A History of Applied Fiber and Fabric Enhancements (Part 2)

The primitive man hunted wild animals for food. He removed the hides and skins form the dead animal carcass and used them as crude tents, clothing, footwear, and bedding.

The earliest record of the use of leather dates from the Paleolithic period. Cave paintings discoverd near Lerida in Spain depict the use of leather clothing.

Excavation of Paleolithic sites has yielded bone tools used for scraping hides and skins to remove hair. These scraped skins rapidly putrfied and became useless, so a method of preservation was needed.

The earliest method was to stretch out the hides and skins on the ground to dry, rubbing them with fats and animal brains while they dried. This had a limited preserving and softening action. Primitve man discovered also that the smoke of wood fires could preserve hides and skins, as did treating them with and infusion of tannin-containing barks, leaves, twigs, and fruits of certain trees and plants. It seems likely that man first discovered how to preserve leather when he found that animal skins left lying on a wet forest floor became tanned naturally by chemicals released by decaying leaves and vegetation.

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FAT TANNING
Fat tanning is the oldest method of waterproofing skins and turning them into leather. Ancient Assyrian texts, as well as Homer’s Iliad, mention this method. Ancients would rub ainmal fat into the skins, stretching them to help the fat incorprate into the hide. The resulting leather resisted moisture and rot because, as we all know, oil and water do not mix.

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BRAIN TANNING
Brain Tanning is another common method of turning skins or hides into water-resistant leather. Used by ancient Native Americans, brain tanning involves soaking cleaned skins in a mixture of water and the animal’s own brains. Though this may seem disgusting, brains conain both emulsifying fats and softening agents that help preserve the finished leather.

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SMOKING
Smoking was another common method ancient peoples used to tan and waterproof leather. Most likely discovered by accident, hides were exposed to smoke, a preservative and drying agent. This helped protect the finish product against moisture and rot. Often used in conjunction with methods like brain tanning, smoking wasn’t absolutely necessary but did give the hides additional softness and an appealing brown color.

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All of these methods did improve the natural leather’s ability to withstand wear and limited exposure to moisture. it even gave a small layer of protection against UV damage. It did not, however, provide any redustion in flammability. In fact, it probably made it burn faster!

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A History of Applied Fiber and Fabric Enhancements (Part 1)

The subject of textile enhancement is as broad and varied as there are uses and types of fibers and fabrics.

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For this series we will be looking at two specific types of material utilization. Residential and Commercial Furnishings and Decor.

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We will discover, however, that most of the enhancements we utilize in these two areas came from development in other areas of utilization.

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Now, a quick word on “Applied Enhancements”

Obviously, there are hundreds of applications to fabrics that could be considered “enhancements.” Everything from pigmentation to treatments textile feel is technically enhancing the fabric.

We will be concentrating on enhancements that are “appled” treatments and not something that was engineered into the textile or fabric at its point of origin or manufacture.

The applied enhancements we will be discussing in this series will pertain to four areas of improvement.
1. Water Repellency: A fabric’s ability to repel or resist the absorption of moisture.
2. Wear Resistance: A fabric’s ability to sustain use and/or wear.
3. Fade and UV Resistance: The ability to reduce the amount in which a fabric is degraded by Ultra Violet Light. (Sunlight)

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Humans have been applying enhancements to fibers for a long, long time!

This is a leather treatment shop in Morocco that has been in use for hundreds of years.

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This is an ancient piece of linen coated with wax.

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From its earliest beginnings our relationhip with fabrics has been that of a constant search for improvement to its natural performance. Mankind first used the skins of animals as clothing.

Next came their use in making primitive shelters and later to help make these environments more comfortable.

It can be said that as a species we are never happy with good enough. We are always seeking to make things better, stronger, and last longer. And that has never been more evident than through how we have improved upon nature’s fibers, textiles, and fabrics.

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How to Select Carpet by Pro-Care, Nashville’s Premium Carpet Cleaning Company

Carpet Selection Guide (Post 5 of 5)

WOOL
Wool comes from the fleece of sheep or lambs. This is one of the oldest fibers used by man, dating back over two thousand years. It is still one of the finest face yarns available for carpet. Wool is chemically made up of standard organic elements including sulfur, which accounts for the wool smell when it is damp.

PROS

  • Wool has excellent soil hiding capabilities. Wool will not exhibit or show soil as much as other fibers. The reason for this is that wool is an opaque fiber (as opposed to synthetics which are transparent) and wool doesn’t refract and reflect light like synthetics. The naturally dull appearance provided by the scales of the epidermis makes soil much less apparent to the human eye.
  • Wool is very strong, elastic and resilient. Wool face yarn in a well-constructed carpet will stand up to the heaviest traffic and still look beautiful. (Notice the carpet in most casinos and finer hotel lobbies and hallways).
  • Natural crimp makes wool and excellent insulator.
  • Good Absorbency – This means that wool reacts well to a number of dye types and techniques. Keep in mind, this means easy staining also.
  • Soil Release – Wool responds very well to cleaning as moisture makes the fiber swell and release dirt.
  • Wool is naturally flame retardant.
    CONS
  • Wool is a very expensive material. This arises mainly from the processing cost, the cleaning, and the preparation, etc., rather than the actual cost of the raw material.
  • Fiber Distortion – Wool is very prone to distortion by excess agitations such as jet streaks and wand marks. This is particularly pronounced when it happens under heated conditions.
  • Stains Easily – Due to its absorbency and ease of dyeing, wool is also easily stained by wine, Kool-Aid and other acid dyestuffs. Remember that absorbency is the same quality that makes wool so desirable as far as dye acceptance and obtaining the beautiful rich colors that you often find in wool carpets and oriental rugs.
  • Chemical Sensitivity – Wool is sensitive to alkaline chemicals above a pH of 9.5 after prolonged exposure. This exposure will tend to make wool brittle and discolor somewhat. This problem is sometimes referred to as “felting”. Wool is also very sensitive to chlorine bleach, such as Clorox, which is normally found in homes and grocery stores. Chlorine bleach will completely dissolve wool within a matter of minutes. The New Zealand Wool Bureau recommends water-based cleaning solutions with a pH not lower than 5.5 and not higher than 8 pH.
  • Staple Yarn – Fuzzing can be a source of problems because wool only comes as a staple yarn and excess agitation can cause that fuzzing effect.

