How to Get Wrinkles Out of Carpet Without a Stretcher

Empty living room with wall-to-wall carpet
Andersen Ross / Getty Images
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Yield: 15-foot by 20-foot room
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $25 to $100

Carpet that's wrinkled is unsightly and unsafe. When sunlight rakes low across the carpeting, those ripples stand out even more. Wrinkled carpet is a trip hazard, and those wrinkles cause the carpet to wear even faster. The good news is that you can get rid of wrinkles in carpet without using a power stretcher.

Why Your Carpet Has Wrinkles

Wall-to-wall carpeting may develop wrinkles early on because of poor installation practices. The carpet may have not been stretched properly in the first place or attached correctly to the perimeter tack strips.

As time goes on, even well-installed carpeting can develop wrinkles. Carpeting often comes loose from the tack strips or the tack strips can detach from the flooring. Also, carpeting will stretch out due to repeated foot traffic over the years or from pushing heavy objects, such as sofas, across it.

Why It’s Important to Get Wrinkles Out of Carpet

  • Safety: Wrinkles in the carpet are prominent trip hazards. Even minor wrinkles are high enough to catch the sole of a shoe and cause a person to fall.
  • Appearance: Rippled carpeting detracts from the overall appearance of the room. Smoothing out the carpeting brings it back to its original, flat look.
  • Door Swing: Doors that drag on carpeting can cause wrinkled carpeting, which in turn will impede the door swing.
  • Durability: Wrinkles cause carpeting to wear at a faster rate. Wrinkles bear the brunt of foot traffic.

Tip

Stretching your carpet can also help it last longer and put off any costs associated with replacing the carpet before you absolutely have to.

Do You Need to Use a Carpet Stretcher?

The best way to get wrinkles out of a carpet is to re-stretch it. Steaming, ironing, flattening, applying ice, and other popular fixes for wrinkled carpeting are ineffective at best and damaging at worst. Much like smoothing out a bedspread, you need to pull the carpeting outward from the edges to eliminate wrinkles.

Using a power stretcher is the best option because the stretcher pulls carpeting across the entire length and width of the room. But stretchers are expensive and they take practice to learn how to use them well.

You can stretch out carpeting using an inexpensive tool called a carpet knee kicker. Another method is to jump on a section of the carpet with enough momentum to force the carpet outward to the wall.

Safety Considerations

Using a carpet knee kicking tool or even simply working on your hands and knees can result in various discomforts. Use protection knee pads with any type of knee kicking tool or avoid the activity altogether. NIOSH recommends the use of a power stretcher as a safe alternative to a knee-kicking carpet tool.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Carpet knife or utility knife
  • Carpet knee kicker
  • Pry bar
  • Hammer or cordless nailer
  • Pliers
  • Measuring tape

Materials

  • Tack strip
  • Finish nails

Instructions

  1. Move Objects off Carpet

    Remove all objects from the carpeting, including sofas, chairs, bookcases, and lamps.

  2. Remove Wall Trim

    Pry off wall trim such as baseboards and shoe molding. Mark the back of the trim so you'll remember its location when you replace it later on.

  3. Remove Carpet From Tack Strip

    Locate the edge of the carpeting perpendicular to the ripples. Grasp the edge of the carpeting and lift it to loosen it from the tack strip. If you're having trouble, use pliers to grab the carpet pile.

  4. Replace Missing Tack Strips

    Tack strips must run around the entire perimeter of the carpeting. If any strips are missing, replace them. Measure the length needed, then cut off a section. Hammer down the tack strip, nails pointing upward.

  5. Stretch Carpet

    • With a Knee-Kicker: Place the head of the kicker between the ripples and the wall. Kick the cushioned bumper pad with your knee. 
    • With the Jump Method: Jump on the carpeting with sufficient forward motion to force the edge of the carpeting closer to the wall. Wear shoes that are clean on the bottom for better grip. Take one or two steps forward, jump across the ripples, and land on the section between the ripples and the wall. This should move the carpeting outward.
  6. Attach Carpet to Tack Strip

    • With a Knee-Kicker: While maintaining pressure on the kicker with your knee, reach forward and attach the carpeting to the tack strip. Press firmly down.
    • With the Jump Method: Remain standing on the carpeting to keep it in place while you attach the edge to the tack strip.
  7. Cut Carpet

    Cut the excess edge of the carpeting with the carpet knife or utility knife.

  8. Replace Wall Trim

    Re-attach the baseboards and wall trim by nailing them into place with a cordless nailer or with a hammer and finish nails.

Tips for Getting Wrinkles Out of Carpeting

  • If the carpet padding appears wrinkled, pull back the carpet and stretch out the padding by itself. 
  • Shining a light at a low angle will help you to locate ripples.
  • Wear thick gloves when working with tack strips, as the tacks are extremely sharp.
  • Rent a carpet knee kicker for about $15 to $20 per day.

When to Call a Professional

For getting more than just a few wrinkles out of a carpet, you'll need to hire a carpet installer. The installer will use the carpet power stretcher, knee-kicker, and other tools to eliminate the carpet ripples.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Preventing Knee Injuries and Disorders in Carpet Layers. NIOSH.