Can Carpet in a Bathroom Work?

Wood-toned bathroom with carpeted floor
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Carpeted bathrooms is a mini-trend that surfaces from time to time, but it's one that rarely takes hold. Full bathrooms are high-moisture environments because they have bathing facilities. Once moisture gets in and under carpeting—and especially the padding—mold and mildew can develop.

So, if you want a carpeted bathroom, you've got to really want one. That said, you should remodel to your own taste, especially if you do not intend to sell your home for a long time, if ever. And, if something was a trend once, it might appear once again in the next 20-year trend cycle. 

Usually, not putting in carpet is the best approach. But if you really do want to install carpet in a bathroom, observe a few precautions that may help it work better.

  • Warm to the touch

  • Quieter than hard surfaces

  • Mold and mildew may develop

  • Difficult to dry out

  • New buyers may not accept it

  • May have to be replaced more than once

Use Synthetic Materials

Look for 100-percent nylon, polyester, PTT (Triexta Polyester), or polypropylene (olefin). Avoid carpeting that is made from organic materials such as wool. Synthetic materials dry out much faster than do organic materials. Plus, synthetics don't smell as bad as wool, if they should get wet.

Prioritize Low Pile Carpeting

Lower pile (thickness) means fewer problems because less moisture can be absorbed. Lower pile carpeting also dries faster. Thick-pile carpets trap moisture and can be very difficult to dry out.

Choose an Appropriate Style

Look for loop or needle-punch styles. While not exactly luxurious—used more for public or other high-impact areas—these styles ensure that the pile remains low and flat.  

Needle-punch is often used for outdoor carpeting. But if your notion of outdoor carpeting is stuck in the past, you may want to update these notions by looking at contemporary outdoor berber carpeting. These carpets are thick enough that they feel like real carpeting, yet thin enough that they dry out quickly.

Install a Water-Impermeable Subfloor

If possible, install your carpeting on a concrete subfloor. If that is not possible, lay down a cement backer board such as Durock or Wonderboard over your existing subfloor, and then install your bathroom carpet. In any case, make sure that your carpeting's substrate is solid and water-impermeable.

Consider Using Carpet Squares

What happens when your wall-to-wall carpeting gets moldy beyond repair? You find yourself renting out a roll-off dumpster because all of the carpeting needs to be removed and replaced. Carpet square tiles represent the perfect balance of bathroom carpeting because they give you the carpeting but in sections that can be removed and replaced:

  • Because carpet squares are modular, they can be removed and replaced individually as needed.
  • Most carpet squares are low pile, so they dry fast.
  • Carpet squares are very easy to self-install: simple peel off the backing to reveal the adhesive and press down.
  • Most carpet squares are synthetic materials, such as 100-percent nylon

Use the Best Adhesives

Make sure you use indoor/outdoor carpet adhesive. Look for a quality solvent-free, commercial-grade adhesive that is resistant to water.

Care and Maintain Your Carpeting

  • Frequently vacuum your bathroom carpeting. When it comes to mold, water is not the only culprit. Lab studies have shown that clean carpeting is less prone to developing mold than dirty carpeting, even when both carpets are subjected to the same amount of moisture. In short: dirty carpeting plus water equals mold.
  • Avoid excessive water by ensuring that your bathtub or shower stall is leak-free. Just as you would mop up puddles of water from impervious surfaces, do the same with your bathroom carpet.
  • A wet vac is your best friend for getting up moisture from the carpet quickly. Do not let wet carpeting stay wet for very long, as the moisture will eventually migrate to the padding underneath.
  • Lay down a bathmat on top of the carpet. While it may seem unusual to put carpet over carpet, this first layer will catch most of the water from bathers exiting the shower or bathtub.
  • Pull back the bathroom carpeting, if needed. If the carpeting is very wet, you'll probably need to pull back a corner or side of the carpeting to expose the padding. Peel back the padding, as well. Then, vacuum up the water with the wet vac and aim fans on the area until completely dry.