How to Select Carpet by Pro-Care, Nashville’s Premium Carpet Cleaning Company

Carpet Selection Guide (Post 4 of 5)

POLYESTER

Polyester’s popularity seems to go up and down like a roller coaster. Because it’s relatively inexpensive to produce, manufacturers are regularly reintroducing this fiber to the carpet industry. Although it has some excellent qualities, and is a great fiber for clothing, it does have some limiting factors when used in carpet.

PROS

  • Since polyester does not have dye sites, it is usually dyed with a disperse dye or solution dye method which makes it very resistant to bleaching, fading and soil dye reactions.
  • Stain Resistant – This applies only to water based stains.Low Absorbency – Quick drying
  • CONS
  • Polyester is difficult to dye and usually must be solution dyed which limits the variety.
  • It is not resistant to oily stains, and in fact an oily spill or spot left without proper cleanup can oxidize and even chemically bond with and become part of the fiber. You need to know that some of these spots just won’t come out.
  • Crimp Loss – Early polyester was a mess. A new polyester carpet was fuller, fluffier and more luxurious than anything on the market. Six-month-old polyester was an owner’s nightmare. Due to loss of twist and crimp, long strait fibers were left in the traffic areas, which caused matting and tangling and destroyed the original look of the carpet. Definite improvements have been made by heat setting and using finer yarns, but crimp loss can still be a problem. This is a characteristic of polyester, not a defect.
    OLEFIN
    Olefin is a very versatile carpet fiber. It is used in carpet backings (called polypropylene), face yarns and even astroturf. Olefin has become almost synonymous with one of its trade names “Herculon” a trademark owned by Hercules Corporation, a major manufacturer of olefin.

    PROS

  • Olefin is very moisture resistant. It will absorb only one tenth of 1% of its weight in water. This leads to some pros and some cons.
  • Very difficult to stain.
  • Great for outdoor applications (stadium or pool)
  • Chemical Resistant – Most chemicals and bleaches won’t damage it at all
  • Solution dyeing makes it resistant to fading.
  • Lightweight – It is the only common carpet fiber that will float on water. ( Except celluloid)
  • Strong – It wears well except for resiliency factor (see cons).
  • It has good cleanability and stain release. (Except oil/petroleum-based stains – see cons)
    CONS
  • Olefin is not a resilient fiber. When crushed it does not regain its original shape easily. Traffic areas tend to lie down, showing “apparent soiling”. Furniture marks can be permanent reminders to the owner of where his furniture used to be.
  • It is a very heat sensitive fiber. Its melting point is around 300 degrees but damage can occur at lower temperatures.
  • Olefin can be damaged by Friction – Even dragging a heavy piece of furniture across an olefin carpet can cause permanent marks from the heat generated by friction.
  • Like polyester, extended exposure to oil-based soils may become permanent.
  • Olefin is very difficult to dye due to its low absorbency rate. It is almost always solution dyed.

·  Quite often, Olefin is in a glue-down situation, which creates a potential to brown from soil wicking from the base of the yarns due to incomplete soil removal. Over wetting and/or slow drying increases the likelihood.

5 Easy Ways to Get The Most Out of Your Carpet

1. Check the Warranty. Copies of specific warranties on your carpet purchase may be available from your carpet retailer. Stain resist warranties can vary from 5 to 20 years. ALL STAIN RESIST WARRANTIES REQUIRE REGULAR CLEANING AND IMMEDIATE SPOT REMOVAL.

2. Vacuum, Vacuum, Vacuum! It is said that the three most important rules for maintaining carpet are vacuum, vacuum, vacuum. Vacuum your carpet often. Once or twice a week at least. Vacuuming removes the sharp soil that can cut and slice the fiber causing premature wear. Much of this soil is not visible to the eye. Remove any loose particles such as loose food, leaves, pieces of crayon, bugs, etc. as these items can cause a spot on the carpet.

3. Have Your Carpet Professionally Cleaned. Professional cleaning by a professional, certified firm should be done at least every 12 months according to DuPont and major carpet manufacturers. Heavy traffic areas may need it more often. Manufacturers warranties require professional cleaning at least every 18 to 24 months to retain texture retention warranties.
Rule of thumb: Clean your carpet before it looks visibly soiled.

4. Remove Spots Immediately. Spots that are not immediately removed can turn into permanent stains very easily. Always use a spot cleaner that is recommended by the carpet manufacturer or your trained, certified professional cleaner! Many