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The Remarkable History of Nylon

In today's blog post, we talk about the remarkable history of nylon. Are you ready for a history lesson?

When you hear the word nylon, what comes to mind? Socks? Stockings? Sweaters? Nylon is used in many clothing applications for durability, elasticity and comfort. It is also used to make carpet. This may lead you to believe that nylon is a soft fluffy material. Not so. Used in hair combs, toothbrushes, electrical cover plates and other everyday items, nylon is actually a tough, flexible and durable plastic.

How do we get soft materials from nylon?

Through a process called extrusion, nylon pellets are melted and forced through minute holes called spinnerets. As the molten nylon cools, it forms tiny strands called filaments. Hundreds of such filaments, each finer than a human hair, are twisted together to form yarns. These yarns are stitched through a backing material to make carpet.

Today, nylon is by far the most popular fiber used in making carpet. So it may be surprising to find that nylon’s history as a carpet fiber got off to a rough start. In fact, this popular fiber had to go through several changes or “generations” to get to where it is today.

The First Generation of Nylon Fiber

The original or first generation of nylon fiber used in carpet had a round cross-section. This had the effect of magnifying particles of dirt that adhered to the fiber. So not only did early nylon carpets show soil, they made what soil was there look worse than it actually was.

The Second Generation of Nylon Fiber

Around 1960, the first major change or second generation was to alter the shape or cross section of the individual filaments, making the carpet better at hiding soil. This was a major improvement, but nylon still had some issues that needed to be addressed.

The Third Generation of Nylon Fiber

If you are at least 40 years old, you can probably remember the days when walking on carpet and touching another person could be a shocking experience. In the 1970’s fiber producers added antistatic properties to the fibers to dissipate the static electricity that built up in carpet yarns. This third generation was a meaningful improvement, but the carpets still soiled easily and were somewhat difficult to clean.

The Fourth Generation of Nylon Fiber

The fourth generation nylon had the added feature of soil retardants such as 3M ScotchGard and DuPont Teflon. This revolutionary advancement made vacuuming more efficient and helped repel most common household soils. Now carpets were easier to clean and they actually stayed cleaner longer. But even with all of these improvements, there was still one major problem that had to be overcome. Nylon carpets were still susceptible to staining by natural and artificial colors used in foods and soft drinks. Most of the carpets sold were in darker colors in order to hide such stains.

The Fifth Generation of Nylon Fiber

Introduced in the 1980’s, the fifth generation Nylon has the property of stainresistance with the addition of acid-dye resistors. This made the fibers resistant to acid-based dyes like Kool-Aid, red wine, food coloring and similar items that could otherwise cause permanent stains.

New colors, regular and professional cleaning. 

For the first time, manufacturers were able to offer a stain-resist warranty on carpets. Consumers began to choose lighter colors like taupe, beige, cream and off-white, a trend that continues to this day. However, even with all of the advancements in nylon, these carpets are not stain-proof. Proper care must be taken to assure they retain their ability to resist soiling and staining.

Of course, regular vacuuming is an important first line of defense, as is quick response to spills and spots. Periodic professional cleaning is also important, and is required every 18 to 24 months to maintain most carpet warranties. Unfortunately, there are some uneducated, uninformed or unscrupulous carpet cleaners that use harsh cleaning agents, chemicals with too high of a pH, optical brighteners or improper cleaning methods that will void most stain-resist warranties.

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about that. KleenRite is up-to-date on the latest requirements and industry standards to protect your investment. Call us today at (217) 351-4930 and we can help clean your carpet and make it look new! Make sure to tell your friends and neighbors about us or pass this article on to someone you know. We really appreciate your referrals.


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