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Dye methods and cleaning

by Jeff Cross 

Not all carpet cleaners think about the dyeing methods used to color carpet, but dye methods can dictate the aggressiveness you can use in your cleaning process.

This would be for both physical agitation and cleaning chemistry used in any method of cleaning.

For instance: All olefin carpet is solution dyed, with the colors "locked in" the fibers. You can use almost any chemical you want on an olefin carpet without fear of color loss - this includes using chlorine bleach (don't do it, though...)

But olefin carpet is more apt to "melt" or be damaged by heavy agitation and heat. Even dragging a piece of furniture can leave a melted mark on an olefin carpet. 

With this said, review the standard methods of cleaning in any carpet cleaning textbook. You can see that some methods use more chemistry and others might use more agitation.

It's good to match up methods to carpet, especially troublesome carpet cleaning jobs.

Real-life cleaning challenges

Take a look at this first photograph.

The carpet is a solution dyed olefin, in a commercial setting. Next to the carpet is a hard surface.

The maintenance crew often uses harsh chemicals on the hard floor, but those chemicals cause no harm to the olefin fibers, because olefin colors are locked in due to the solution dyeing process.

Knowing this fiber characteristic before cleaning means you can also use stronger chemicals to clean this carpet.

It's making good use of the "cleaning pie." Less agitation and heat = more chemistry to balance out the process.

Then we have the second photo, with a similar scenario. The carpet fiber is wool, and it is installed right in the middle of a hard surface.

More care has to be given when cleaning the hard floor, because there are many chemicals used in hard floor care that can harm the natural fibers in this particular carpet.

Plus, your own cleaning should utilize chemistry safe for natural fibers. The agitation on this can be heavier, but keep an eye on the possible "fraying" of yarns and resulting damage to natural fibers.

Dyeing methods - a review

Review the methods of dyeing and then analyze the cleaning challenges you may have. The following are common but definitely not the entire list of dyeing methods used in the carpet industry.

Pre-dyed methods include:

  • Solution dyeing: Adding a pigment to the melted polymer before extrusion - the most colorfast system used today
  • Stock dyeing: Dyeing fibers in staple form before spun into yarns
  • Yarn dyeing: Yarns are dyed before woven or tufted into fabric

Post-dyed methods include:

  • Continuous dyeing: This is a very popular method for residential carpets, (fabric or greige goods go through a dye system without interruption and can be one color or multi-colored)
  • Beck or batch dyeing: Sections of carpet are inserted in a heated vat and allowed to absorb dyes (solid colors in smaller runs, as a "piece" of carpet)
  • Print dyeing: As the name implies, a printed pattern is sprayed or rolled onto the carpet face. You can easily identify this by opening yarn tufts and viewing the yarn shaft. The colors only go down about halfway - this dye method is used often with hospitality and restaurant carpets. 

You will find more solution dyed goods in commercial settings, although there ismore solution dyed olefin and nylon carpet found in residential settings than ever before.

With solution dyed nylon, the colors are still locked in, but since nylon inherently has dye sites no matter the dye system, it can still stain; olefin is stain resistant due to the molecular structure of the polymer.

Bleeding troubles

It's rare to find a manufactured carpet today that will bleed.

But if you do, it's probably due to the dyes used or method employed.

Print dyed carpets will lose color or allow color migration before other dye systems, because the dyes are sprayed or rolled on and not as durable as a heated vat system.

Some red dyes tend to be less stable compared to other dyes. Anyone who has cleaned a red carpet has seen this; the wastewater looks like bad Kool Aid.

Red dyes in area rugs and upholstered furniture should set off alarm bells in your head.

Also, sunlight will fade a red carpet - sunlight through a window can strip the red dyes.

It follows the same principle in color repair. Red dyes strike last, but they leave first.

When cleaning carpet or furniture, keep in mind which dyes might give you more trouble, along with which dye method can lose colors easiest.

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