Natural Fibers

Natural Fibers are produced either by insects, animals or plants. The fibers that are produced by insects or animals are referred to as protein fibers. Those that are produced by plants are referred to as vegetable or cellulosic fibers. Cellulosic and protein fibers share a common disadvantage, they are both very absorbent and will have extended drying times when wen cleaned. This can lead to shrinkage, mildew and dry rot.

Protein Fibers
These are produced by insects or animals and include wool, silk and hair.


[cmamad id=”709″ align=”floatleft” mobid=”675″]This fiber is produced from the fleece of lambs or sheep. Wool of carpets is imported from countries such as England, Australia and New Zealand. Wool is the oldest and is considered to be the finest of all the face yarns. The use of this fiber dates back many centuries to the beginning of carpet weaving.

Wool’s ability to be stretched up to 40% of its original length and the fact that it can be bent back and forth more than 18,000 times without breaking makes the wool fibre very resilient.

The advantage that the wool fibers possesses are that it dyes easily, it can resist the effects of mild acids, it has excellent soil hiding abilities and its naturally flame resistant.

The disadvantage are that its very expensive, stains easily and high alkaline solutions will cause the fiber to deteriorate. This is sometimes called fe


This fiber is produced by the larva of various insects commonly referred to as silk worms. The silk, in continuous lengths from 300 to 1600 yards, is spun to produce their cocoons. There are two categories of silk, cultivated and uncultivated (wild silk).

Silk is naturally non-flammable, strong fiber that is not bothered by static charge problems even at low humidity.

The main disadvantages of silk are that its extremely expensive, very absorbent and is damaged by high alkaline solutions.


Cellulose Fibers
These types of fibers are produced by plants and usually are not used as face yarns. They will however show up as backing materials of tufted as well as woven carpets. As a carpet clener technician, it is important that we have some basic knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of these fibers.


This is a vegetable seed fiber which is produced from the cotton plant. This fibers’ primary use is as lengthwise(warp) yarns in woven carpet and rugs. Cotton may also be found to a lesser degree as face yarns in some specialty rugs. Cotton is resistant to alkaline solutions and will become stronger when wet.

The main disadvantages of cotton are that cotton is the most absorbent of all the fibers and will require extended drying times after being wet cleaned, is damaged by acids, stains easily, mats down and is soiled quickly, is subject to cellulose browning as well as shrinkage, dry rot and mildew.


This fiber is produced by the jute plant which grows in South America, Pakistan and India. The stalk of the plant is where the long coarse fibers are obtained. They are located between the outer bark and within te inner pulp.

Jute is primarily used as weft yarns(across the width) in woven carpets and as backing material in the construction of tufted carpets. Jute is a relatively inexpensive product that is compatible with latex adhesives and is easily stretched allowing for ease of installation. This fiber like all the rest has disadvantages which include being weak when it becomes wet and is subject to cellulose browning, shrinkage, dry rot and mildew.

This fiber is produced by the leaves of tha agave plant. Sisal is a very strong fiber which is primarily used for making rugs, sacking and rope. The sisal rugs stain easily and are very difficult to clean. Wet cleaning can cause shrinkage so its best to use low moisture methods such as bonnet, absorbent powder or dry foam.

There is a lot confusion about this fiber and its easy to understand why. Rayon is a synthetic fiber that is produced from natural cellulosic fibers of wood pulp or cotton. This material is put through several chemical treatments which turn it into a synthetic fiber.

Rayon is primariy used for area rugs because of its silk-like appearance. Rayon can be damaged by acids, has very low resistance to abrasion and is extremely prone to cellulose browning, because of these points rayon is not suitable for wall to wall installtion.


When a cellulose fiber is wet during wet cleaning, a dye-like substance called lignin is released. During the drying process, the lignin rises to the surface of the fiber by means of a wicking or capillary action. A brown / yellow residue is deposited on the tips of the fibers. These browning effects are much easier to repair on a synthetic fiber.

    Four factors that influence cellulose browning
  • Cellulose fiber (new fibers are less of a problem). Older worn fibers will release the lignin much easier.
  • Over Wetting.
  • Prolonged Drying Times.
  • High Alkaline solutions.

Today, with most of the jute fibers used as primary and secondary backings of tufted carpets being replaced by polypropylene(olefin) and with the introduction of effective neutral pH solutions, there is less of a problem with cellulose browning. When cleaning woven carpets and rugs which contain both cotton and jute(warp and weft yarns), the use of neutral pH solution will help prevent browning and damage to any wool fiber used as face yarn.

One comment

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