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Mohawk takes SmartStrand to the next level with Forever Clean

Forever Clean is next generation of triexta

By Jenna Lippin

Photo by Ronda Churchill www.rondachurchill.comOrlando—How do you make a great product even better? In the case of Mohawk’s revolutionary SmartStrand carpet, the answer is responding to consumers’ greatest needs by exponentially increasing the product’s performance attributes.

According to Tom Lape, president of Mohawk Residential, SmartStrand has been the largest initiative in the 136-year history of Mohawk since the product’s launch 10 years ago. “But it’s not only about history; it’s about what we are doing next. SmartStrand represents a decade of innovation, and it’s about to get a whole lot better. Innovators look to where they can go.”

Launched in 2005, SmartStrand is made of triexta, which was the first newly classified fiber by the FCC in over 50 years. Two years later, SmartStrand became the carpet industry’s first bio-based product. Most recently, SmartStrand Silk, unveiled in 2012, set the standard in premium soft carpet. More than 7 million homes have been installed with SmartStrand in the past decade.

So, where does Mohawk go with SmartStrand, or, as Lape put it, “How do you make the best carpet on the planet even better?” Answer: “You make it easier to clean, easier to maintain and easier to enjoy.”

As such, on Dec. 5 Mohawk took the wraps off SmartStrand Forever Clean at its annual Solutions convention for aligned dealers here. Forever Clean is billed as the “toughest, easiest to clean carpet on the planet.” And, to prove that statement, the company is partnering with the Tough Mudder competition (see sidebar), the latest in a long line of creative marketing campaigns—Ricko the Rhino, License to Spill and SmartStrand Unleashed are some of Mohawk’s challenges that have put SmartStrand to the test.

The new secret sauce within Forever Clean is Nanoloc technology, the latest proprietary stain-fighting innovation from Mohawk, which adds a layer of protection to “lock out” spills and increase cleanability. “We worked on [Nanoloc] for several years to make it compatible with triexta, and we now have developed it to the point that with both permanency and effectiveness, we have a protection system that is literally unparalleled,” Lape said.

Because SmartStrand, or triexta, inherently has permanent, built-in protection, Mohawk has taken safeguard to another level with Nanoloc, making SmartStrand Forever Clean both stain resistant and easier to maintain. “With carpet today, maintenance is one of the biggest challenges the industry has residentially, so we [want to] make it easier for the consumer to clean and maintain her product,” Lape added. “Lower impact maintenance is the goal we have for next generation.”

In testing the Nanoloc technology with regular vacuuming and standardized soil, it was found that carpet with the protective treatment will release up to three times more soil than with a standard nylon or polyester product. When steam cleaned, triexta with Nanoloc exhibited the highest rates Mohawk has had in terms of efficacy rates, Lape said.

“We’ve tried to come up with a protection system using nano-based technology, and the whole point is that we want something that is not only going to give the benefit of repellency but long-term repellence, ease of maintenance and, most important, the improvement on soil release, which is the biggest breakthrough we’ve had with Nanoloc.”

Mohawk chemical engineer Jim Williams helped develop the breakthrough technology. He explained how triexta has low surface energy, meaning “it doesn’t like to have stuff stick to it, so we had to work really hard to come up with the right material we could put on SmartStrand. The particular material that we’ve used to coat the fiber is very durable, but, more importantly, it is flexible; it moves with the fiber. It isn’t a hard protectant, which oftentimes with foot traffic or heavier use will chip off into particles and go away. [Nanoloc] is the next-generation chemistry around protecting carpet fiber.”

David Duncan, senior vice president of marketing and sales operations, explained the new technology as providing two lines of defense: surface cleanability and core protection. According to Duncan, Photo by Ronda Churchillwww.rondachurchill.comMohawk has solved both problems with SmartStrand Forever Clean.

“The first line of defense is if I spill something, can I clean it up quickly? Typically if you buy a carpet treated with topical stain protection, you’ve got a good line of defense at first. But over time, what happens to the first line of defense? It starts to wear down. Then you’re left with the second line of defense, that core protection, which is really what SmartStrand has always had in its DNA.”

To help demonstrate this to consumers, Mohawk has armed 400 of its sales representatives with Carpet Performance Simplified kits that will allow them to take the Forever Clean message to 12,000 customers. Each demo box will include red dye, carpet samples and jars of water and cleaning solution, exhibiting Forever Clean’s exceptional cleanability and stain and wear resistance.

The brand architecture with SmartStrand went from SmartStrand Silk at the top of the offerings, to SmartStrand Ultra, featuring an advanced warranty attribute, and SmartStrand, the base product. Going forward, the brands will be marketed to consumers as SmartStrand Silk Forever Clean, SmartSTrand Ultra Forever Clean and SmartStrand Forever Clean.

There is good reason for Mohawk to expand its SmartStrand brand. According to the company, 90% of its retail partners surveyed said they will sell more SmartStrand next year over this year. With consumers, 95% who have put SmartStrand in their homes are satisfied, which Lape noted is “astoundingly high. Nine out of 10 will purchase the product again. Why? Comfort underfoot, protection against spills and ease of maintenance.”

For Mohawk’s builder and multi-family line, the new product will be dubbed SmartStrand Nanolock, “our strategy and positioning is more technical for that side of the business,” Lape said.

Every SmartStrand carpet purchased today is now SmartStrand Forever Clean. Mohawk has transformed the collection and incorporated this new innovation in every square yard that is shipped, effective immediately. A point-of-sale kit will be sent to Aligned retailers immediately after Solutions so they can promote in-store that all SmartStrand products are now SmartStrand Forever Clean.

“We will have plenty of point-of-sale materials immediately,” Duncan noted. “All hands on deck, 100% total immersion.”