Fiber Identification: Don’t Suffer From Cleaners Remorse

by Lawton Brothers | Aug 24, 2015

carpet samples

To best clean any surface, you must first understand what surface you’re working with. When it comes to carpets and fibers this can be tricky. Identifying what a material is comprised of before you begin can save time, money and the gut-wrenching feeling of cleaner’s remorse. 

Knowing the fiber content, or at least its class, is essential for knowing what approach to take when cleaning carpets. Synthetic fibers can handle more aggressive cleaning methods, whereas natural fibers require a more delicate approach. A simple way to quickly identify fibers is the “Burn test.”

  • Explain to the client that you’re taking a small fiber sample from an inconspicuous location.
  • Using tweezers to hold the sample, slowly bring the flame to the fiber.
  • If the fiber pulls away from the flame’s heat, it’s synthetic; if not, it’s natural.
  • Allow the fiber to burn while analyzing its composition, if it crushes in your fingers and leaves them dirty, it’s natural; if it doesn't crush, it’s synthetic. 

While knowing the basic differences between synthetic and natural fibers is certainly helpful, narrowing down what type of fiber you’re cleaning can drastically affect your chemical choice. Here are a few tips to identify some common carpet fibers during and after a burn test: 

  • Nylon: The flame has a blue base and orange tip. There is little to no smoke and a white puff when extinguished.
  • Olefin: Exhibits a blue base and orange tip when burning. Burns fast with minimal smoke.
  • Polyester: Produces an orange flame when burning, will sputter, drip and emits a black smoke.
  • Wool: Burns with an orange flame that quickly self-extinguishes and reduces to a crumbly ash. 

To best serve their clients, cleaning professionals should be able to identify the proper methods and supplies required depending one the type of fiber. By utilizing this simple test, your team will be able to effectively clean fabric without the threat of damage. There is no need learn the value of fiber identification the hard way. Call your janitorial supply company, Lawton Bros., if you have any questions. 

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