News Analysis

Carpets with No Added Stain or Dirt Repellents?

Topically applied stain and dirt repellents have been used on commercial carpets as standard practice for decades. They help repel oily dirt and liquids, and protect the carpet fibers from coffee spills and other abuse, but the long-term health and environmental impacts of these chemicals are unknown (for more, see “The Chemicals on Our Carpets and Textiles,” EBN Mar. 2011). In a move away from these chemicals, Interface and Bentley Prince Street now offer carpet made using fibers that do not require these treatments.

Carpet is typically treated with sulfonated aromatic compounds (SACs) to prevent stains and perfluorochemicals (PFCs) to repel dirt, according to Brian McSheehy, director of innovation at Universal Fibers, one of the fiber suppliers for Interface. SACs work like a clear dye, binding to the dye sites on the carpet fibers so that stains have nowhere to attach. “Short-chain” PFCs, from the same family of chemicals found on non-stick cookware, are used as dirt and moisture repellents. PFCs work well, but they can wash off with repeated hot-water extractions, and the wastewater from this process—along with some of the PFCs—are then washed down the drain into the watershed.

Published March 30, 2011