Only four fibers account for nearly all carpets: nylon, olefin (polypropylene), polyester (PET – polyethylene terephthalate), and wool. In addition, there are acrylic, cotton, and PTT (Triexta – "Corterra" from Shell). Sisal carpets usually contain jute, hemp, sea grass, and coconut natural fibers. For the most part, all of these fibers (except the ones most commonly used in sisal) are cleaned the same way when using Bane-Clene products and procedures, but there are some important exceptions.
How can you determine what kind of fiber you are going to clean and is it important to know?
While many cleaners use burn tests to identify a fiber, the tests are unreliable. Most often the cleaner only needs to know whether the fiber is olefin or wool otherwise, it is usually nylon. When you burn wool, it smells like burned hair. Also, wool dissolves in chlorine bleach. Olefin floats in water.
The reasons for checking for olefin are usually due to a complaint on matting or rapid resoiling (especially in oily environments), or the presence of a very stubborn stain that could be treated with chlorine bleach.
Testing for wool should be done before using an extra-strong prespray or detergent. Flood damage, severe browning, and severe stains (mildew, urine, blood, etc.) may require more potent agents such as peroxide, which cannot be used on wool.
Nylon has more many years been the most popular choice, though its share of the market keeps slipping, mostly to Triexta-Corterra. Nylon has good resilience, soil resistance, abrasion retention, durability, and color retention. However, it is readily stained by acid dyes and fades in prolonged sunlight. Nylon is severely damaged by strong acids such as battery acid and strong toilet bowl cleaners. Its stain resistance properties can be improved through use of stainblockers at the mill and by application by the cleaner of fluorochemical topicals such as Scotchgard™ Brand Carpet and Upholstery Protector or DuPont Teflon® Advanced Carpet Protector. Solution dyed nylon is an excellent choice where durability and stain resistance are both important factors, such as in nursing homes, hospitals, schools, auto showrooms, kitchens and restaurants.
Continuing to expand the Strand family of fibers, Triexta PTT is a category of polytrimethylene terephthalate fibers produced by Mohawk Industries that offer superior, engineered-in stain resistance that will never wash or wear off. Triexta PTT fiber does not repel liquids, but traps the liquid within the fiber where it can be easily removed rather than allowing the liquid to fall to the back, through the carpet, and into the padding where it is trapped and can lead to other problems. The innate stain resistance of the Triexta PTT fibers allows this to occur without any permanent stains. Recent demonstrations showing competitive products floating in water, tout repellency, not engineered-in, lifetime stain resistance. Triexta PTT fibers also have excellent resilience and recovery attributes that result in outstanding durability. Mohawk uses two polymer bases for its Triexta PTT fibers. One is DuPont Sorona 3GT, which is an exclusive to Mohawk Industries. The other is from Shell, trademarked as Triexta* polymer. All Triexta PTT products are made from BCF yarns, so there are no pilling or fuzzing issues.
Olefin has excellent stain resistance, durability, chemical resistance, and fade resistance. However, it has virtually no resilience at all (it severely mats), and it very strongly attracts oily soil, which sometimes requires more aggressive cleaning. Its lower melting point can be a problem where furniture is dragged across it resulting in damaged fibers and is easily damaged by heel marks. Low profile level-loop olefin is a good choice where stain resistance is critical, such as in nursing homes, apartment buildings, grocery stores, etc. Olefin berber should never be installed on stairs or in high-traffic situations or where there is a lot of oily soil.
With the purchase of Image Carpets by Mohawk, polyester may gain more market share. It has excellent stain resistance, brilliant colors, and a soft "hand." Because of its tendency to mat, however, it should only be installed in low traffic rooms.
Cotton is found occasionally in carpet. What a mistake! Cotton stains severely, easily browns, turns dingy with time and traffic, and has poor durability.