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Carpet Wear

Traffic Lane Discoloration & Damaged Carpet Fiber

Changes in the appearance of a carpet due to the forces imposed on it by normal use (shear, torsion, compression) are eventually accompanied by changes in apparent color.  According to extensive research by major universities and research institutions, changes in the color of a carpet consistently increase with wear.  In many instances a carpet may eventually appear to be lighter or brighter in color in the traffic lanes due to the flatter, more reflective surfaces of the crushed fibers.

Conversely, when soiling is present a reduction in brightness occurs.  The fibers tend to appear dark, dull and delustered, but typically respond favorably to cleaning.  In some instances the soils may contain coarse elements such as aluminum and silicon of calcium which can abrade the fibers and permanently alter their light reflectance characteristics and the colors they were designed to project.

When this occurs, there can be a noticeable contrast between light reflection from the smooth fibers compared to light reflection from the small asperities on the fiber in the soil abraded areas.  As a result, blues and grays may appear yellow and earth tones may appear brown or gray.  For years this condition was often referred to as traffic lane gray.  Although in recent times our palate for more radiant colors may explain why there are more instances of traffic lane yellowing.

Essentially, traffic lane yellowing occurs by either increasing the red and green reflectance in a carpet (crushed fibers) or by decreasing the blue reflected light (soiled/abraded fibers).  The most exasperating aspect of traffic lane discoloration from soil abrasion (other than its typically permanent nature) is the tendency of the traffic lanes to appear to be restored to their original color immediately following cleaning, only to return to their discolored appearance once the carpet dries.

This is because when the carpet is cleaned, the water fills the abrasions on the fiber, recreating a smooth fiber which temporarily restores appearance by providing a uniform reflective surface.  Unfortunately, as the carpet dries and the water evaporates, the smooth surface it created on the abraded fibers is gone, and the light reflection differences between the traffic and non-traffic areas are again apparent.  In some cases applying a protector such as Dupont Teflon to the carpet after cleaning may help reduce the effects of traffic lane discoloration by leveling out the light reflection characteristics of the abraded fiber, however, these treatments are only temporary and their benefits will be Diminished with use.

Also applying Dupont Teflon will help to protect the fiber from  being more damaged.  Walk off mats should be used to arrest traced on soils.  Altering traffic lanes will help.  Vacuuming regularly with a commercial grade upright vacuum will help remove abrasive soils, which may not be visible but can do significant damage to the fiber.  Deep cleaning with HOT WATER EXTRACTION should be a systematic and preventative function, rather than only a response to visible soiling.  If you can visibly see the dirt you have waited to long to get your carpet cleaned.

Dirt/soil starts from the bottom of the fiber working its way to the top. The more you walk on it the abrasive dirt/soil damages the fiber and appears distorted and leaves a dull shaded appearance after a cleaning, looking like it was never cleaned.  Grade of carpet, pad and color selection is vital!  Certain carpet, pad and color just don’t work or wear well under heavy use.  The most common reason for complaints due to traffic lane discoloration in carpet is the consumer’s lack of knowledge or misunderstanding about a carpet’s capabilities and limitations.

Many consumers feel that carpet should wear like wood or concrete, and their colors display similar resistance to abrasion.  With a basic knowledge of color, pad and carpet grade and an understanding of the demands that will be placed on the carpet, it is possible to predict with a high degree of certainty if traffic lane discoloration will be a concern, and select a color, pad and carpet grade most suited for the end use. Last, carpet cleaning IS NOT A CURE for damaged carpet fibers.

It is a maintenance for  removing abrasive dirt/soil to help aid in the prevention of carpet fiber damage and ALSO TO KEEP UP THE LIKE NEW APPEARANCE!!!!!  Carpet cleaning removes the dirt, soil, germs & most stains out of the carpeting and restores the undamaged carpet fiber.  It does not restore the damaged distorted fiber that appears dirty!!!!!  Meaning the discolored  traffic lane areas.

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