Wool Carpet: Cost vs. Value

Discussion in 'Carpet Q&A' started by David Hunt, Jun 1, 2007.

  1. Danny Ferguson

    Danny Ferguson Abbey Carpet & Floor Charter Member

    Because these characteristics are already a natural aspect of wool itself.:D
  2. FlooringGirl

    FlooringGirl Senior Member

    Just as silk fibers are now being reproduced by putting the genes of spiders into goats and using the resulting residue from the extracted milk to make ropes strong enough to hold three cars in the air, we may someday see wool yarn injected with the benefits of other fibers. The biggest obstacle is probably the price of wool and research and implementation ...
  3. Peter Kodner

    Peter Kodner Inspector Floors Charter Member Senior Member

    Maybe it is not a matter of convenience, but of superior marketing/propaganda. Although the wool growing/gathering/processing industry is sizable in its entirety, it has nowhere near the resources of DuPont, BASF, Allied Signal & Monsanto. These huge multinational corporations, en toto, have tremendous economic power and had the capability to exert influence on our entire market. Needless to say, as they were not involved in providing wool to the market, it was in their best interest to omit the information on where wool showed it superiority and promote the strong points of their synthetics. After many, many years of doing so (DuPont 501 was first introduced for carpet yarn in the 50s), a new generation has entered and has little or no first hand experience with wool.

    I say this after having been a 3rd generation contractor who had the benefit of being taught by a grandfather and father who had seen and sold it all. Having run a company that sold several million square yards (just prior to divesting the company we were selling about 350k to 500k annually. I joined the firm in a management capacity in 1975) of all fiber types, including the removal of the existing carpets, I have never seen an insect infestation. Wool will stain from alkaline based spills more readily, but is quite resistant to acid based materials. Considering with the appearance retention qualities inherent in wool, at worst case scenario this, to me is a wash. There are some topical treatments available for wool that greatly improve their stain resistance as well.

    Carpet yarns are not particularly easy to dye, so a modicum of care by an end user makes stain issues rather moot. Is it hype to show carpet having spills sit on them for unrealistic periods and then clean up to a pristine condition? Do you really want to advocate to people it is okay to allow things to sit on the carpet for these periods? Do not consumers presume stain proof also means no maintenance? How long is the exclusion list on stain protected carpets? How many consumers are even aware there are exclusions?

    I have to reiterate the story of Purdue University. The only reason a forty+ year old extremely hard traffic wool job was replaced was due to the fiber being abraded away on some of the stair noses. I don't think anyone can argue that isn't superior service and life cycle effectiveness.

    There is no argument wool will ever again be the dominant fiber for carpet, but are we not best serving our customers and clients by explaining the facts on fibers and giving them the respect they are due to make educated choices?
  4. FlooringGirl

    FlooringGirl Senior Member

    Have you really never seen a wool carpet with moth holes eaten in it? That surprises me, as I've seen this situation several times.
  5. Peter Kodner

    Peter Kodner Inspector Floors Charter Member Senior Member

    No, I haven't. Bear in mind the only retail I ever did was accommodations for commercial accounts, but there was a fair amount of it. How do you know it was from moths? Did you see the larvae?
  6. Daris Mulkin

    Daris Mulkin The One and Only Charter Member I Support TFP Senior Member

    I've seen the moth holes many times. Its the larvee that does it, I believe. We used to see alot of the little critters curled up by the tackless when removing old wool carpet. Now I 'm sure the carpet is treated against them.

  7. FlooringGirl

    FlooringGirl Senior Member

    I only believed the holes were from moths because that's what people told me. My family renovated a couple of very old houses when I was growing up, and I have renovated a couple myself now. There was usually old horsehair pad was under a lot of the carpet and rugs we took up. Funny, they make this "felt" pad now that really reminds me of it.
  8. Peter Kodner

    Peter Kodner Inspector Floors Charter Member Senior Member

    Used to have 32, 40, 50 and 56 ounce all hair (was horse hair), and the same weights in hair/jute. Used to buy 40 and 50 ounce by the truck load. When I was a kid, I hated pad delivery day. Nothing like busting hot smelly rolls of hair/jute on a sunny day :p

    All synthetic needle punched came into its own in the early to mid eighties. It tends to bottom out in the wrong weight for traffic, but you never sweep up powder when it is replaced :D It doesn't have that distinctive odor either :)
  9. David Hunt

    David Hunt Charter Member Senior Member Published

    In the thread above the question was asked: If the industry has put a lot of effort into improving the wonderful stain resistance, texture and appearance enhancements for synthetic fibers. Why has this same technology not been applied to wool yarn?

