All you'll ever need to know about carpets
From choosing a style to fitting options and cleaning tips - the professionals share their expert advice.
What's best for your floor?
Twist carpet is made of wool and synthetic fibres. The most popular and practical is 80 per cent wool and 20 per cent synthetic because this combination is springy, means the carpet looks good for longer and provides excellent protection against everyday dirt. The wool is also warm and sustainable.
Wilton weaves are mostly plain and 80 per cent wool. Woven carpets take longer to make than tufted, so are more expensive, and while weaving is an old-fashioned method of manufacturing, it's an effective method as an 80 per cent wool and 20 per cent synthetic Wilton will take a long while to flatten.
Axminster is a traditional way of weaving, similar to Wilton, but as more yarn colours can be included on one loom, complex patterns can be made. The mix is almost always 80 or 100 per cent wool and, as it takes a lot of time to set up an Axminster on the loom, the price is considerably higher than many other options.
Textured loop piles are mostly wool, and British or New Zealand wool yarns are best. Test the quality by digging your thumb into the carpet to gauge the density of the fibre – small, tight loops offer better performance. Avoid the lower-grade furry wools.
Inside guide to fibre
Polypropylene This soft, tactile fibre is also stain-resistant and easily cleaned. It's so soft it feels luxurious, but without the high price tag. Look at Luxelle, Cormar Carpets' soft-touch polypropylene, or the even more tactile new polyamide (nylon) Frisé range from iSense. It was once most popular for the bedroom, as soft fibres and long pile carpets flatten more quickly, but the more modern versions are suitable for the whole house. On average, it won't last much beyond eight years however, whereas a decent wool will last longer.
All wool British wool is tough while New Zealand yarn is smooth and long and dyes beautifully. Although more expensive, it will look better and last longer. All carpet flattens, depending on how much wear it gets.
Wool/synthetic mix I think a mix of 80 per cent wool and 20 per cent synthetic is the best choice. It costs more than an all synthetic option but will last longer, is warmer, easier to care for and offers colour with more subtlety.
Natural fibres Sisal is the most expensive, most hardwearing, versatile plant fibre and the only one that can be dyed. Made from woven fibres from the agave plant, it's firm and rough to the touch. Seagrass and coir are more basic:the first is grown underwater, while coir is made from coconut husk. Seagrass is too slippery for use on stairs. Jute is beautifully soft but will absorb liquid spillages. They all need special fitting.
Stripes look fantastic flowing down the stairs or towards the fireplace, but when the carpet has to be turned on stairs or landings, take professional advice to help keep waste to a minimum. Repeats are often as little as 10cm but bear in mind the repeat can't be lined up on stair winders (triangle-shaped steps).
Plaids and tartans In either contemporary neutral palettes or familiar tartan, made on traditional Axminster looms, these designs are incredibly hardwearing and hide everything.
Other patterns to look out for are polka dots, dogtooth checks and repeating geometric designs. Using a pattern on carpet gives a room balance so that curtains or walls can be plainer.
Sustainability is now as important to retailers as to consumers. Carpet made from recycled plastic bottles (PET polypropylene), bamboo and even corn oil (SmartStrand) are easy to clean and crush resistant. Our underlay (a must-have) is also recycled. Crumbed polyurethane foam from furniture pads has luxury softness, heat retention, sound absorption and can be recycled at the end of its life. Waste carpet yarns and car tyres are converted into felt/crumb underlay too.
Professional touch To ensure that your carpet looks its best and lasts well, it's important to have it fitted professionally. If the store you buy it from doesn't offer a fitting service, then find a fitter either through recommendation or via a website such as the NICF (nicfltd.org.uk). It lists local fitters and the types of flooring they deal with, as well as skill levels in each flooring type. If they're not a member of a trade association, look on trader scheme websites where feedback is left, such as the Which? Trusted Trader scheme.
What's included? It's good to agree what the fitter will and will not include in the job. Always discuss whether doors will need to be trimmed or if there needs to be any preparation work on the floor, such as fitting plywood over old floorboards to give a level surface, as uneven floorboards will eventually show through.
Filling gaps It's also important to fill any spaces between the skirting board and the floor. This is because dirty air circulates under the floorboards and can come up through any gaps. The carpet acts as a filter, trapping dirt and dust particles, and these can then leave a dirty mark around the edge of the carpet. Vacuuming only makes it worse as more dirt particles are drawn up, and cleaning the carpet doesn't always remove the marks. Prevention is definitely best here.
Decide who will move the furniture You'll also need to agree what furniture, if any, will be left in the area, as fitters usually charge extra to move items. The emptier the room, the less you will need to pay.
If your carpet rucks up after being fitted, then it hasn't been fitted correctly. Carpets must be stretch-fitted permanently under tension – it shouldn't be easy to pull them up. When decorating, if you want to sand or paint the skirting, it's better to have a fitter take up the carpet and then re-lay it when you're finished.
How to care for carpets
Vacuum your carpet well to keep it looking lovely for longer – ideally every day, especially if you have a busy household and pets. This is because sand, grit and other abrasive particles collect in the base of the fibres and, if not removed, grind away at them, causing premature wear.
The best vacuum cleaners tend to be upright with a beater bar, as they beat and brush the fibres to dislodge and remove damaging grit and soiling. For a loop-style carpet, or if the pile is particularly long, use the machine's suction head only, as beater bars may catch and pull the fibres. Use a slow, repetitive front-to-back motion in an overlapping sequence. A quick once-over isn't really sufficient as the vacuum doesn't have time to extract soiling from deep down in the tufts and between the fibres.
Change the position of your furniture from time to time to minimise sun fade, indentations caused by tables and chairs, and excess wear on particular areas.
A protective treatment applied by a professional carpet cleaning company to a new or newly cleaned carpet forms a shield around every fibre, which helps prevent soiling and stains being ground into, and absorbed by, the carpet. Liquids spilled onto a properly protected carpet will not immediately soak into the fibres, but will puddle on top so you have time to dash for the kitchen roll to blot the spill. These treatments tend to last on average 18 months.
Dealing with stains With or without protection, the most important thing to do with a stain is to act fast. Never rub the affected area, as this will only grind it further into the carpet. Remove as much excess as possible by blotting liquids or gently scraping with a spoon in the case of food spills. Dampen the area with either soda water or plain tap water, then get some kitchen roll or an old, clean towel and blot really well.
Don't be tempted to use soap or detergents as the residue they leave behind will attract further soiling and make the mark look worse. Don't use bleach or any products that contain brighteners or solvents. And never throw salt on red wine, or any other spill, as it can actually fix stains and the grains will be hard to remove, leaving a damaging gritty residue