The Tufting Process: how it's done

Most carpet today is manufactured by the tufting process. Tufting goes back to the early 1900's when hand tufting began. The process became mechanized in the 1930's and then during the 1950's tufting appeared as we know it today. If you ever have the opportunity to tour a carpet mill, don't pass it up. Most carpet mills offer guided tours for individuals and groups and all it takes is a phone call to set it up. Many mills are located in the state of Georgia but quite a few are in the Los Angeles area. So, if you find yourself in one of these locales, check the phone book and see if you can make arrangements for a tour. You won't regret the time spent and it's a great learning experience for children.

The tufting machine is like a giant sewing machine. The difference is that this sewing machine has 1000 to 2000 needles across the width of the machine. The operator stands behind the machine with a switch in his hand so that he can stop everything if something goes wrong such as a broken needle or the yarn feeding one of the needles breaks. The machine is set up with a roll of primary backing, made out of olefin in most cases, that is fed into the machine. This is what the needles stitch the yarn into. The yarn is located behind and above the tufting machine and this is where it starts getting complicated. Each needle on the machine has two spools of yarn so if the machine is configured with 1200 needles there are 2400 spools of yarn. The spools are located on a elevated platform with racks called the creel. Two spools are required so that when one spool runs out the second spool can be spliced without stopping the machine. The yarn is fed from the spools through tubes, and through feed rollers and guides to the needles. If the yarn breaks, the operator will make a splice with a special heat gun and then, using air pressure, shoot the yarn through the tube to the needle. When a tufting machine is adjusted properly the needles will penetrate the primary backing more than 500 times per minute and at this speed the production would be 1000 to 2000 square yards per eight hours. The stitch process consists of the yarn threaded through the needle and the needle inserted through the primary backing. a looper holds the yarn as the needle is withdrawn forming a loop and if the looper has a cutting attachment the loop is cut as the looper is withdrawn and that would form the cut pile carpet. The tufting machine can be programmed to make loop style, or cut pile style or many combinations of the two. Carpet can be made with Yarn that is already dyed and can make patterns using different colors. Carpet can also be made using un-dyed yarn. This is done a lot because it has the advantage of making large amounts of carpet that can be dyed after tufting to any color needed to fill an order. Yarn can be also be treated to accept more or less color or dye. This is the way many of the multi-shade carpets are manufactured.

There are two measurements in the tufting process. The distance between the needles is called the gauge and the speed the primary backing passes through the tufting machine determines the stitch length. High quality carpets usually contains 8 to 10 stitches per inch and 8 to 12 tufts per inch (gauge). The product of the tufting that is un-dyed is called greige (pronounced "gray") goods. The un- dyed greige goods is sent to the dye plant where the dye and finishing process takes place.

There are two methods of dying greige goods. They are piece dyeing and continuous dyeing. With piece dyeing the carpet is placed in a stainless steel dye beck (which resembles a very large washing machine) as a rope (with soft creases to allow dye penetration) and rotated in the dye which is heated slowly. After the dye is transferred to the carpet the dye is drained and the beck is filled with water to rinse out any loose dye. With continuous dyeing the greige goods is laid out flat and the dye is applied. The greige is then passed through a steamer to fix the dye and is then washed to remove any unfixed dye. After that the greige goods is extracted and dried. This is all part of a continuous process. To be cost efficient, continuous dyeing needs long runs of carpet (5000 square yards) in the same color. These dying processes are for nylon carpet. Polyester fiber requires different techniques. (These process will have to wait for a later article). The next step is adding the secondary backing. The back of the greige goods is coated with a latex adhesive, first to anchor the face fibers or carpet pile, and also to attach the secondary backing. This sandwich is cured in an oven to make sure of the bond. In the past, Jute was the preferred secondary backing but because of the cost and the availability other backings have replaced Jute. Secondary backings are for the most part now are made of olefin. The last step is the finishing which for cut pile carpet means running the carpet through a shearing machine. This machine has rotating blades similar to a lawn mower and will produce a smooth surface on cut pile or cut selected tufts on other styles. Quality control is next. The carpet is pulled past an inspector who fixes pulled loops or sprouts and then the carpet is measured, rolled and wrapped for shipment or storage.

