When buying new carpet most consumers have a hard time trying to figure out the difference between all the different fibers, and which one would be best for them. There are many different fibers available on the market today, but for this article I am going to stick with the most common types found at your local carpet stores. There are also many different variations of certain fibers and again I will try to keep this as non- technical as possible.
The majority of carpet today is made of one of four materials: wool, nylon, polypropylene (Olefin), or polyester.
First discovered in 1938 by DuPont chemists, it is the most commonly used fiber in carpet today. Rated as one of the longest wearing fibers, it is also very cleanable, stain resistant, resists abrasion, moth proof, and non-allergenic. All of these pluses make for a very durable carpet. Nylon comes in two types, type 6, and type 6.6. Some retailers will swear 6.6 is better, but many studies have been done by chemical engineers and they find little overall performance difference between the two.
The leading brand names in nylon that you have probably heard of are; Invista (formerly DuPont) and Mohawk (formerly Solutia Wear Dated). Invista makes Stainmaster, and Mohawk makes Wear Dated. Both Invista and Mohawk have done a great job making their products stain and wear resistant; but buyers beware. Like anything else there are different qualities of each, and the better the quality the better the carpet. In Stainmaster there is Extra Body II, then Tactesse, then Luxerell Stainmaster as their top of the line. A good salesperson will be able to show you examples of each which is why I always recommend a reputable retailer over a “big box” store.
When buying nylon carpet I personally recommend looking at the newer “soft nylons”. The manufactures did a pretty good job in making the fiber very soft in order to try to duplicate the feel of wool. They cost a little more but the quality is definitely better and most people are very happy with the choice. Names to look for in soft nylon are Tactesse and Luxerell by Invista, DuraSoft by Mohawk, or Anso Caress by Shaw. Here again is where you will need the help of a knowledgeable salesperson.
I clean more nylon than any other fiber type and with proper care it will look and feel great for many years.
If you want the most luxurious feel and look possible wool carpet is still your best choice. It comes in pretty much every style and color, commercial or residential, with the best wools coming from New Zealand.
Appearance aside wool has many other advantages including:
- Natural flame resistance (very important in commercial settings where smoking is permitted).
- When the proper color is chosen for the environment it is excellent at hiding soil.
- Wool is a very strong, yet still flexible and resilient so it springs back well.
Wool will stain much easier than synthetics so if you tend to spill a lot of coffee and red wine, or if you like to wear your boots in the house, and only vacuum on special occasions, then wool may not be for you.
Wool is not hard to maintain but when it comes time to clean it, I cannot emphasize enough, the importance of choosing a well trained, experienced carpet cleaner. With a little bit of care your carpet will always say; luxury and style live here.
Still my personal favorite.
Polyester first entered the carpet industry in the 1960’s. Although it was a fairly durable fiber there were many other problems with it. So much so that many retailers stopped selling it and we really didn’t see much of it for quite a few years. Now jump forward to the mid 1990’s and we had the birth of the “new polyester”. The new polyester fiber is called PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate), and it is definitely not the polyester of old. It is stronger, more abrasion resistant, and is very resistant to staining. I have cleaned it in many homes and very seldom come across a spot or stain that I can’t get out.
The fiber is partially made from recycled plastic containers, and this is what they’re talking about when people say their carpet was made from 7up bottles. Recycling does not affect the PET’s performance so it can be recycled over and over again.
When considering Polyester carpet you will also hear about a material called PTT. Although it is similar to PET, PTT is actually not considered polyester. It has been sold under various names, but currently it is called Triexta. It is a very soft fabric that kind of combines all the best qualities of nylon and polyester. If your carpet gets a lot of heavy use from kids, parties, pets, spills, etc. this may be a material you want to consider. Keep in mind though that since this is still a reasonably new fiber it will probably go through a few changes so you need a carpet professional who really stays on top of those changes. Again look for a reputable retailer.
Anyone who knows me has heard me say that, just because something is not expensive and often gets a bad rap, doesn’t mean it does not have a place. Olefin is the most stain resistant fiber out there and tends to wear well when used in low pile carpet. The main problem with it occurs because they have to add oil to it during the manufacturing process. This oil stays in the fiber so after it’s installed in your home it will soil and mat down faster than other materials. The fact that it easily mats down is the reason you only want it in low pile styles. It is also a very heat sensitive fiber and melts easy. Even something as simple as dragging a piece of furniture on it can generate enough heat to leave a burn, and if you smoke this is not a good choice. On the other hand, if you only need new carpet to last a few years and it is going to take some heavy abuse, then take a look at Olefin. It costs less than the other materials and it may suit your purpose just fine.
I hope this bit of information will make your shopping a little less confusing. Remember to only buy from a reputable, educated and informed carpet store and your new carpet will be a happy purchase.
Next time we’ll talk upholstery.