Consumers are seeking carpet that offers it all: high style, softness, high performance and an environmental story. With the help of the latest fiber and backing technologies, manufacturers are delivering.

Key Advances in Fiber

Softness is still a key driver for soft surface, and manufacturers continue to heavily invest in the category.

“We are seeing growth in three major categories,” said Jason Randolph, senior product director at Mohawk. “The first is the soft category. We are continuing to expand our soft yarns in multiple fiber platforms.”

Mohawk uses soft yarns in textures, patterns and loops. In addition to its soft nylon and polyester, Mohawk has coined its Smartstrand Silk Reserve “the ultimate in softness,” thanks to the product’s ability to remain soft and durable even in active lifestyles. 

Similarly, Engineered Floors’ proprietary, solution-dyed fiber, PureColor, aims to provide high performance for families without compromising softness and texture. “With PureColor, the color in the yarn penetrates the fiber all the way through, not just on the top like with traditional piece-dyed fibers,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing for the company. “We’re proud that PureColor performs in a way that lets families live their lives on their carpet without having to worry about stains, wear, or fading. Carpet shouldn’t be something that you have to worry about, and we’re happy to give that piece of mind to the consumer.”

To strengthen the durability and capabilities of their soft surfaces, manufacturers join forces with solution-based technologies that are taking their products to the next level.

“We continue to see technologies like our partnerships with Microban and Stainmaster, as well as our manufacturing solutions like SureSoftSD and ColorPoint technology, provide differentiated products and advanced features and benefits,” said Jason Surratt, senior vice president of product and design at Phenix Floors.

Phenix’ Cleaner Home Collection with OpulenceHD fiber, enhanced by Microban antimicrobial protection, promotes stain and soil resistance, while offering a luxurious look and feel. Using new tufting technology, Phenix created higher-end patterning with varying amounts of cut and loop in the Cleaner Home Collection to provide consumers with carpet that is stylish and intriguing to look at. 

“This technology allows for a combination of colors to be visible at varying points in construction to create a unique dimensional pattern,” said Surratt.

As tufting technology advances, Shaw Floors’ expands its capabilities for new, exciting designs do, too. “New tufting machine technology allows for production of multiple pile heights, as well as numerous textures and cut-loop effects,” said Teresa Tran, Shaw’s director of soft surface portfolio management. “These innovations allow us to fashion more intricate, unique designs, giving consumers a wide variety of on-trend looks to fit their styles and budgets.”

Advances Below the Surface

Shaw’s new Bellera High Performance Carpet ushers in a new age of beauty and durability, says Tran. Bellera pairs Shaw’s Endurance High-Performance fiber with R2X Soil and Stain Resistance and LifeGuard backing.

“Our LifeGuard Spill-Proof backing keeps spills and odor-causing pet accidents conveniently contained from soaking through the carpet to the pad and subfloor,” said Tran. “We’ve changed the color of LifeGuard from grey to blue, so that consumers know at a glance that the carpet they’re choosing is the cleanest carpet for healthy living. It’s the same unrivaled performance—now with a more distinctive color.”

Engineered Floors has developed what it calls a “better backing system” with PureBac. “PureBac is an unprecedented flexible backing that still provides dimensional stability,” Sanderson said. “The backing has no latex, which increases the ease of installation by being lighter, more flexible and softer than traditional backing. For the consumer, it means no scratched walls or baseboards and faster install times.”

Changing the conversation about carpet backing and carpet in general is Mohawk’s Airo. The new soft surface, which the company refers to as Unified Soft Flooring (USF), is constructed on a premium cushioned backing using an innovative, tension-free process. This creates a dimensionally-stable floor, which will not wrinkle or delaminate.

Airo came to the market with eight styles at launch, and Mohawk will be adding four new styles to its portfolio that will speak to consumers’ demands for multicolor soft surface options.

“[Airo] is a whole different category,” said Mike Sethna, Mohawk’s senior director of research and development. “Because it’s a modern component, everything is 100 percent polyester and it has a lot of features and attributes to it.”

Included in those features and attributes are Airo’s ability to be cleaned and installed easily, reducing installation time by almost 50 percent. Another attribute of Airo is its hypoallergenic properties. Treated with Mohawk’s Fresh Carpet Technology, Airo purifies the home by neutralizing odors. 

An Environmentally-Friendly Future

Manufactures are working toward more environmentally-friendly soft flooring options. Since the USF product is made of just one material, Airo is 100 percent recyclable. Beaulieu Yarns is changing the game with the introduction of the first biomass-balance polyamide yarns for carpets.

“Carpet tufters are requesting more environmentally-compatible yarns to support their overall commitment to greater sustainability and more efficient resource use,” said Karena Cancilleri, vice president of Engineered Products, Beaulieu International Group. “We see biomass balance as the fastest path forward and, through EqoBalance, are excited to pioneer this milestone for the contract market as part of our long-term strategy to give customers a fundamental new choice to step into sustainable products and contribute to a better world.”

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The principle of biomass balance in production of yarns is comparable to that of green electricity. According to Cancilleri, the basic idea involves using renewable resources such as biogas or bio-naphtha, together with fossil resources, in production of the polyamide.

Launched earlier this year at Domotex, the EqoBalance family of biomass-balance yarns ensures that at the very start of the supply chain, natural renewable raw materials can partially or even completely replace fossil resources in the production of polymers processed into yarns. As a result, by choosing these yarns, carpet tufters can contribute to a sustainable future through less use of fossil resources and reduced greenhouse gas emissions—without the compromise of quality of performance.

“These technologies are solutions to real consumer problems, which, down the line, helps retailers sell through higher-priced and/or more flooring solutions for the home,” said Surratt.