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Re-Visiting the Cleaning of Harvey Norman SmartStrand, EcoStrand & Triexta based Carpets.

July 31, 2017

It’s been a few years since I first posted on the cleaning of Triexta based carpet fibres, and I thought that the topic should be re-visited again.

There are two types of polyester. PET polyester (think plastic coke bottle), and PTT polyester (also known as Triexta). It is my understanding that PTT polyester was either invented, or patented by DuPont in the early 1940’s. PTT has much greater resilience (re-bound elasticity) than PET polyester. PTT (Triexta) is typically manufactured from crude oil derivatives. Sorona on the other hand, uses oil derived from corn starch. You might think of this in the same way as what ethanol is to unleaded petrol. One is derived from crude oils, the other from plant oils.

I am coming across more and more Triexta all the time in my carpet cleaning travels, and recently cleaned no less than 5 homes in a single week that had Triexta based carpets. In addition to this, I maintain regular dialogue with several carpet inspectors, and know and maintain dialogue with a number of the representatives that conduct warranty work on behalf of the retailers of Triexta carpets. So I feel as though I am in a good position to give my professional opinion on how I see this carpet performing in the field, over time.

So lets dispel some myths.

Myth 1. Does Triexta stand up to use by rhinos? There are two parts to this question. Wear, and soiling. I have never bothered to read the clauses in a carpet warranty, but I have seen elongation of, and mild fuzziness in the traffic lanes of some Triexta carpets. If abrasive soils like sand are not regularly vacuumed out of a carpet, they act as sand paper and microscopically etch the fibre. If concrete can be worn down with usage, you can bet plastic carpet will wear as well. The second part of this is soiling, which I’ll answer next. But lets be honest here, rhino use on carpet is not representative of how carpets are used in the home.

Myth 2. Can Triexta be cleaned with water alone? The short answer is absolutely NOT! Rhino’s basically excrete water soluble soils. Imagine a tarpaulin on which a pet has done its business. You can hose it off with water. So there are some soils that can be removed with water alone (coffee, tea, urine*, faeces, cordial, wine etc). But there are other soils such as fats, oils, some inks, solvent based paints, grease, texta, particle soiling, soot etc that not only do NOT clean out with water, but are either absorbed by the fibre, or form an electrostatic charge with the fibre. For the very reason you clean your dishes with dishwashing detergent, we need detergency to remove oily substances from Triexta. There is a good reason Triexta is not demonstrated for 2 weeks in a mechanics workshop. It wouldn’t stand up to it!

Myth 3. Is Triexta pet proof? The short answer is again NO! Wall to wall carpet can not be taken outside and hosed down, and anybody who thinks steam cleaning results in complete exhaustion of soiling is grossly mistaken (see my article here). When a pet urinates on a carpet, gravity acts on the urine and it is quickly taken into the backing of the carpet (and sometimes into the underlay or beyond). The sheer limitations of the physics of the onsite extraction cleaning process, coupled with practical limitations for drying present a problem to the carpet cleaner. Small, localised urine deposits may be able to be treated, but if the carpet is being used as a kitty litter, it’s write off – no matter what the salesperson tells you! The rhino adverts for Triexta are misleading in that the surface soiling is removed by water, but you are not shown the underside of the carpet, and the re-emerging stains that would undoubtedly appear upon drying. Not to mention the unrecovered odours!

Myth 4. Is Triexta easy to clean? The short answer is sometimes, but not always. Water soluble soils that reside in the top of the pile clean with ease, but most water soluble soils are acted upon by gravity, and rarely stay in the top of the pile. For this reason wicking (re-emerging stains after cleaning) are a frequent problem with cleaning Triexta. Oily soils are absorbed into the fibre, and required intense agitation coupled with high alkalinity to be separated from fibre. Now for reasons I don’t quite understand, fine particle soiling is also a frequent problem in traffic lanes, edges, door junctions etc on Triexta. Fine, dark coloured particles can form an electrostatic charge with the fibre, and because the fibres are so soft and fine, there is a lot of surface area for soil to accumulate. Unless the correct hydrotropes are used in the cleaning process, no amount of cleaning will remove it. Think of this type of soil bond in the same way toner is bound to paper in the photocopying process.

Myth 5. If the triexta won’t clean up, the retailer will replace it. Everything I have said up to now seems to be disparaging of triexta as a carpet fibre (and I’ll address this point below). Under certain conditions it can be problematic, and I talk with carpet cleaners all over the country who despite strictly following the cleaning regime outlined in the Australian Standard (AS/NZS3733), have problems getting acceptable cleaning results on Triexta. In too many cases the retailer will send somebody out, who will get some soil transfer onto a white microfibre cloth (read here to see why this is a cheap parlour trick with no basis as an acceptable measure of cleaning efficacy). Unfortunately this is usually an attempt to discredit the carpet cleaner and be absolved from any responsibility. I can’t answer as to whether retailers have replaced Triexta based carpets due to conditions not captured in the warranty, or for public relations reasons, but I do know that replacement is unlikely to happen.

Myth 6. I shouldn’t buy triexta. Providing the carpet is well maintained, used within the limits specified in the warranty, including regular vacuuming maintenance, spot cleaning immediately when required, and 6-12 monthly professional carpet cleaning by a reputable carpet cleaner, triexta provides a wonderfully soft and visually appealing soft floor covering that has excellent appearance retention. The point in this post has been to point out some of the limitations this particular carpet has. We need to rememeber that the product is a soft furnishing, not a slab of impermeable quartz!

Pictures to accompany this post are still to come. Stay tuned!