One of the biggest causes for concern and one of the largest categories of claims and complaints on cut pile residential carpets is for shedding, fuzzing and pilling. Cut pile carpets have always shed especially those made with staple or spun fibers. A staple fiber is a short length of fiber, generally ranging from four to eight inches long. Think of wool fiber which has a finite length. It is then spun into a yarn comprised of those short lengths. Synthetic spun fibers are made the same way. Since there are always loose fibers in the yarn it will have a fuzzy or “woolen” appearance. The short lengths of fiber will shed from the yarn which is a normal characteristic of carpet, residential or commercial, made with staple yarn. Most vacuum cleaners today have clear plastic canisters. When the carpet is vacuumed the vacuum canister will collect short lengths of fiber from the carpet. When this is seen panic may set in. This does not mean the vacuum cleaner is harvesting all the fiber from the carpet. There are millions and millions of ends of fiber in the yarn and it is impossible to remove all of them. Even if a cut pile carpet is made using continuous filament fiber (think fishing line) there will be some loose ends that will shed from the carpet when vacuuming.
Shedding should diminish with time but it will never go away completely, so there will always be some fiber in the vacuum cleaner canister; not a reason to panic, it’s normal.
Fuzzing and pilling are another story. Fuzzing can be the sign of a compromise in the structural integrity of the carpet. Fuzzing or filament slippage is the result of incomplete latex penetration into the yarn bundle (base) which anchors the individual fibers into the yarn. If latex penetration is incomplete it will allow individual filaments or strands of yarn, not anchored, to slip out and extend from the carpet surface. When the filaments extend they can entangle causing pilling, just like those little balls of fiber you’ll see on a sweater. This condition will also allow fiber to be collected in the vacuum cleaner canister.
When you need to be concerned is when the vacuum cleaner plugs up from the fiber being collected. If that happens repeatedly you could have a problem with the carpet. That’s when you have to call the dealer and have them arrange with the manufacturer to have an independent agent look at the carpet to determine if it suffers from a defect or if what its doing is a normal characteristic. You could be fooled by the clear canister of the vacuum cleaner.
The old vacuum cleaners that had enclosed bags, and some still do, didn’t allow you to see exactly what was being collected, in particular small carpet fibers. The only time there was concern was when the vacuum cleaner plugged up. Now, because everything can be seen in the clear plastic canister, complaints have increased for concerns that the carpet is being eaten by the vacuum cleaner. This is certainly not the case but it definitely gives that impression. Carpets don’t wear out from the loss of fiber, they can ugly out from use and abuse but they won’t fall apart. Thinking the carpet is coming apart because there are loose fibers in the clear vacuum canister is like thinking you’re going bald because some hair comes out on your comb or brush. Well, maybe some of you are going bald, but all human beings shed hair and it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re all going bald. Also, the thicker the carpet yarn and head of hair, the more likely you are to see shedding. So again, no one should panic if there’s some carpet fiber in the clear vacuum canister after every vacuuming. When there is cause for concern is when filaments or strands of fiber extend from the carpet surface and start to form those little fuzz balls or pills.