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Cleaning Cotton/Rayon

By Michael Hilton

Cleaning Cotton and Cotton Blend Fibers

Cotton is a natural cellulosic fiber and rayon is a manufactured cellulose fiber manufactured from wood pulp. These two fibers have similar properties, and can be cleaned using the same cleaning methodology and cleaning chemistry.

Cotton and rayon are rarely used in wall-to-wall carpet, but are often found in area rugs. These fibers offer a soft hand and provide beautiful colorations. Cotton may be used in weft yarns of many woven area rugs, especially hand-knotted Oriental rugs.

Both cotton and rayon are relatively inexpensive fibers, have the tendency to absorb a large of water, and dry very slowly. Since these fibers are organic, they must be dried quickly to limit microbial growth which may use the organic compounds in the fiber as a food source.

Both have fair to good resistance to changes in alkalinity and the use of highly alkaline cleaning solutions is acceptable.

Both fibers have disadvantages just as any other fiber. They have the tendency to crush or flatten fairly easily and they offer poor resistance to direct sunlight. They can become a food source for mold and mildew and they are flammable without fire retardant treatments.

Rayon has poor dimensional stability when wet and will shrink and distort when exposed to excessive moisture. Rayon is called art silk in India and is used as silk in some handmade area rugs.

Cleaning Cotton and Rayon

The cleaning method used for cotton and rayon rugs depends on the types of dye used, the finishes applied and the percent of cellulosic fiber content. You always should pretest all colors in cotton and rayon area rugs constructions before proceeding with any cleaning method or cleaning chemistry because both7 cotton and rayon have the tendency to bleed.

If a flame retardant chemical has been applied to the fiber, ensure that the cleaning chemistry will not remove the flame retardant properties. Area rugs constructed of 100 percent rayon should be cleaned using a dry method only, since rayon is extremely susceptible to shrinking. Host, Capture, or a dry foam carpet cleaning method are preferred.

Both cotton and rayon are susceptible to browning if a high pH cleaning chemistry is used. Cleaning on the acid side- pH of 7 or less is recommended from both cotton and rayon.

Cleaning Wool Fibers

Wool is a natural protein fiber obtained from sheep. Wool is the fiber to which all other fibers are compared. I have often heard carpet retailers describing the coloration of some carpet style by saying it looks like wool. While wool is not a perfect fiber, it is durable, flexible offer good bulk, and is highly resilient. It is sensitive to color change, yellowing, and degradation when exposed to direct sunlight and it has a narrow pH range for cleaning. Wool cleans best between a pH of 5 and 8 and the cleaning chemistry must not contain bleaching agents or optical brighteners. Wools of New New Zealand publishes a listing of acceptable cleaning chemicals approved for wool pile fibers. Temperature in cleaning wool should never exceed 150 degrees and excessive agitation when used with high temperatures should be avoided.

About the Author
Michael Hilton was the original creator of Carpet Buyers Handbook. Having owned and operated a carpet wholesale company, Hilton has a vast knowledge about all-things carpet related as well as other types of flooring.

Other Helpful Links
Cleaning Cotton/Rayon
Cleaning Wool Carpet
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