    The answer is: Because wool already does all of these things naturally. By the way, there are many stain & soil resist treatments available for wool carpet both pre and post manufacture. In fact, we have, upon request, applied these treatments to wool carpet. The technology exists, it’s just been scientifically proven to not enhance the performance of wool other than as a placebo.

    The real kicker about this eagerly overlooked fact of wool is that, not only does wool do all this naturally, there is never a loss in its stain, soil and anti-static resistance or its appearance retention or resilience. Unlike the synthetic fibers which must be reapplied or have conditions, limitations and/or exclusions in their warranties. The properties a wool fiber has at it’s transformation into yarn, it has on its last day of service. Now, I don’t know about others, but that impresses me greatly and perhaps we can discuss these aspects in greater detail at some point in the future?


    Right now, there seems to be quite a bit of interest in the moth/beetle/bug relationship with wool. Quite honestly, I have only seen larvae damage on three occasions. {{and believe me, I would like to see it more because I find it a fascinating study}} There were several common factors in each case and, from the research I’ve done on the subject, the three cases I had the opportunity to witness were typical ‘text-book’ examples.

    First, it is imperative that we keep track of timelines. Wide spread insect resist treatment of wool carpet yarn has only been around for the past forty or so years. In addition, the sources of origin for carpet wool has changed dramatically in this time. And what once was a hodge-podge of global resources for the wool carpet business has, through attrition, given way to two primary regions, Australia/New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Why these two regions became the dominant sources for carpet wool is also an interesting and relevant side subject if anyone cares to discuss it.

    What makes these two points relevant is; not only do we have safe world wide application for insect resistance being applied to wool carpet fiber, we also have a more controlled, centrally located source for the fiber. These two points make the entire issue of moths, beetles & bugs for all intensive purposes, a moot point.

    Nonetheless, it is an important topic to discuss from both it’s historical relevance and the misinformation factor that lingers about it. It seems like this might be a job for the MYTH-BUSTERS!!

    Because, what’s interesting to note is, why don’t all wool carpets experience some level of infestation? The oldest wall to wall carpet I’ve ever removed was three years ago. It was installed in 1856 and showed absolutely no signs of insect damage. How could this be? Speaking of wall to wall carpet, why don’t we hear of insect damage to wool area rugs? Certainly we have all seen plenty of 40, 50, 60+ year old oriental rugs? What about that wool sweater or blanket? Certainly, these wool fibers are just as appetizing for the larvae as any other. What’s up with that?


    Are insect problems in wool carpet actually isolated and limited to very specific conditions?

    For those that have seen larvae damage to wool carpet;

    1.) Where did it occur?

    2.) What was the approximate year the carpet was manufactured?

    3.) Had the space been unoccupied or vacant for an extended period of time?



    PS: This is fun, because we still haven’t got to what I believe is the absolute, hands-down, best attribute of wool as a carpet fiber.
  10. bosephus

    bosephus Pro Member

    to answer dobbys ps,the best reason i can come up with wool been the best fibre is that when cleaned wool always comes up rejuvenated better,thats only an opinion of the carpet cleaning ive seen in the uk,i have to admit dobby is an inspiration for his knowledge and his work on the forum is much appreciated
  11. David Hunt

    David Hunt Charter Member Senior Member Published

    Thank you for the kind words.

    That's not the best reason, but it is a darn good one. Seeing as how you mentioned it, the reason why wool carpets look so good after cleaning is wools natural 'built-in no chemicals needed' dirt soil releasing abilities. Ever wonder why our hair doesn't stain easier and cleans so well with just a gentle shampoo?

    Great observation though. Hopefully we can discuss this aspect in more detail.

    With kindest regards,

  12. to da lou

    to da lou Pro Member

    Here's some information I found on wool during my training here:

    "Wool has a protective membrane, called a cuticle, which covers the fiber core and naturally repels water. This waxy outer coating keeps water from penetrating the individual wool fibers.

    This same waterproof membrane allows the fiber to absorb moisture in vapor form and absorb up to one third its weight in moisture without feeling damp or wet. This absorbing ability also keeps the fiber naturally static free and gives the wool excellent recovery capabilities.

    The cuticle also contains a scaly texture that keeps soil particles on the surface, making vacuuming much more efficient and dirt and spills easier to remove.

