Carpet Fibers March 2001

What do carpet cleaners actually clean? I realize our title implies that we clean carpet. Carpet, however, is made up of many components. Most carpet consists of several components-face yarns, primary backings, adhesives, and secondary backings-three of which cleaners never even attempt to clean! The only thing that we really clean are the face yarns or "face fibers." What we really do is clean fibers.

There are two basic groups of fibers-Natural and Synthetic. The two natural fibers most often found in homes today would be wool and silk. I know that in a lot of your homes which I have been in, you have wool area rugs. Wool and silk rugs are very beautiful and very expensive. There are also some cotton rugs.

The other group of fibers, synthetics, is the group which I will concentrate on today.

Synthetics would include acrylic, polyester, olefin, and nylon. Although olefin is becoming a popular choice the overwhelming majority of carpet in homes today is nylon. Probably about 95%to 98% of all carpet in homes today are nylon. Nylon is the fiber which we will discuss today.

I will not try to go into all the details of exactly how nylon is made but I will give you a brief insight into the process.

Nylon fibers start out as a very hot liquid. The liquid is then spun into very, very fine filaments. When magnified many times these filament resemble spun glass or plastic. These filaments then go through a process where they are twisted and cut into fibers which make up the face of your carpet. Prior to being cut, dyes are added for the final color of the carpet.

As you can now see, nylon appears to be very soft but indeed is in reality a very hard fiber with some of the characteristics of plastic or glass.

There are three areas of concern which you will see in nylon carpet. They are fading, abrasion, and wear. Many times direct sunlight will cause fading. Have you a ever moved a flower pot and the carpet underneath was darker?

Then there is abrasion. In many ways ,nylon is like glass. When your carpet is new it is usually very shiny or glossy. That is the way it looks after it has been properly cleaned. As you know, if you took a piece of sandpaper to a piece of glass, it becomes very dull. This is called abrasion. You usually see this most in the form of "traffic paths." The fibers are actually scratched and have lost some of their ability to reflect light. Things like regular cleaning and carpet protector(Scotchgard) can go a long way toward preventing this problem.

The last is just simple wear. After a certain period of time, carpet just wears out. The average lifetime of residential carpet is 12 years. Here again proper maintenance and carpet protector can enhance the beauty and life of your carpet.

Many manufacturers of carpet today require that the carpet be regularly, professionally cleaned in order to keep the warranty in effect.

Although there is no process which will restore your carpet to its original condition, proper maintenance and cleaning will solve most of the problems.