Why Do Renters Hate Carpets So Much?

Lilly Milman

By Lilly Milman

Oct 23, 2023

Picture this: You walk into the perfect apartment, with natural light, new appliances, large bedrooms, and lots of storage space. Then you look down and see carpet. Does your heart drop?

If you said yes, you aren’t alone. Carpets are a dealbreaker for a lot of renters, with many believing they require more maintenance, look less refined, or are less hygienic than other types of flooring. Whether these perceptions are fact or fiction, their impact on the apartment hunt are very real.

“Most renters I work with prefer hardwood floors,” says Mike Rallo, an agent at ApartmentAdvisor. “Renters with pets worry about lingering smells on carpeting. Plus, the fact that carpets can easily be stained or damaged reminds renters that many tenants before them have lived with and walked on the same rental carpets.”  

We spoke with renters, real estate professionals, and interior designers to find out exactly why people hate carpets so much — and to find tips for how to embrace them.

“There was a smell.” 

While she didn’t see many rental properties with wall-to-wall carpeting when searching for her perfect place in New York City, NY, Rebecca Shinners remembers feeling duped when she toured a carpeted apartment that fell flat compared to its listing.

“The last time I apartment hunted, there was one apartment that, when I had looked at all the listings, [I thought,] ‘This is going to be the one.’ Then I showed up in person,” she says. “It was just a lot older feeling than the listing. The one thing that really stood out to me was that it had a carpet and there was a smell. It just felt like there were like years’ worth of scents attached to it.” 

Shinners, 31, is a content creator, whose TikTok page focuses on apartment living and interior design. Initially, she didn’t think that carpets would be a dealbreaker for her — but after that experience, they’ve become one, at least in New York.

“It really falls on the landlord to maintain [the carpet] and, especially in New York City, [landlords can] get away with not always maintaining apartments because there's such demand. I feel like they had neglected [this apartment] and it showed,” she says.

While renters may not jump at the opportunity to invest any money in maintaining a carpet in their apartment on their landlord’s behalf, this may be one of the best ways to deal with issues of smell. Raf Michalowski, interior designer and founder of furniture retailer Meble Furniture, emphasizes the importance of regular maintenance for carpets.

“I advise renters to invest in a good quality vacuum and schedule professional cleaning at least once a year. This keeps the carpets looking fresh and helps prolong their lifespan,” he says.

Yearly cleanings will also reduce the damage caused by pets, which is another concern for Shinners, who lives with a puppy in her studio. Since she ultimately decided to rent an apartment with hardwood floors, she feels more confident about her ability to clean up after her dog. Overall, it is possible to maintain the condition of a carpeted apartment with pets, it just might take a little more work. 

“I need to be more careful.”

Despite setting out on the apartment hunt with the intention of avoiding carpets, renter Ash Peterson was limited by cost and now lives in a carpeted apartment with their partner in Duluth, GA.

They noticed that apartments with hardwood or even linoleum or laminate flooring in their area tended to be more expensive for less square feet and were less available. Carpeted apartments were simply more cost effective.

However, now they feel they must be more careful about what they eat and drink at home because they are afraid of spills that could forever stain the carpet in their living room. They’ve also avoided getting plants because spilled dirt may be hard to clean as well.

“About once a week, we do a regular vacuum,” Peterson says. “With carpets, I feel like it's harder to see if it is actually clean, whereas if you have hardwood, you can see crumbs a little easier. … My partner and I have some allergies, and it would just be great to not have to worry about tracking dust and things like that.”

It’s true — carpets require frequent vacuuming to remain pristine, according to all the designers we spoke to. But even Peterson, who wishes they lived in an apartment with a different flooring material, can see some of the upsides of carpets: “I can appreciate that it's a little warmer in the cold seasons and a little more sound dampening.” It helps that their carpets were replaced after the previous tenants moved out, they say.

Michalowski, who has seen many renters with similar aversions to carpets, agrees.

[Renters often] see carpets as outdated and difficult to maintain. It's a common misconception that has caused many renters to overlook the potential of carpets in their living spaces,” he says. “There is also the assumption that they are not easy to clean. But with proper care and regular vacuuming, carpets can last for years without losing their appeal. Carpets are also a great way to add warmth and texture to a room.”

Perhaps they don’t have the same high-end aesthetic that hardwood floors do, but carpets offer an inherent coziness — especially in a bedroom — that can be more difficult to achieve with wooden floors.

Expert Tips for Carpet Maintenance

If you have carpets in your apartment, we offer some expert tips for how to make the most of them:

  • Add your own flair to your apartment with area rugs and floor coverings. “Area rugs define different areas and add visual interest,” says Jay Sanders, contractor and the owner of home remodeling company Castle Dream Construction.
  • Hire a professional carpet cleaning service before you move in. “Carpets, like all fabrics, carry an ‘ick’ factor if they are used. For renters in particular, there are questions of how many people have lived there before them, what may be on the carpet, how many times has it been cleaned and with what products and tools and how sanitary has it been made for you as you move in,” says interior decorator Bonnie Borromeo Tomlinson.
  • Ask your landlord to remove or replace your carpets. “A landlord or property manager being willing to remove or replace old carpeting for a new tenant is not out of the realm of possibility. It can be a hassle, but getting a brand new carpet or seeing what lies underneath the old carpet may be worth it in the long run for both parties,” says ApartmentAdvisor agent Mike Rallo.
  • Cover up wear and tear with furniture and accessories. “Strategic furniture placement [of large pieces like couches] can help hide any wear or stains and can also break up large expanses of carpeting. ... Using complementary decor elements like throw pillows, curtains, and wall art can make carpets feel more integrated into the overall design,” says Brad Omni Smith, CEO of Omni Home Ideas.
  • Appreciate the soundproofing offered by carpets. “Many landlords will choose to have carpeting in high-traffic areas on second- or third-floor apartments because they are more soundproof than other flooring options. It can be good to remember that if your building has carpeting, it’s protecting you from noisy upstairs neighbors,” says Rallo.
  • If you still aren’t convinced, use the hardwood filter on our site during your next apartment search. We’ll help you find the new apartment of your dreams.

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