Carpets and Rugs of Hawaii

Wool Carpets and Hawaiian Style Area Rugs

Archive for wool

Green Washing and Going Green…Really?

I hear so much in my industry about how consumers and manufacturers are “Going Green”. Sometimes it makes you wonder how some people sleep at night. For those of us who would like to be a wannabe environmentalist 100% of the time, we are faced with great challenges. The environmental cause has always been dear to my heart from the time I became president of our environmental club in Junior High School (before Earth Day was established) to my present job of supplying environmentally-friendly products in the floor covering industry.

It certainly is an improvement for companies to be manufacturing recycled coke bottles into carpets, but is it truly an environmental product?  Does it biodegrade when disposed of?  Does it look better or last longer before replacement than its petroleum-based synthetic cousin?  Recycled carpets are still petroleum-based, so in my opinion do not offer the same environmental benefits of a wool product. Buying synthetic carpets also buys into my personal belief that purchasing petroleum-based products puts more money into the hands of the oil producing countries. If we truly want to be self-sustaining, then why are we making products that require thousands of barrels of oil to produce?  Recycled carpet can only be recycled once. What do we do with it after that? I guess you get my point on “green washing”.

The five original LEED approved floor covering products are still the products I’m going to promote.  They were and are:

  • Cork
  • Bamboo
  • Rubber
  • Wool
  • Wood

These products offer virtually no VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) and in the case of cork and wool no tree or animal is killed.  Neither one is affected by termites, which is a great application for many areas of the country and especially here  in Hawaii.

The great thing to remember about natural products and using them in your home or commercial setting is that they can be less expensive than their synthetic counterparts.  So you can be truly green, breath easier, and help the planet at the same time.

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Help! My Wool Carpet Is Going Bald!

The Phenomenom of Shedding in Carpets and Rugs

The issue of shedding on any fiber in floor covering seems to be one that concerns consumers the most, after staining. Most people think their carpets are showing excessive shedding. Normally this is not the case.

Fiber shedding after a carpet installation is quite common even though end users think they are losing all the fiber content and their carpet is going to end up going bald.

There are three contributing factors to carpet shedding. Two are normal maintenance issues. The third will be addressed from a manufacturer’s viewpoint.

I will address the first two. Those are usually the main reasons for carpet shedding:

  1. Vacuum Cleaners and correct usage –

In today’s preference for loop pile carpets, manufacturers are now beginning to put labeling on their product to use suction only appliances. Even in today’s synthetics, brushes used on loop pile constructed carpets are deadly for the life and appearance of these products.

Wool carpets are no different and should be treated once or twice a week thorough vacuuming. Vacuum cleaner manufacturers should be contacted for either a brush less beater bar or no brush attachments when you have installed a loop pile constructed carpet.

Vacuum cleaner bags –

Most people use their vacuum cleaner bags until they are filled up to the top. The efficiency of cleaning carpets, articularly new installations, with full or over half full vacuum bags drops by 50%. Therefore, clean out your appliance when you reach a 50% capacity and you will see less shedding in the first few months of your carpets’ life.

  1. Manufacturing Process –

When a wool carpet is made there is a process called “combing and carding” that aligns the fibers and allows them to lie together to go into a “sliver” to then be sent onto the yarn spinning process. Well-made wool carpets and rugs are processed with resilient yarns and long staple yarns. These yarns offer the long wear, stain resistant, and easily maintained product we all have come to know and prefer when ordering a rug or carpet for our homes.

At the time of yarn spinning and then carpet manufacturing some of the yarn will have small amounts of fibers escape. This has no effect on the density of your finished product. If you have ordered a cut pile product, shearing can also leave fibers loose that come to the top of the carpet adding to the shedding phenomenon.

In no way does this mean that you are losing carpet fiber that is a part of the base product. The shedding is basically unconnected fiber that is working its way to the top of the product. In a wool product, this is a good thing.

Wool floor coverings, because of the natural shedding process, tend to look better longer than synthetic products. This natural shedding is actually a self-cleaning process that keeps the dirt layer on top of the carpet and therefore more easily removed by proper vacuuming and spot maintenance. So, don’t panic.

The third concern for shedding could actually be a manufacturing choice with short staple fibers being used instead of the more expensive 5 to 7 inch staple fibers preferred by most carpet manufacturers. This does not mean that you will not receive the same benefits by using a natural wool product. Less expensive wool carpets might possibly be using shorter staple yarns and you could see more shedding because of these conditions. 

When ordering any floor covering most manufacturers offer a fiber warranty. You will see a warranty for manufacturers defects with wool carpet manufacturers. Because wool carpets do lose fiber and tend to shed more than the plastic carpets do a fiber warranty is not usually offered on wool carpet. What wool carpets offer you is a resiliency and beauty that lasts for many years compared to what occurs in synthetic carpets. Synthetic carpets tend to flatten out, or in carpet terms “ugly out”. This does not mean the carpet is worn out, it just tends to become very hard and flat and harder still to clean. So when reviewing warranties it is important to realize that most only cover fiber content, staining issues, and manufacturers defects. They do not guarantee lasting beauty, comfort, or resiliency underfoot. After all, isn’t that why we prefer natural products on our bodies and in our homes? Manmade fibers are still a long way off from supplying the comfort that a natural and environmental product can offer.

Allergic Reactions to Wool Carpets and Rugs?

The natural performance of a wool fiber and it’s durable qualities have protected man for over 25,000 years. Wool is actually a hypoallergenic fiber. Those who say they are allergic are most often referring to the prickle and tickle effect of an old wool sweater. Sitting or laying on wool carpets and rugs rarely, if ever, can cause the same effect. No one has ever been treated or diagnosed for anaflactic shock when coming into contact with wool.

Allergies are widespread in the developed world and that problem is increasing for two main reasons:

  1. A great number of synthetic substances and petroleum based products are being used in the home.
  2. The improved diagnosis of allergic conditions are now available to those suffering from allergies.

There is no reason why asthmatic or allergy sensitive people should not enjoy the comfort and good looks of carpets and/or rugs. Wool is non-allergenic and does not promote the growth of dust mites or bacteria. Wool carpet fibers are too long and too coarse to be inhaled and therefore do not affect asthma sufferers. In fact hard surface floors allow airborne particles to be disturbed and whirl into the air causing more irritation for hay fever and asthma sufferers.

Recent data from Swedens Central Statistics Bureau, Army, and Flooring Association shows that over the past 20 years while the installation of carpet went down with the increase of hard surface installations, the number of allergic people increased dramatically over the same period.

Wool fibers actually purify indoor air by absorbing air pollutants and gases. Wool fibers absorb common contaminants in indoor air like formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, while not releasing VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds). This is one of the reasons why the LEEDS (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) environmental program accepted wool carpets as the only soft surface floor covering in the initial testing of accepted floor covering products. The approved products are rubber, bamboo, linoleum, cork, and, of course, wool. All of these products are also rapidly renewable, biodegradable, and carbon neutral.

Not only does wool keep the air free of many harmful pollutants, it will not release them, even when heated. It has been estimated that wool carpets can continually purify indoor air for up to 30 years. What a natural and beautiful way to help the earth and improve the comfort in your own home.

If you hear someone say “I’m allergic to wool”, just keep in mind that another man made myth is now explained and hopefully put to rest.


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