The four basic fibers used in carpets today all have their individual strengths. Your ultimate choice will be determined by the characteristics that are most important to you.
Although some carpets are made of blends, most are made entirely of one of the following four fibers:
Nylon is more expensive than other synthetic carpet fibers and has been the most commonly used carpet fiber since the early 1960s. In overall performance characteristics, nylon is the most versatile of all fibers, providing excellent flexibility in creating a variety of carpet styles. Nylon can be found in a wide range of both cut pile and loop pile styles. It is durable, resilient, and receptive to dyeing for color versatility and uniformity; many new nylon yarn systems are also exceptionally soft. Though not inherently stain resistant, most nylon carpets are treated with stain-resist carpet treatment for protection against household spills and stains.
Polypropylene (also called Olefin)
Since 1980, the use of polypropylene carpet fibers has grown dramatically. Unlike the other fiber types, polypropylene will not absorb water and must therefore be solution dyed (pigmented) to impart color. Solution dyeing is a pigmentation process in which color is actually built into the fiber when it is formed, or extruded, thereby becoming an inherent part that cannot be removed from the fiber. The color will not fade, even when exposed to intense sunlight, bleaches, atmospheric contaminants, or other harsh chemicals or elements. However, since it is not as resilient as other fibers, polypropylene is normally used in loop pile constructions in which there is less need for superior resiliency.
Polyester offers exceptional softness and color clarity, and it is also naturally stain and fade resistant. While polyester is not as inherently resilient as nylon, carpets made of polyester fiber will perform well if appropriately constructed. Carpets of polyester are generally available only in cut pile styles and are usually less expensive than nylon in comparable weights.
The preeminent natural fiber and used in the manufacture of carpets and rugs longer than any other fiber. In fact, the weaving of wool carpets has been traced back to 3,000 B.C., and wool rugs and carpets have been prized as objects of beauty and prestige ever since. Wool does not have the stain and abrasion resistance of some of the man-made fibers, but it has an enduring quality, and many wool carpets and rugs are said to “age gracefully.” Soft underfoot, wool also offers the somewhat intangible consideration of prestige. However, wool carpets are considerably more expensive than most synthetic carpets and represent less than 1 percent of all broadloom carpets sold.
A number of carpet styles utilize a fiber blend, such as nylon and polypropylene. The blending of fiber types to form the carpet yarn is designed to combine the beneficial characteristics of each fiber, such as the resiliency of nylon and fade resistance of polypropylene.
While these descriptions outline basic characteristics of different fibers, how the fiber is processed and fabricated – the construction – is more of a determining factor of a carpet’s performance potential.