Why Is My Carpet Rippling After A Cleaning?

Posted on May 28th 2020


Why Is My Carpet Rippling After A Cleaning?

That is a great question! Occasionally during a traditional or even a Zerorez® Tucson carpet cleaning, the carpet starts to get large, previously unseen ripples or waves.

Carpet rippling, wrinkling, and buckling can occur for several reasons and those of us here at Zerorez® Tucson will outline the main culprits! But let’s start with what is actually happening to the carpet first and we’ll focus on the residential, tufted carpet that has been stretched in; which is the most common type to experience this condition.

1. Latex Displacement

The most common cause of carpet rippling or buckling is that something called latex displacement is occurring. When the hot water is cleaning the carpet it heats the latex, which in turn expands, creating extra space in the backing of the carpet.

That space has to go somewhere, right? And so it creates “ripples” or “buckles” in the carpet.

Often times, as the carpet dries the latex will return to its original shape and size, and the ripples will disappear. In cases where it doesn’t go away, there may be something a tad bit more worrisome going on.

But we’ll talk about that in just a minute, so hang in there friends.

The technical term for carpet rippling 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.

Unfortunately, because it likes to make its appearance after carpet cleaning, the cleaning is often thought to be the problem.

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:

2. Carpet Manufacturing

  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.

You can notice this easily if you pull the carpet back and notice that there are lots of little white crumbs on the cushion! Yuck!

3. Carpet Installation & Stretching

That brings us to the third cause for buckling. Improper installation is the most common reason for wrinkles; and not by a little bit. When a carpet is installed it is stretched so that it is taught, so that no ripples will be there and so that the carpet will perform as intended.

Sometimes during the installation, the carpet will not be stretched enough, but there will be no ripples that are readily noticeable.

When latex displacement occurs to these carpets, the ripples expose the pre-existing condition of the carpet not being adequately stretched, and when the latex returns to its original shape and size, the ripples sometimes remain, because there is extra carpet.

The fix in these cases is simple, the carpet will need to be stretched.

There are a lot of service companies out there who can do this for you at a reasonable price. While it is unfortunate that this can occur, it’s worth it to get it fixed as it will help the life of your carpet to be correctly stretched and installed.

In our years of carpet inspections, we 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 power stretcher - 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.

Carpet cushion that is too soft or too tall will allow the backing to overly flex with high traffic.

Tack Strips

Tack strip that is old or damaged must be replaced. You know what we’re talking about right?

The thin piece of wood lining the walls under your carpet that’s studded with hundreds of sharp nails or tacks used in the installation of carpet.

Well, the tacks on the tack strip must also be the right height for the cushion used.


Another very common mistake is not sealing the seams or the transitions from carpet to wood or tile floors. Any de-lamination starting at these points will be directly related to installation error.

4. Carpet and the Environment

Did you also 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 72 degrees or higher, the carpet will relax.

High humidity and flooding can also have a negative impact on your carpet and carpet backing.

Professional Cleaning With Zerorez® Tucson

Can a carpet cleaner be at fault for your carpet rippling? Yes, it is possible. If the carpets stay wet for too long (and we’re talking days not hours) that can most definitely weaken the backing.

Also, if at home spot cleaners that are made to dissolve adhesives are used, that can contribute to the buckling as well. It’s unlikely that solvent spotters such as these are used throughout an entire room though.

Carpets have a usable life cycle.

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.

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 carpet cleaners (aka Zerorez® Tucson) to meet manufacturer’s warranties!

We know Zerorez® Tucson is different than other companies, but what makes us different?

What makes us different can be found in two words: Powered Water®.

This cleaning technology takes out the high-residue soaps, detergents, shampoos and chemicals that are commonly found in cleaning companies. Powered Water® is enhanced water that is electrolyzed and oxidized to create a powerful cleaning solution without harmful toxins or chemicals.

Zerorez® Tucson uses a patented technology that loosens embedded dirt with Powered Water®.

The water is then extracted with a powerful airflow wand. The zr wand™ that is used recaptures two times the amount of water that other tools from carpet cleaning companies are able to capture. So your carpet isn’t saturated, staying wet for days and adversely affecting your carpet’s latex backing, causing carpet rippling.

This results in a clean that will last and rarely ripples!