This problem came to us from a dealer on the shore area of New Jersey. They sold a high end wool/nylon blend carpet to a consumer three years ago and that consumer is experiencing discoloration, yellowing, and loss of color from the tips of the yarn down. The dealer assumed that somehow bleach came in contact with the carpet and took the color out but the consumer assured them there are no bleach products used in the house. The problem is throughout the house, not just in spots. The consumer also noted that the couch in the living room is also fading, the sides of the cushions look new but the tops are fading. The couch is not in direct sunlight. The customer wants to replace the carpet and they’re not sure what to replace it with so they don’t have the same problems again. They are not blaming the dealer, they just want an answer.
Lots of questions but fortunately we had the answers. Questioning the dealer we found out the carpet was a green color. This means there is a lot of blue dye in the carpet. The home is near the shore where there is high humidity and, in the summer months, heat. This means the carpet is being affected by ozone, very common in coastal areas especially in the southern climates. There is actually a name for this it’s referred to as “Gulf Coast Syndrome,” although this can occur in many other areas. Ozone will affect blue dye, it actually bleaches it out. When the blue dye component is oxidized it leaves behind the color not affected by ozone, which in this case is the yellow. Remember, all color is derived from the three primary colors of red, blue and yellow. Blue is affected by ozone, red by ultraviolet light (sun, etc.) and yellow by virtually nothing. So when the blue went, in this case, the next predominant color, yellow, remained. Since the condition was overall and on the tips the indication and evidence is that the discoloration is atmospheric or a gas. Ozone is both atmospheric and a gas. The sofa was being affected by the same influence. The sofa was not in the sunlight but there need not be any sunlight for ozone to oxidize blue dye, sunlight or even forms of artificial light, will have more effect on the color red, not blue.
Another indication that bleach did not come in contact with the carpet is that the fiber was not destroyed, only faded. Bleach will destroy wool, it will actually dissolve it. Remember, this is a wool/nylon blend yarn. So if there was bleach on the yarn the wool portion would be destroyed leaving the nylon untouched. Bleach will take color out of the nylon but it will not destroy the fiber. Another thing mentioned is that the consumer says they don’t use any products with bleach in them in the house. This is not true and you can take it to the bank. If they are using any household cleaning products they have bleach or oxidizers in the house. Almost all bathroom cleaners have some kind of an oxidizing chemical as do many personal care products. If these products come in contact with the carpet they have the potential to take color out. The difference is that the color loss will be isolated in the form of small areas of discoloration - it won’t be overall. Overall discoloration or color loss has to be from ozone, ultraviolet light or oxides of nitrogen.
The reason that only the tips of the yarn are affected is that the surface of the carpet has the most exposure. Down into the carpet pile it is difficult for light or ozone to penetrate. Given enough time the change in color will go deeper but it almost never goes to the base of the yarn. Also, color loss from the three major influencers, ozone, sun and oxides of nitrogen will rarely change the feel of the carpet. Certainly the sun, over time and if the rays are direct and strong enough, can make the fiber feel more brittle, but this has to be an extreme case. If the carpet was polypropylene the sun could actually melt the carpet fiber if it was strong enough. We had a case like this a few years ago in a building with angled ceiling windows actually magnifying the light rays resulting in the carpet melting where the rays were the strongest.
To answer the question in the case, of what the consumer should purchase so the blue won’t fade in the future, they’d have to buy solution dyed nylon. With solution dyed fiber the color is an integral component, added in as color pigment during the extrusion process when the thermoplastic material is in its molten state. Ozone will have no effect on the blue component if the carpet is green, it can’t because the color is in the fiber not added on. Can solution dyed fibers still fade? Yes they can. Proof of this is any plastic product or material left outside over long periods of time that get weathered and fade. However, since carpet for inside use is never exposed to such harsh conditions, the chances for fading are remote at best. But, with constant exposure to sun light there may be some fading eventually. This would be more subtle and result over a longer period of time.
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