This past week I did some research on PTT, a new carpet fiber (solution dyed nylon) made from corn. It shows real promise as a sustainable carpet fiber for the future. I applaud Dupont’s ™ efforts for another ‘green’ carpet solution. We need to get off petroleum as soon as and as best as we can. It did get me to thinking however. We have had a sustainable fiber around for millenia and have maybe failed to take full advantage of it. What is that fiber?

Wool! Wool is the natural fiber with a capital “N.” Talk about sustainable. Sheep and other animals just keep growing this amazing, warm, natural fiber. Wool is the fiber that other fibers try to emulate. Wool has a skeletal structure that makes it very special. Little fish-like scales cover the protein shaft of a wool fiber. These “scales” keep dirt from penetrating the fiber. You simply brush the outer layer of the fiber to remove dirt.

A good wool carpet will cost you plenty, but look at what you get. You get a totally organic, natural, durable, warm carpet that will with proper care last for years. Wool fibers can stretch 30% of their total length without breaking. That characteristic makes wool incredibly durable.

Outdoor sports enthusiasts know the value of wool for warmth. The scaly exterior of the fiber repels liquid while the interior shaft actually absorbs 35 % of its weight in water. In scientific terms they call it hydrophobic on the exterior and hydrophilic on the interior. Together we call it wicking. Wool wicks moisture away from a body to the tips of the exposed fiber. However, everything has its limits. If you  saturate wool,  it tends to hold that water fiercely. When it gets wet, it gets really wet and is hard to dry.

I provide carpet cleaning in Portland. When I clean a wool carpet, I have to work with the wool not against it. I can not afford to over wet it. In the presence of excess water and heat a wool carpet can shrink just like a wool garment. It will actually pull away from the wall. Wool like any fiber has its weaknesses.

Wool does not like excess water nor does it like excess soap. If you use a carpet shampoo with high alkalinity (7 or less on the pH scale), it can turn the fibers yellow or brown. To give you an idea, water is 7 on the pH scale. You have to use care even with water. Wool is sensitive to alkaline soap of any kind. Use only shampoos especially designed for wool. It is a natural fiber. It does not like bleach or brightening agents either. Carpet cleaner secret: Bleach can dissolve wool! Treat wool naturally, and it will give you natural warmth and beauty for years to come.

I endorse any and all efforts to protect our environment. Those efforts may cost us more money. As you consider alternatives consider wool. Here’s a link to an article that talks about the pros and cons of wool carpet.

Hope this information is helpful. Until next time….Sean!