Brittle Yarn and Balding Carpet

A hospitality client of ours in New Tampa asked for help with a mysterious problem with their carpet.  We were more than willing to visit.  The hotel was a longstanding preferred customer.  Only a few years earlier, we had both sold and installed the carpet.  The areas which received new carpet included the corridors of all four floors, the ballroom and pre-function area, meeting rooms, the dining room, the GM's office, the business center, and their breakfast area.  We also provided and installed ceramic tile in many of the spaces of the first floor.

Initial Inspection

We walked the corridors of all four floors and found about 27 spots that were somewhat randomly disbursed.  The carpet yarn had become brittle, so brittle that the fibers were breaking free from the carpet's backing when scraped with a dull tool.  The color did not seem altered.  There was no evident damage to the carpet's backing apparent by a topical inspection.  The synthetic carpet was left threadbare and seemingly moth-eaten.

Hotel's Corridor Layout with Field Carpet, Borders, and Door Drops

Hotel's Corridor Layout with Field Carpet, Borders, and Door Drops

Locations

We described the locations as somewhat random, but we did notice that yarn of one color was more affected than others.  We also observed that the balding was more frequently found in the corridor alcoves between the guestroom doors which is labeled as the door drops in the diagram.  But, the balding carpet was entirely absent on the first floor where there was no carpet near the restrooms.

Carpet Yarn Breaking Free from the Carpet's Backing

Carpet Yarn Breaking Free from the Carpet's Backing

Four Carpet Styles - Lexmark

A description of the carpets and the installation is fitting before revealing more of about the balding yarn.

  • Manufacturer:  Lexmark  Carpet Mills, Inc.
  • Fiber:  100% Solution-Dyed Nylon
  • Face Weight:  36 Ounce/SY
  • Backing:  Action Bac®
  • Width:  12 Feet
  • Carpet 1.
    • Style:  SG475 Stix
    • Pattern Repeat:  12" (L) x 24" (W)
  • Carpet 2 - Door Drops.
    • Style:  28112 Circle
    • Pattern Repeat:  9.5" (L) x 10.5" (W)
  • Carpet 3.
    • Style:  364 Bar None
    • Pattern Repeat:  24" (L) x 24" (W)
    • Construction:  Loop Graphic Tip-Shear Pile
  • Carpet 4 - 12-Inch Borders.
    • Style:  738S
    • Pattern Repeat:  None
  • Base:  Lexmark's Matching 4-Inch Carpet Base
  • Cushion:  Sponge Cushion's TredMOR 2580 Rubber Cushion (1/4-inch thickness, 80-oz density).
  • Installation Method:  Double-stick Installation

Official Findings

The mill offered to pay for third-party laboratory testing.  We supplied one piece of damaged carpet and one piece of undamaged carpet.  The lab returned their findings.

Lab Results Proving Damage by Acid

Lab Results Proving Damage by Acid

The problem had nothing to do with Lexmark.  Solution-dyed nylon is exceedingly popular with all of the world's leading carpet mills.  Solution-dyed nylon is the carpet yarn which we most commonly sell to our commercial customers.  Lexmark previously published a report on the damaged caused to yarn by acid cleaners:

"Some tile cleaners contain phosphoric acid, exposure will discolor and damage yarn fibers.  Most mildew removers and shower stall cleaners contain chlorine bleach, studies have shown that long term exposure to bleach can and will cause chemical degradation to the strength and elongation properties of yarn fibers."

We emailed our customer when the lab results arrived and provided a copy.

"A few moments ago, we received the test results from the lab....  The lab tested the affected carpet that we provided and an unaffected control sample.  The test results returned a positive identification of both chlorides and an acidic pH.  (The pH scale ranges from zero to fourteen.  Zero is the most extreme acid; seven is perfectly neutral [i.e., distilled water]; and, fourteen is the most extreme alkaline.)

"If strong acid- or alkaline-based cleaners are used, a neutralizing agent should follow.  Thoroughly rinse the residue from the carpet.  If well rinsed, the powerful cleaning agents would likely have created no damage."

Prevention

As indicated by the lab results, the most likely cause was exposure to a powerful acidic cleaner (e.g., a tile and grout cleaner or a mildew remover).  The lack of color loss indicates that bleach was not the cause.  The offending chemical may have been applied at full strength or at a high ratio.  Regardless of distilled concentration and regardless if the application was accidental or intentional, the chemical should have been thoroughly rinsed with water until completely removed.  In most cases, acids do not instantly cause the yarn to become brittle.  It is the lingering residue which degrades the integrity of the yarn.  The misery of the situation was compounded by the fact that the hotel's carpet and tile in the restrooms are cleaned by their in-house maintenance team.

Solution

Most of the balding carpet was in the intersecting door drops.  We will have to have the mill make a special run of carpet and supply all new matching cushion.  The solution will take several days and cost thousands.  All of this cosmetic tarnishing, interruption for installation, and cost was because of carelessness or a lack of understanding about chemistry with their in-house maintenance team.

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