What About Stain Resistant Carpet?
By Steve Gillman
The wine or cherry pie spills on the carpeting and you quickly
clean up that red spot without a problem. That's the hope with
the latest stain resistant carpets, but do they really work?
Mostly, but no carpeting is really 100% stain-proof. Let's look
at what how these carpets are made, how to care for them, and
what your other options are.
Although there are many different fibers used in the manufacturing
of carpeting, including wool, polypropylene, and polyester, the
most common type now is nylon. Some sources estimate that half
of all the carpet sold in the United States is nylon. It resists
abrasion and mildew, and it's the type most likely to come in
stain-blocking or stain-resistant forms.
Manufacturers each have their own mix of chemicals that they
use to make their nylon fibers resist stains. They either impregnate
the fibers with the chemicals before the weaving and tufting
process or they apply them after the carpet is made. Either way,
if all goes well, the end product should be fairly impervious
to staining from food and drink and even rust and ink.
Even with these new carpets it's best to clean up spills as
soon as possible. The ability to resist staining does not make
these carpets entirely stain-proof. You might have a day or only
hours before the substance seeps into the fiber despite the chemical
treatment. Soapy water should get the mess cleaned up, but be
sure to rinse the spot afterward to remove any detergent. Soapy
residue left behind can attract dirt, and dirt can eventually
damage the fibers, making them less stain resistant.
With treated carpets you should be very careful about using
commercial cleaning products. Some of them, especially those
that have any kind of bleaching action, can remove the chemicals
that coat the fibers, allowing staining. If you cannot remove
a stain with soapy water, you might want to call a professional
cleaner. A truck mount cleaning unit that "steam cleans"
your carpet (technically it is called hot water extraction) can
remove tough spots due to the high temperature of the water used
and the power of the suction.
Should You Buy Stain Resistant Carpet?
Carpets that resist stains tend to last longer, in part because
many people change carpeting due to an accumulation of nasty-looking
spots rather than wear and tear. There is also some protection
from wear provided, since dirt does not enter and damage the
fibers as easily. So it is probably worth paying a little extra
for treated carpet. You also may not have much of a choice if
you like nylon, since most manufacturers routinely treat all
of their nylon varieties.
What are the disadvantages of stain resistant carpet? It is
possible (although the evidence is mixed) that volatile organic
compounds emitted by the treatment chemicals will cause health
problems for some people. Symptoms include burning eyes, sinus
problems, headaches, nausea, chills and fever. This is an issue
with carpeting in general, but may be worse with the addition
of stain-blocking chemicals. It also may resolve itself in time
as the carpet ages and releases most of the compounds.
Caring for Your Carpet
Both acne medication and mustard can damage even treated nylon
carpeting, so avoid any spills of these substances. Some cleaning
substances can do damage as well. Before using any product to
clean the carpet, test it in an inconspicuous spot, like in the
corner of a closet. Watch carefully for any bleaching or discoloring
of the fibers. Use a flashlight to look at it if your test is
in a dark area.
If you want some stain protection but already have carpet
that is not treated, you can buy products that are applied in
the home. They do tend to wear off after some time, requiring
reapplication (read the instructions. Also, a carpet cleaner
will usually add a stain treatment for an additional charge when
cleaning your home.
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