February 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 18
By Ken Ryan
Carpet that offers stain and soil protection is no longer merely a trend but a standard feature offered by mills throughout the industry—albeit with new iterations being added continuously. Today’s push is also about providing a healthier home environment, with some companies highlighting products that offer hypoallergenic and antimicrobial properties.
Flooring executives say this trend was borne out of extensive consumer research. For example, Chris Johnson, senior vice president of sales, Phenix Flooring, cited a recent Gallup poll finding that 89% of consumers are already using an antimicrobial or antibacterial product at home. “We know consumers are looking for products that work harder and have added benefits beyond what’s expected,” he said.
To that end, in 2017 Phenix introduced its Cleaner Home collection in partnership with Microban, a leader in antimicrobial technology. Additives are infused into the carpet, protecting against the growth of stain and odor-causing bacteria and mold. The collection also features built-in SureFresh odor capture technology designed to eliminate common household smells that can linger.
“In 2018 we are expanding the collection with three new carpet products, so consumers now have even more options from which to choose in order to outfit their home with the cleanest, hardest working carpet,” Johnson said.
Mohawk Industries also conducted expansive consumer research and uncovered some interesting data to use in its own product development. For one, hypoallergenic flooring actually attracts consumers to the soft flooring category and, in fact, doubles the percentage of people who are considering carpet into actual buyers. “In the last 10 years of research I have not seen anything that doubles purchase consideration, at least not for carpet,” said Seth Arnold, vice president, residential.
Mohawk’s research also found that 69% of people who are in the market for flooring replied “yes” to a question as to whether anyone in their household has a breathing or respiratory condition (including allergies). “What we found is the market size for hypoallergenic is as large as the market size for pets,” Arnold noted. “There is also a similarity; people are emotionally attached to their pets. There is also an emotional connection to a product that can help relieve symptoms from breathing issues.”
Consumers are more interested in health and well-being than ever before, and that includes the foods they eat, their exercise routines as well as the products they purchase. Studies show that nearly 30% of consumers would be willing to pay more for a product in their home that offered health benefits for all members, including their pets.
According to Teresa Tran, director of soft surface portfolio management for Shaw Floors, being able to clean your carpet effectively makes a huge difference in the goal of having a healthier home. “Most spills are caught hours, maybe even days, later,” she said. Shaw’s answer is R2X, a stain and soil repellant wherein stains are kept on top of the fiber as long as possible. That’s where its LifeGuard backing comes into play. According to Shaw, the product is engineered to prevent liquid from seeping into the subfloor. “This gives consumers peace of mind and the cleanest carpet for healthy living,” Tran noted.
When Mohawk introduced Air.o in 2017—ushering in a new category called Unified Soft Flooring (USF)—the product was touted for its strength, flexibility, dimensional stability and ease of installation. It checked all those boxes. However, since it is also made of 100% PET, Air.o’s fibers don’t absorb moisture, which helps prevent the growth of allergens, the company stated. Air.o’s construction also provides better airflow and releases dust and dirt more easily when vacuuming.
While Air.o is the fresh new star in Mohawk’s soft surface galaxy, its SmartStrand collection continues its legacy of providing enhanced protection against pet stains and the like for consumers. As Arnold explained, “Nylon protection can wear off over time but SmartStrand is built in and never washes off. When we enhanced SmartStrand with Forever Clean we added nanotechnology.”
This fiber treatment, called Nanoloc, repels dirt, dander, spills and stains before they reach the fiber. Mohawk offers an All Pet Protection guarantee with the line.
Bellera is Shaw’s new premium soft surface introduction for 2018. The product comes with a specialized dye chemistry and LifeGuard backing system to give the line exceptional durability, the company stated. Shaw offers a
“No Surprises, Worry-Free Warranty” on the product.
Phenix’s Cleaner Home collection includes 10 new carpets, all with antimicrobial protection for the life of the product. Additionally, Cleaner Home was developed with a highly engineered PET yarn.
Foss Floors’ DuraKnit products are constructed of 100% post-consumer drinking bottles that render the product completely stain resistant and hydrophobic, the company stated. Featuring a patented DuraLock technology, which is guaranteed to never fray, unravel or zipper, the carpet is pet friendly.
“Our carpet tiles feature a peel-and- stick adhesive that is VOC free,” said Brian Warren, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “These tiles are all fiber from top to bottom. We have eliminated the need for smelly, VOC-laden adhesives and difficult installs.”
Warren said he can vouch for these products from personal experience. “I have four shelter rescue dogs and a cat. Believe me, these attributes are important and when combined with the inherent stain resistance of our Natural Touch PET fiber, these products are Fido-proof.”
At Surfaces Engineered Floors sought to educate retailers on PureBac with Ultra-fresh protection. This innovative treatment aims to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi responsible for creating unpleasant smells and staining in textile and plastic products. By controlling unwanted microbes, Ultra-fresh antimicrobials keep products fresh, hygienic and odor free.
The effort to keep soft surfaces free of soil and stains has existed for decades and is not a new trend. In fact, protection for carpet dates back to the 1950s, when 3M first worked on a chemistry that would later be introduced as Scotchgard Protector. To this day Scotchgard Protector remains a premium antidote to stain and soils. When applied at the mill, Protector is done in a one-step- application process that treats the entire carpet fiber from top to bottom. The deeper the penetration, the better the resistance to stains, which means the carpet is easier to clean.
With the help of national television commercials, Invista’s Stainmaster brand was launched in 1986 and became arguably the most recognized brand in flooring. Over the years, Stainmaster has evolved with new treatments and protection systems, most recently the PetProtect carpet and cushion system featuring a breathable moisture barrier that helps prevent spills and accidents from penetrating the padding and subfloor. PetProtect is now used on both soft surfaces (carpet and rugs) and LVT. Invista also markets Stainmaster Active Family and Stainmaster LiveWell. The latter is a carpet and cushion system designed with AllerShield technology to help reduce the bonding of allergy-aggravating particles into the carpet fibers.