The Truth About Tencel Carpet and Rugs

Manufactures understand that there is a marketing advantage to positioning a product as “new”, “different”, “green”, etc. The more of these buzzwords that can be applied the better.

In the field of textiles, one of the newest items on the block is the new fiber called Tencel. Let’s take a look beyond the hype and see what makes this new fiber tick.

GENERIC VS TRADE NAME

Manufactured fibers often have two types of names: A generic name and one or more trade names. Polyester, for example, is the generic name for a synthetic fiber that is sold under various trade names including: “Trevira” and “Dacron”. “Herculon” was a trade name ( WAY back when) for an olefin fiber produces by Hercules, Inc.

Similarly, “Tencel” (rhymes with “pencil”) is the trade name for the generic fiber called lyocell. Produced by the Austria based fiber giant Lenzing, local was developed in the 1970’s and was first commercialized in the 1990’s. As the newest thing on the block, it makes sense that the fiber was first incorporated in uber-chic couture fabrics. Over the years, it eventually made its way into home linens and upholsterer fabrics.

Lycell didn’t really gain significant traction until 2005, when Lenzing bough the Tencel business that had been started by rival Courtaulds. Lenzing brought formidable efforts to bear – both technical and marketing in support of the Tencel brand.

WHAT’S DIFFERENT

There is a LOT of hype in the Tencel marketing we’ve seen. Antibacterial, manages indoor moisture, sustainable, biodegradeable, etc. Distilled to just facts, tow things stand out:
The manufacturing process for viscose ( the most common form of rayon) is considered “dirty”. The manufacturing process for Tencel recovers and reuses the majority of the spinning chemical, making is a “greerer” fiber.
2. Unlike viscose, Tencel does not lose its strength when wet. Tencel also shrinks significantly less than viscose

What really matters, however, is: How does Tencel carpet perform?

FLOORCOVERINGS

While we have given a general “thumbs up” to Tencel upholstery fabrics, Tencel floor coverings are an entirely different animal.

Textile floor coverings are often used in very demanding environments which get foot traffic, pet traffic, outdoor soils, indoor soils and stains. The best floor coverings will do two things very well:
Resist crushing from foot traffic, and
Respond well to water-based cleaning methods

The first point has to do with resiliency. Generally, wool is considered best in this category, with many nylon products rating very good as well. Olefin is known for its poor resiliency. Also known for crush-resistance are the cellulosics: cotton, linen, rayon….. and Tencel ( lyocell).

To be fair, the Tencel carpets we have seen are mostly dense constructions, meaning they will hold up somewhat better than the would otherwise. It’s a moot point, however, because the real stumbling point is cleanability.

The manufactures’ cleaning instructions we have seen are very specific in their recommendation for cleaning Tencel carpet: “Dry Clean Only”. This type of limitation is far from ideal, butt let’s look at how it relates to Tencel carpets.

First, the “dry clean only” suggestion does not always mean that other methods are not always mean that other methods are not also safe. Many upholstery fabrics carry this instruction but are safely wet cleanable.

Based on the testing we’ve done, we believe the manufactures are on the right track and the Tencel carpets should NOT be wet cleaned. Routine wet cleaning methods tend to leave the surface of the carpet distorted / shaded. Also, the Tencel fibers can become stiff after being wet, causeng a significant texture change.

What about the viability of dry cleaning? HOST is the most commonly recommended dry cleaning process for Tencel carpets. A moist powder ( looks like damp sawdust) is sprinkled on the carpet surface and then worked through using a machine with counter-rotating brushes.

Once the HOST product has dried (usually about an hour), the dried material is vacuumed from the carpet.

The problem with this method are multiple:
It does not do the thorough, rinse-type cleaning that water extraction does.
The method relies on a relatively aggressive brushing action which may be too severe for Tencel carpets.
HOST powder can be very difficult to completely remove from the carpet without very thorough vacuuming.

BOTTOM LINE

The very limited cleanability of Tencel carpets should be respected. Though we would like to recommend otherwise, it is our opinion that Tencel carpets should be installed only in areas that receive minimal traffic.

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About hemphillbrett
Floorcovering specialist

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