more easily if not properly dried.

With carpets as with cars, a maintenance routine will help you get more mileage out of your investment. Remember when budgeting for new carpet to consider not only the initial outlay, but also to work maintenance costs into your operating budget. Proper planning will pay off.

Brian Miller is a business support specialist at milliCare Floor & Textile Care. In his role, he supports the company’s franchises and helps them improve their efficiency and productivity as they provide essential services to commercial facilities within their local markets.