In order to properly care for carpets in both residential and commercial locations, cleaning professionals need to know the characteristics of the carpet’s fiber — in other words, what type of carpet it is.
“Carpets are not all alike and this can have an impact on how they are cleaned and maintained,” says Mark Baxter, an engineer with U.S. Products. “There are actually several carpet types and sometimes, carpet fibers are [even] combined.”
Addressing this challenge, this month’s U.S. Products Carpet Care Advisory focuses on safe and effective ways to determine different carpet types. 
“For example, to determine if a carpet is made from natural fibers, such as wool or a synthetic fiber, apply a flame to a tuft of removed carpet fibers,” says Baxter.  “If it turns to an irregular ash, it’s probably wool; if it dries hard, it is likely a synthetic.”
The following are some other “fire” tests that can be used to determine a carpet fiber type:
• Wool will produce an odor similar to burning hair.
• Rayon usually burns rapidly and produces a burning wood or burning paper odor.
• The flame produced by nylon often has a blue base and orange tip; the odor produced can be compared to celery.
• Olefin also can produce a blue base and orange tip flame, but emits a candle-wax or possibly an asphalt-type odor.
• Polyester tends to sputter as it burns and produces a sweet, fruity odor.
“There are other tests that can be performed to determine a carpet fiber’s type,” adds Baxter.  “But, surprisingly, the flame test is often the quickest and most effective.  And, knowing the cleaning requirements needed in a timely manner is essential to effective soil removal and carpet extraction.”