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Carpet Fibers

Posted: 01 JUL 2002
There are a variety of carpet fibers available. We will educate you on the most commonly used fibers, and explain their advantages and disadvantages.

Keep one thing in mind when considering which fiber is right for you. There are different grades and qualities of each fiber. You can get a good grade, or get stuck with a bad grade. When we say grade or quality, in most cases we are referring to the density of the fiber and the level of twists of the fiber. Generally, if a fiber is dense, meaning there are more stitches per inch, and if it has a tight twist level, it will be a better quality and give you a longer life, regardless of which fiber you are considering.
Nylon

The most common and most widely known carpet fiber is Nylon. Nylon accounts for approximately 65% of all fibers used in carpet products.

Nylon fiber is highly durable and abrasion resistant. It has a strong reputation for its retention, or its ability to "bounce back" after being walked on. It is a very good choice for high traffic areas. Nylon is also a very good value as far as price is concerned.

Branded nylons such as Dupont Stainmaster, Monsanto Wear-Dated, and Allied Anso are nylons that usually have some type of state-of-the-art technology developed by the manufacturer. They are also, in most cases, tested for performance by the manufacturers.
Polyester

Polyester is another very common fiber. In the past, some Polyester based carpets built a bad reputation, because they did not hold up well under heavy traffic. This has all changed over the past five years. Polyester carpets have been constructed better and are now holding up just as good as nylon carpets.

If you are shopping for a Polyester carpet, you still have to take some care. Make sure that that you get one with a "Texture Retention", or "No Matte No Crush" warranty. If it doesn't have this warranty, chances are it won't hold up very well. See our Carpet Warranties and Ratings page for more warranty information.

Polyester carpets are extremely stain resistant. In most cases you will find that their stain warranties exceed those of Nylon carpets. In our opinion, if you purchase the correct Polyester carpet, it is the best dollar value.
Polypropylene

Polypropylene or olefin is another fiber choice. This fiber is used more in commercial carpets and Berber style carpets than in cut pile carpets. (For a description of cut pile carpets and looped carpets, refer to our Carpet Styles and Textures Page".)

Where stains are concerned, Polypropylene is very good at resisting certain stains, but there are problems with others. Polypropylene is a solution dyed fiber which means the color goes completely through the fiber and in most cases, Polypropylene carpet can withstand harsh chemicals such as bleach. The one problem with polypropylene, is oil based stains. Since this fiber is actually petroleum based itself, certain stains will blend with the fiber and be very difficult to remove. To give you a quick example, if you have a light colored Berber carpet constructed from olefin, the high traffic areas may tend to look muddy in color just from the oil in the skin of your feet. Our suggestion regarding olefin is to try and stay with a medium to darker color that won't show this as badly.
Wool

Wool is probably the oldest of carpet fibers. It offers a luxurious feel and excellent wear ability. However, wool, does not hold up well where soils and stains are concerned. Additionally, wool is not the best choice in very humid climates as it tends to hold moisture and develop an odor.

The biggest problem with wool is the cost. You will find that most carpets made from wool fibers are expensive. This is the main reason it is becoming less and less common.

If you are looking for a very luxurious carpet for possibly a formal room with not much activity, then wool would be a good choice.
Summary

While there are some carpets constructed from blends of some of these fibers we've mentioned, most are constructed entirely from one type of fiber alone.

You can purchase a good quality carpet made from any of these fibers. In our opinion, based on experience, properly constructed Polyester carpet gets our highest score. You may encounter people who disagree with this statement, and in some cases, it boils down to your own personal preference.

I can also tell you that in many cases, the salesperson in the carpet store may be trying to sell you whatever he or she can make the most profit on. Or, in some cases, the carpet manufacturer may be offering the carpet store or salesperson some type of incentive or kickback if they push a certain fiber or style.

It can be a confusing situation to say the least. We try our very best to take the simple approach. Our method is to stick with a carpet from one of the major manufacturers, stay with a Nylon or Polyester fiber on cut pile carpets, or Polypropylene if it's a Berber carpet, and as long as it's within your budget, select a carpet that has a "Texture Retention" or "No Mate, No Crush" warranty. If you follow this simple rule, and of course use the correct padding and installation method, then you should enjoy a long life from the carpet you purchase.