Perimeter Soiling

Did you know?
The average six room house accumulates 40 pounds of dust in a year. If it is assumed that 95% of that dust will end up on horizontal surfaces and 50% of the horizontal surfaces in an average home is carpet ...well, you know where this is going.

The average home is vacuumed and dusted once each week which would probably remove most of the dust that has settled, right? If this is true, where does all that dirt that accumulates under a carpet come from? Have you ever seen all the dirt and dust that is under a carpet and padding when it is removed for replacement? "Well, what does that matter ", "it's under the carpet, out of sight ". Bad logic. The dirt and dust that accumulates under a carpet is constantly moving. every footstep, animal and human, depressed the carpet and pad and this causes airflow. Where there is airflow there is dust movement in all directions. This is the cause of "perimeter soiling", that dark soil line next to a wall and on step edges. The very fine particles of dust move with the airflow to the edge of the carpet and then up the wall where the carpet fibers become very efficient filters.

The problem with perimeter soiling is that in order to totally clean it out the necessary extra agitation will damage the carpet fiber. Vacuuming the edge of a carpet with a crevice tool will help a lot but as long as dirt accumulates under a carpet, perimeter soiling will be a problem. The dark mark under doors and under draperies is caused in the same way. Dust laden air moving over the carpet fibers in a confined space. Keeping doors open as much as possible and not allowing draperies to be closed for extended periods will lessen the problem. Sweeping the edge of the carpet with a broom prior to vacuuming will help but keep in mind that sweeping only moves the dust from the carpet into the air where it will again settle on the carpet and continue the cycle.

Preventable Carpet Damage

Missing tufts can be caused by insects, rodents, and pets. since it's difficult to notice the loss of just one tuft, sometimes considerable damage has been done before it is noticed. A good habit is to inspect the carpet just in front of the vacuum each time you vacuum. If you see a sprout, fix it immediately. Sprouts should be clipped off even with the surface of the carpet. A missing tuft should be inspected closely, trying to discover the cause. If the tuft, (or group of tufts) is removed most of the way down to the base of the carpet pile you can be sure the tuft was eaten by an insect. Wool rugs and carpets are very susceptible to damage by insects. New or clean wool carpets and rugs are not as susceptible and rugs can be treated to prevent damage from carpet beetles. Man made fibers such as nylon, polyester, or olefin cannot be digested by insects but can be removed or eaten if the yarn contains protein stains such as food, beverage, blood, or urine. During your inspection of missing tufts look for any insect that has remained or has left waste behind. If the tufts have just been pulled out, check the back of the carpet in that area. Termites and silverfish will sometimes eat cellulosic backing (jute) and this allows the face yarns (tufts) to be easily removed. A sawdust type material might be found on the back of a carpet if termites have been present. If you find an insect or insect shell, place it is a plastic bag so that it can be identified by pest control. Rodents can also eat tufts, especially in areas where grease, or greasy food has been spilled. Rodent damage can be determined by observing that the tufts have been eaten down to the backing and the remainder of the yarn is still visibly anchored in the backing. Rodents will eat carpet away under a door in order to squeeze under the door.

Dogs and cats can cause loss of tufts by scratching their claws. This is especially true in the case of loop carpet as the toenail or claws catch the loop and pull it out. This damage requires quick repair. Cut the pulled yarn off below the level of the carpet face. Don't pull on this yarn as it will unravel a row of loops much like a run in a pair of nylons. If your pet is scratching at the base of a door, wanting to go out, the carpet will very soon show damage of pulled tufts and fuzzy. This type damage can get out of hand very quickly. Confining a pet in a room can cause that pet to try to "dig" its way out and the carpet can be ruined in just a few minutes.

