07/07/2014 01:34 pm ET Updated Sep 06, 2014

Is There a 'Footprint-free' Carpet?

What happens when you pay for a horse but get a mule? Or in this case, you thought you bought a "footprint-free" carpet but as soon as it was installed you knew you had been taken?

I was recently hired by a woman who was in this situation. She explained that she had asked her salesperson for a carpet that doesn't show footprints. The salesperson showed her a sample of a carpet that the salesperson said would not show footprints or traffic patterns. My client bought the carpet. The day it was installed she saw that it certainly showed footprints. She called the store the next day. The store had just gone out of business! The doors were closed.

My client spent months tracking down the store owner. She finally found him. He arranged for the carpet mill to send an inspector to look at the carpet. The inspector turned down the claim.

As soon as I arrived at the home and saw the carpet, I knew that the carpet had been oversold. This carpet is a type of textured saxony cut pile. As I explain in my book, All About Carpets, Everything You Want To know, A Consumer Guide, cut pile carpets show footprints. They also show vacuum marks and traffic patterns. Sometimes they also cornrow, as this carpet is doing, too.

There is only one person living in this well maintained home. Traffic is light. As an added insult, the carpet also needed cleaning after only five months. The soiling made the carpet fiber sticky so that it crushed down even more. So my client hired someone recommended by the store owner. The carpet cleaner was unable to get the carpet to look clean.

When I inspected the carpet, I saw a medium quality textured saxony cut pile carpet that needed cleaning. It was installed throughout the home: living and dining rooms, stairway, upstairs hall, two bedrooms and a bath. It was crushed down in all the walkways and on the steps.

I have a magnifier lighted by both white and ultraviolet light. Using the white light, I examined the carpet fibers in the dining room walkway, one of the worst looking areas of the installation. The carpet tufts were completely twisted to their tips. This told me that the carpet was holding up under the terms of the warranty for texture retention. I did not see any grit or sand on the backing of the carpet. The yarns were soiled only on the ends. The rest of the tuft lengths were clean. Using the ultraviolet light, I checked the fibers for cleaning residues. These glow blue under UV light. I saw no residues.

I spot cleaned a small area in front of the sofa facing the TV. This area was also heavily soiled. I misted a small amount of ammonia-based carpet spotter onto the carpet. Then I tamped the solution gently into the fibers. I waited several seconds in order to give the spotter time to loosen the soil. Then I gently blotted the treated area with a clean white terry cloth towel. The soil immediately transferred to the towel. This told me that the soil/stain portion of the warranty would not come into play. The cleanability issue was with the "professional" cleaner, not the carpet.

I ran the vacuum. The brush height was properly set. The suction lifted the pile. I didn't see any broken parts or sharp edges that could damage the carpet. The vacuum was in good working condition.I looked through the carpet warranty for anything relating to visible footprints or traffic patterns. The warranty plainly stated that footprints and crushing are normal for all cut-pile carpets.

I explained to my client that her carpet was behaving normally. A skilled carpet cleaner would be able to restore the color. But the footprints, crushing, and traffic lanes are part of the carpet's characteristics. the mill was correct to turn down her claim. Unfortunately, the carpet was oversold. Buyers remorse is not covered by the warranty. She would have to find another recourse if she wanted satisfaction. She was not happy with my explanation.

So is there a "footprint free" carpet? Yes. Loop pile carpets, such as a berber or level loop pile do not show footrpints. But they have a completely different "look" than a saxony pile. My client did not want the loop texture. But she also didn't want footprints.

My suggestion to all consumers is to get it in writing. if a salesperson make a guarantee, there should be paperwork to back it up.