On March 20, 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) introduced a new fiber for carpet. They named it triexta, and it is similar to polyester.

Triexta had found its way into the marketplace with Mohawk’s SmartStrand fiber, which is made from DuPont’s Sorona polymer. Shell had first introduced this fiber in 1995 and called it Corterra, but closed its plant in March 2009. Corterra had a very small market share.

Polyester is often referred to by its acronym “PET” (polyethylene terephthalate) and triexta by “PTT” (polytrimethylene terephthalate).

Green fibers

There is a “green” aspect to both fibers. Recycled beverage bottles are used in making polyester, while corn is used in making triexta. This has helped both fibers in acquiring a strong market share.

The combined growth of polyester and triexta has been at the expense of nylon and olefin (polypropylene).

Market share

Where does triexta rank in popularity? It is the fourth most popular fiber in the United States with a nine percent market share, compared to polyester’s 24 percent and nylon’s 51 percent.

For decades, olefin had held a 30 percent market share, but its share is now down to 15 percent. Triexta has been primarily limited to the residential market, but may soon enter the commercial market. Therefore, triexta is a serious fiber and its characteristics and cleaning procedures can’t be ignored.

The issue

Some would say that there is not enough difference between polyester and triexta to merit distinction. Their argument is based partly upon their similar chemistries; however, this viewpoint is not the approach a professional cleaner should take.

In addition, the FTC ruling should not be taken lightly. In 1959, the FTC ruling helped launch nylon into the most popular fiber position. The FTC decision on triexta declares its performance characteristics to be similar to nylon with respect to its resistance to surface scratches, ability to hold a crimp and ability to regain its posture after being crushed.

Identification

One of the challenges for cleaners is in identifying polyester from triexta.

The answer is to do two tests. In the first test, the burn test, both fibers make an orange sputtering flame and a black sooty smoke. Remember that nylon and olefin have an orange flame with a blue base and make a white puff of smoke when the flame goes out.

The second test distinguishes polyester from triexta. This test is for the fluorochemical protectant. To do this test, gently place a drop of baby oil on the yarn with the rim of the bottle touching the yarn. Polyester will have a propensity to bead the oil and triexta will readily soak it in.

Be sure to get your test samples from non-trafficked areas.

Protecting triexta

Should triexta be protected with a fluorochemical after cleaning? This writer would say, “Yes.” This will assure conventional cleaning processes will be successful in the future.

In due time, we may see the mills adding fluorochemicals to triexta, and that will help with cleaning challenges.

Cleaning challenges

We all know that polyester (both PET and PTT) is an oil-loving fiber. In order to protect fibers from oily soils, fluorochemicals are often used on PET.

Since triexta is not normally protected with fluorochemicals — while traditional polyester (PET) is — this brings up a huge challenge for cleaning technicians.

Using traditional detergents could even add to that challenge when cleaning triexta.

That’s something we will consider in a future issue of Cleanfax magazine… stay tuned.


James (Jim) B. Smith is an IICRC-approved instructor and a senior practicing inspector. His educational studies come from Texas A&M University and the University of Houston. He has been in the cleaning industry since 1975. For more information, visit his website at www.CarpetInspector.com/jbs or call (972) 334-0533 or (800) 675-4003.