Carpet Series – Synthetic Fibers, Advantages & Disadvantages

100_2356It appears that Spring may finally be here? I question this only because I remember back in the late 1980’s I was playing in a baseball tourney on Memorial Day weekend and it snowed. Well, after all, I do live in Northeast WI and one never knows what the weather will be like in April and May.

Let’s continue looking at the the different carpet fibers available to you the consumer. Again, like part 1, I will include some advantages and disadvantages of these fibers. It’s up to you choose which one fits best for your home or business. Either way, Green Bay Floor Restore being a certified IICRC company, we can clean any of them. Green Bay Floor Restore gets carpets cleaner and drier than our competition in the hot water extraction category of cleaning and we guarantee it! Hot water extraction method of cleaning is recommended by all major carpet manufacturers as well as the Carpet & Rug Institute of America.

What are Synthetics? Synthetics are derived from chemical synthesis; which is the combining of two or more chemicals to produce a third compound significantly different from the components. The vast majority of the fibers used in todays carpeting is synthetic. There are 4 major categories of synthetics, Acrylic, Polyester and Olefin. Nylon is the fourth but that will be discussed next article along with the 5 generations of Nylon.

Acrylic was introduced to the carpet industry in 1957 as a synthetic imitation to wool. Acrylic carpet has the appearance of wool with a far lower price tag. Because of several performance problems acrylic disappeared from the carpet market in 1988. In 1990 it was re-introduced in Berber styles for it’s wool like appearance and it being used as a blend with nylon. Acrylics advantages are that it is resistant to water based stains and has low absorbency. Disadvantages are that traffic areas maintain a dirty appearance after thorough cleaning. Poor resilience means that crush marks from heavy furniture may be permanent. Acrylic area rugs may be susceptible to color bleeding.

Polyester was introduced for carpeting in the 1960’s. Unlike nylon, polyester is dyed with disperse dyes, which makes it both colorfast and resistant to the acid dyes that are commonly used in soft drinks, cake icing and cough medicines. Did you know, plastic beverage bottles are being recycled to create polyester fiber for carpet?
Advantages of polyester are that it has a soft luxurious feel. Polyester resists bleaching from chemicals and sunlight and it resists dye stains including discolorations from urine. Disadvantages are that polyester is less resilient than the most popular synthetic fiber, nylon. Polyester is less durable for high traffic areas. Polyester is “oil loving” oily soils and spills are difficult to remove from polyester.
Polyester is becoming popular once again, and manufactures are claiming that some of the above disadvantages have been overcome.

Olefin is a synthetic fiber used in both carpet face yarns as well as for synthetic primary and secondary backings. Olefin is often solution dyed and therefor very colorfast; however, some commercial grade olefin carpet is being dyed with disperse dyes. Because of olefins low cost and availability, the majority of commercial carpet installed is olefin. Low cost area rugs, including “imitation oriental rugs” are made from olefin.
Advantages of olefin is that it is not stained by dyes and is not damaged by bleaches or other strong chemicals. Olefin is the lest absorbent fiber. Olefins very low absorbency may make drying it easier it also leads to many wicking problems. Olefin is economical.
Disadvantages of olefin are that it is heat sensitive. It can be easily damaged by friction, such as from dragging heavy items over it. Oily soils may be very difficult to be remove. If allowed to remain in a heavily soiled condition, oily soils oxidize and often cause yellowish brown discoloration that may be impossible to completely remove.
Olefin has poor resilience and traffic lanes become permanently distorted in a relative short period of time. Areas of or carpeting that are crushed from heavy furniture will not be restorable during cleaning. Because olefin’s low absorbency soils and spills accumulate at the base of the tufts and often will cause soil or spots to “re-appear” after cleaning or spotting is undertaken.

Well that’s all for this week. I hope this helps you decide what carpet fiber is best for you and your application. Stop in next week as I will discuss the fourth category of synthetic carpets, nylon and the 5 generations of nylon. Have a great week everyone!

Jamie Strohmeyer
Owner/ Operator – Green Bay Floor Restore