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Latex in carpets and rugs: the issues, by Derek Bolton
It is common for people to try and blame the cleaners when fixtures and fittings change over time, so it pays to know what it is you are cleaning, before starting the job, so you can address any potential issues. Here, Derek Bolton, ex-president and technical director and now honorary member of the National Carpet Cleaners Association, shares his expertise on the use of Latex in carpets and rugs, and the problems it can cause for those tasked with cleaning it...
"Latex is an adhesive material that is applied during the manufacturing process of carpets and rugs. It has several purposes, such as anchoring the pile tufts into the backing materials in woven carpets and fixing the secondary backing to the primary backing in tufted carpets.
The Latex itself is a complex material and contains elements which affect its durability. Because of this it starts to undergo a deterioration process (caused by airborne gases, sunlight and foot traffic) as soon as it is used. Chemicals are added in an effort to impede degradation but, unfortunately, this cannot prevent entirely the inevitability of the process taking place.
Another component used in the Latex is a bulking agent, namely China Clay, which adds bulk but has no adhesive properties. Very soon the clay begins to dry out into a dust, contributing significantly to the breakdown of the Latex; this in turn leads to the separation of the primary and secondary backings in tufted carpets.
A few years ago I dealt with several of the major carpet retailers in Leicester, and was often at the stores in the evenings when the fitters were loading up carpets ready for installation the following day. Particularly during the colder months of the year it was not unusual to see the secondary backings already parting (delaminating) from the primary backings on tufted carpets as they were being loaded on to the vans.
An indication that delamination may have taken place within a carpet installation is the appearance of bubbling/rippling across the surface. On several occasions, over the years, I have been requested by customers to 'shrink' their carpets during the cleaning process to 'eradicate the rippling'... unfortunately it doesn't work like that! The fun part is trying to explain this to your customer.
Latex within carpet backings can also cause off-gassing (the release of toxic Volatile Organic Compounds into the air). Have you considered, when having purchased a new carpet, the smell that lingers for several weeks before dissipating? That's off-gassing. In the first few weeks following a new installation of carpet, VOCs emitted during off-gassing can cause headaches, irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat and can even affect the central nervous system. The release of VOCs from new carpet will be at its highest within the first 72 hours after installation. However, low levels can continue to be emitted for several years.
Another phenomenon linked to Latex in carpets, which I have written about before in Newslink - the NCCA's monthly newsletter - is Phenolic Yellowing. In these articles, I highlighted several incidents where rugs placed on new (or relatively new) carpets prevented the VOC's from being released into the atmosphere, leaving a yellow colouring (BHT - Butyl Hydroxy-Toluene) on the surface of the carpet... not always possible to remove satisfactorily. Fortunately, this can easily be picked up on during a pre-clean survey. It's simply a matter of understanding what it is that you are looking at.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the NCCA you can find out more at:
3rd December 2015