Tufts can be removed by furniture that has sharp edges on the legs and by vacuum cleaners that have burrs or sharp edges on their beater bar or edges of attachments. Carpet seams should be inspected closely each time the carpet is vacuumed. Tufts can easily be pulled from the cut edge of a seam. A pulled tuft, picked up by the beater brush of a vacuum will quickly make a seam very visible. If your cat sees a pulled seam and start s pulling on it the result will be the same. The bottom line is to be observant for pulled tufts or other damage on your carpet. Most damage, if caught early enough, can be fixed so that it hardly shows, but if ignored, your carpet can be ruined.

The Dust Mite: a mighty foe indeed

Don't panic, the Dust Mite is not as threatening as it appears. First of all, it is so tiny that it can't be seen by the human eye. It does not bite or carry germs or anything like that. It is potentially a problem for folks with allergies and that is the purpose of this article. The problem will be outlined and remedies discussed.

The Dust Mite is an Arthropod with a segmented body and jointed limbs. It is a distant relative of the spider but of course much smaller. It has eight legs and when magnified looks much like a flea. It lives entirely on dander, which is the particles of skin we humans shed every day of our lives. Humans are not sensitive to the dust mite itself but to its decaying body parts and fecal matter. When a Dust Mite dies, its body kind of dries up and blows away and of course ends up in the household dust that is in all of our homes. The fecal pellets, of which a Dust Mite manufactures about 20 each day, also end up in the household dust and household dust is a common source of allergies.

It has been common knowledge that household dust was the cause of asthma and allergies for hundreds of years. It wasn't known until about 1964 that the problem was traced to the Dust Mite. A Dutch scientist was responsible for this knowledge. Later it was shown that the fecal pellets and dried body parts of the Dust Mite were a big part of household dust they were actually the cause of asthma and allergies. Studies have also shown that when small children were raised in homes with very high amounts of Dust Mite "debris" within its confines they were more prone to develop asthma.

The Dust Mite lives in and under upholstered furniture, in the ticking of mattress and pillows and in carpet and draperies. Logic tells us that since it lives off dander, that the highest concentrations would be in traffic lanes and in open areas of carpet but that is not the quite true. In realty the highest concentrations are under furniture and at the edge of traffic lanes. Also, the area under furniture is more prone to be within the humidity range the Dust Mite requires. Shag carpet is a favorite hiding place for the Dust Mite. If you still have some of this "antique" shag carpeting this would be a good excuse to replace it with something much less appealing to the Dust Mite, and more appealing to humans. Some have suggested that if these little varmints are a problem to you, you should eliminate carpet in your home. That would be much like chopping off a foot because of an ingrown toe nail. The suggestions you will find in here will be much less draconian in nature. While these little buggers can be a problem there is no sense in burning down the barn to get rid of the mice.

One of the most important facts you should know about Dust Mites is that they require a fairly humid environment. By keeping the interior of your home below 50% humidity you we'll just about eliminate the problem since they thrive on warm temperature and high humidity. Upholstered furniture is a problem for two reasons. First, Dust Mites love to burrow down into upholstery and second, since we spend a lot of time either sitting or lying on upholstered furniture it is full of dander. Heaven to a Dust Mite would probably be an old comfortable upholstered chair. You know, just as the old chair or sofa you cannot bear to throw out that is in the family room right now. Remedies? Try the simple thing's first. Encase all your mattress and pillows in impermeable covers and wash all bedding in hot water at least once each month or so. More often if possible, especially if there is an allergy problem in your household. Keeping the temperature below 70 degrees and the humidity below 50% make giant strides toward solving the problem. Air filtration units that are big enough for an entire room will filter out much of the dust. Vacuuming (that terrible "V" word) is always a help especially if your vacuum has an efficient filtering system. Frequent vacuuming is important in any home to keep down dust and extend wear of carpet. Replacing draperies with mini blinds would also have some effect and in the long run are less costly to clean and replace than draperies. Even though it sounds self serving, regular cleaning of carpet is also a help. For the most part Dust Mites are not a problem in the Bay Area because of the lack of hot humid weather. Nevertheless, taking all the steps outlined above would without doubt result in a more healthy indoor environment and help with allergy problems.

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