    Wool also hides soil much better than synthetic fibers because the fibers are not transparent and soil cannot be seen through it.

    Although wool's soil resistance is attractive, a common customer objection is its lack of stain resistance. Wool holds onto protein stains, like grass, tea and coffee."

    What do you think, Dobby?
  13. FlooringGirl

    FlooringGirl Senior Member

    Please do share! This is of much interest to me. Although I've sold wool carpet in the past to those who've asked for it, this is obviously an untapped market in my area. In just a few days, I've learned much from this forum, and this is something I'd like to pursue.
    Thanks, Tia
  14. Peter Kodner

    Peter Kodner Inspector Floors Charter Member Senior Member

    Gonna, abbreviate: to_da: Since you did some research, thought you would like these three pictures:

    The one one the bottom is? Yeah, tri-lobal nylon. You'll have to ask Mark if it is 6 or 6,6 :rolleyes:

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 16, 2007
  15. David Hunt

    David Hunt Charter Member Senior Member Published

    G-R-E-A-T pictures!

    Just a quick sidenote on the center photo; notice how the outer cuticle surface is scaled {{layered like roofing shingles}}? This unique attribute actually works to resist soil from sinking deeper into the pile. In other words, it keeps the soil, lint, dust, dirt, gravel and basic stuff found on the floor, on the surface, where it can be more easily removed.

    This is makes regular cleaning, with a standard vacuum, easier and far more efficient than its synthetic counterparts. In summary, it helps the carpet live better and really, performance is important, but how a carpet lives in conjunction with daily life is really what is most important. And it does this naturally, without chemicals for the life of the product.

    Gotta run, but would like to leave this one thought, if I may. Understanding the characteristics and attributes of wool will not hinder anyone from selling synthetic carpets. But, it will enable the professional an additional product to offer their customers that the competition, who through fear, lack of knowledge or both, can't or won't sell. That my friends is a true competitive advantage and a giant step forward in being our customers trusted sales advisor.

    Thanks for letting me share.

    Last edited: Jun 16, 2007
  16. FlooringGirl

    FlooringGirl Senior Member

    Thank you so much! I have sold wool, but only when people asked for it. I was never trained on it like this, and have a different opinion now. I thought it was a more porous fiber and just soaked everything up. Come to think of it now, it is a hair fiber, and our own hair gets things on it but doesn't soak it up and stain. Huh.

    Thanks again, Tia
  17. David Hunt

    David Hunt Charter Member Senior Member Published

    Before we get too far along in this discussion... There is one aspect of wool, as a carpet fiber, that is a common source of much misinformation. This has to do with lanolin.

    Lanolin, for those who may be unsure, is a purified form of wool grease.

    Wool grease, is, in actuality, not a grease at all. In fact, chemically, it is a wax. If there is an interest in this subject, we can discuss it in much greater detail. Otherwise, here is a quick ‘condensed’ version. Wool grease is a natural part of a sheep’s fleece. Some sheep breeds have more grease than others and the amount of grease found in a fleece varies seasonally. Wool grease has many useful properties. On the sheep it protects the wool and acts as a bactericide. It is also used as a lubricant, as a base for expensive cosmetics, it has pharmaceutical uses and more. At one time people even used it as heating fuel. All in all, wool grease is a much more wonderful product than it’s name may convey.

    But what does all this have to do with carpet?

    Here’s the point of misinformation. There is no ‘lanolin’ or ‘grease’ in carpet wool.

    Where did it go? It was removed in scouring. Not completely removed, only about 99.4% is removed in scouring. The remaining six-tenths of one percent is lost in dying and rinsing and processing.

    Is this bad?

    No, this is good. If wool grease {or lanolin as many improperly call it}} was left in the carpet fiber, it would act like a soil magnet and cause the fibers to gum together. Plus the fibers would feel greasy.

    So, bottom line: Lanolin is good in many places, but not in a carpet fiber. But, that’s OK because it’s not there. Never has been and never should be.

    Any thoughts, questions and/or comments? All are welcome, after all, this is a discussion forum.


  18. to da lou

    to da lou Pro Member

    I'm definitely interested in any aspect of the wealth of your knowledge, Dobby.
  19. cproader

    cproader All over T's last nerve Senior Member

    I would love to ad some input to your discussion on this topic, but I am havin a heck of a time figurin out what you left out.:eek: When yer done, there aint nothin left to discuss. It"s gonna take somebody smarter than me and Lo.:shifty:

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