Recently I made a scathing comment about Berber carpet on my Facebook page. This was prompted by our latest adventure in carpet cleaning. When we moved into this house 15 years ago, it came equipped with beige carpet throughout. In the hall and bedrooms it was the regular cut pile carpet, in the living and family rooms there was Berber carpet, in a nicely textured pattern. This is a direct quote from a carpet info site:
“Berber carpet is a popular style because of its wool-like and rugged look, its durability, and its economic cost. Berber, also called high level loop, is a weave of tight yarn loops that stand upright in a nubby texture. Looped carpets like the Berber weave help hide footprints and vacuum marks and are easier to clean than cut-pile or plush where the loops are cut and exposed to accumulate more dirt.”
This quote came from a site run by Service Magic, and is not essentially different from any of the other numerous sites I visited in my quest for a definition of Berber carpet. I’m not sure about that “economic cost” statement, since when I looked at carpets a few years ago Berber carpets were some of the most expensive ones available.
There are many different styles of Berber carpet, but the more popular ones are textured, the pattern formed by different heights of yarn loops. The style in this house is highly textured. This is what it looks like clean and basically unworn, where it lived under a couch most its life.
The large square in the center is roughly 7 inches wide. The very first time I vacuumed this carpet I would have immediately disagreed with the “easy to clean” definition. I guess it depends on what you mean by easy to clean. Does the dirt stay mostly on top of the weave and vacuum out easily? That is true, so I guess in that sense it is “easy to clean.” However, all the grooves in the texture grab the front edge of the vacuum as you push it and it is sucking the carpet up towards itself, and it requires quite a lot of oomph to push the vacuum cleaner over the floor. Also, as it goes, the vacuum bounces because of the catch and release of the texture, which means you can’t just go over a section of floor once or twice and expect to get most of the dirt up. You really have to cover the same ground four or five times. These two things combined mean that in my opinion, even just vacuuming textured Berber carpet is not “easy.”
Now remember, the definition is a closed loop weave. Yes, this does wear like iron. My carpets are over 15 years old and except for the wine and coffee stains, and dirt in the traffic patterns, look pretty good. It would have been better if they hadn’t been light beige in this country of red-brown mud.
But, and this is a big but, the loops are closed. This is not an asset. You have to imagine what my feelings were after the first time we had a Christmas tree in the living room. When it was removed and I began to try to vacuum up the fallen needles, I got a very unpleasant surprise. The rotating brushes of my vacuum head very neatly drove the fallen needles into the loops of the carpet. This had never happened to me in the past, since all my previous carpets were of the cut pile variety. After trying several other alternatives, I wound up spending most of a very unpleasant afternoon armed with tweezers pulling all those needles out of that carpet. Now I have learned my lesson, and we bring the shop vac in and suck the needles off the floor without the “benefit” of the rotating brushes.
The most unkind part of the “easy cleaning” Berber carpet is when you actually break down and decide to really clean it with a rug shampooer. The sites dedicated to Berber carpet indicate that it is best to dry clean it. It has been my experience that dry cleaning a Berber carpet is an exercise in futility. Unless you are the sort of person who cleans their carpet every month or so, dry cleaning is a complete waste of time and money as it doesn’t do any cleaning that I can see. Believe me, the first time I cleaned it I tried that method. Actually, I paid a great deal of money to have a professional try that method.
Okay, so we have that lovely rug doctor or upright wet carpet cleaning system from Hoover or Sears or Eureka. They all look the same, pretty much, and they all have a head with rotating brushes that is supposed to clean your carpet and then suck the cleaning solution back out into a tank. You can see one in my post here. The machine itself is not light weight, and then you add the gallon of water that it carries, and you are pushing a substantial amount of weight around. You can imagine the language and frustration when the way one of these items “cleans” a textured Berber carpet turns out like this:
Notice that the high loops are clean and the low loops are not. Now you not only have textured carpet, you have two toned textured carpet, only half of which is actually clean. Not only that, but the low lying loops are also quite wet when you are done “extracting” the cleaning solution.
So, in order to actually get a textured Berber carpet clean, this is what you do. First you run the carpet cleaning machine, distributing cleaning solution and sucking up maybe 60% of it. Then you do this:
Notice the line of clean carpet under his right foot. That was the section we had completed cleaning. Oh, you can do this scrubbing part on your hands and knees if you don’t have a long handled scrub brush. (That is how I did it the last time I shampooed these carpets, which is why it has been about three years since I did it. At that time I swore a mighty oath that I was never cleaning the (expletive deleted) things again, holding the belief that there would be sufficient money to replace them with some sort of actually easy to clean floor.)(The money is yet to appear.)(However, our mortgage is paid off, so I guess you can guess our priorities from that.)
Okay, after you scrub the floors manually, which actually allows the cleaning solution to penetrate and clean the low loops in the texture, then you extract the solution with the hand held vacuum head of the machine.
This is an upholstery cleaning attachment, and is not meant to be held down on the floor with your full body weight, and about halfway through the process we broke it. Fortunately they only cost $7 to replace. As you can see, I felt the need to wear work gloves, since during the first day of work I did not and managed to acquire a blister.
After you have extracted the dirty cleaning solution, you then fill the tank of the machine with clean water (we added bleach to it) and rinse the carpet. Once again, you must extract the solution using the hand held attachment, since the texture of the Berber carpet does not allow the suction head of the machine to adequately pull out the solution, since the flat suction head loses contact with the carpet because of the texture.
If you have a really dirty spot (and we did, in some of our traffic patterns), you can rinse and extract a second time.
Easy to clean? I think not.
As far as I am concerned, there is a special place in Dante’s Inferno reserved for the person who invented textured Berber carpet, and marketed it to unwary house owners as “easy to clean.”
Special thanks and inexpressible appreciation go to my darling spouse and mate for the invaluable assistance he gave during this process. Without him it probably would not have gotten done. Frankly, I don’t know of another man in the immediate area who would have helped his wife do this insanely difficult job.