E. I. Du Pont De Nemours and Company, headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, was among the first companies to come up with a new technology for making stain-repellent carpets.
In the early eighties one of du Pont’s research chemists, Armand Zinnato, was developing a nylon fiber that could be dyed at room temperature. He worried that such a fiber would be very susceptible to stains and started applying to the nylon certain agents formerly used to help keep a product colorfast when washed.
These agents proved effective in resisting all manner of stains from food.
In September 1986, du Pont launched Stainmaster carpets, guaranteed to resist food stains and even accidents by the dog. How does it work? Before the carpet is made, the nylon fiber is dyed. During the dying process, technicians heat the fiber to a high temperature and then apply a top-secret stain-resistant chemical, which seals the microscopic pores of the fiber.
Just as a sealant on a molar prevents tooth-harming bacteria from getting at the tooth, so the chemical envelops each fiber in a protective sheath. Spills merely sit on the nylon’s surface and so can be mopped up with a sponge, just as the commercials demonstrate.
Later in the manufacturing process, after the carpet has been made, the nylon is sprayed with fluorocarbons that provide surface protection against soil. After much wear and tear, this treatment rubs off, but the stain-resisting chemicals locked into the fiber continue to work.