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What to tell flooring customers when they claim carpet is being “eaten by the vacuum cleaner”

What do you tell your customers that complain their carpet is falling apart and clogging their vacuum cleaner with fuzz?  Recently complaints of this type have started to increase.

The older vacuum cleaners that had enclosed bags (some still do), didn’t allow you to see exactly what was being collected when you vacuumed. The only time there was concern was when the vacuum cleaner became plugged.  Now, because everything can be seen in the clear plastic canister including carpet fibers, aka “fuzz,” consumer complaints have increased with concerns that carpet are being “eaten by the vacuum cleaner.”

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.  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 and the carpet, whether residential or commercial.

Clear canister filled with shedding carpet.
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.

So, a vacuum canister full of carpet fuzz certainly can give your customer the impression that the carpet is falling apart, but it’s not usually cause for alarm. 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.  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.

What about fuzz balls and carpet pilling?
Fuzzing and pilling are another story.  When the vacuum cleaner repeatedly fills up with loose fiber there could be a problem with the structural integrity of the carpet.

In this case, what could be happening is fuzzing or filament slippage caused by incomplete latex penetration into the yarn bundle (base)  -  meaning that some yarn fibers are not anchored or can work loose allowing individual filaments or strands of yarn to slip out and extend from the carpet surface.  When the filaments extend from the surface they can entangle causing pilling, just like those little balls of fiber you see on a sweater.  This condition will also allow fiber to be collected in the vacuum cleaner canister.  So it’s important to determine from your customer which case they are reporting - shedding or pilling.

When the complaint involves pilling you need to call the manufacturer to have an independent agent look at the carpet.

The best thing to avoid unnecessary alarms and complaints of course is to educate your customer about expectations of shedding so that she understands it is normal and will abate over time. Let me know if you have other problems and solutions involving shedding complaints.

Lew Migliore is President of LGM and Associates, a technical consulting firm specializing in all aspects of product and installation performance and education. He is also a consultant with the Floor Covering Institute.

Photo courtesy of Clean Care Seminars


  1. Fabulous activity done by you.I ultimately just want to provide a resource that helps people and if I can't do that, then at least make them laugh.

  2. This is such an amazing content, your thinking, observations and ideas are great and to the point .


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