Differences between carpet fibres

This is a very comment question that I receive by clients. Here are some explanations about the fibre types.

Nylon

It is a very durable fiber with excellent performance characteristics. Its strengths include good resiliency, good yarn memory to hold twist, good carpet cleaning efficacy, and good stain resistance with stain treatment applied, good soil hiding ability, and good abrasion resistance. Nylon is manufactured in both BCF and staple fiber. It is the strongest fiber, making it an excellent choice for the heavy traffic of an active household or commercial facility. It’s also the most durable of the synthetics. It is soil and mildew resistant and resilient, but is prone to static. Most nylon is treated with an anti-static treatment to reduce static. Bulk Continuous Filament (BCF) fibers minimize pilling and shedding.

Polypropylene (Widely known as Olfein)

Polypropylene, also called olefin, is the fastest growing fiber segment today. It is a relatively inexpensive fiber, which is easily extruded by most carpet manufacturers. Olefin makes up about 30 % of the fiber used in North America carpet manufacturing today. Its strengths include superior stain resistance, with the exception of oil-based stains, and low cost. It is a solution-dyed product, which means color is added during extrusion in its molten state rather than topically applied. (Imagine a carrot vs. a radish). Because of this dye method it has superior resistance to bleaches and sunlight fading. Color selection is limited due to its dye method. Olefins clean very well and most staining is non-existent. Olefin was originally favored for outdoor carpeting and basements due to its resistance to moisture, mildew, water damage, staining, pilling, shedding and static all for lower cost than nylon. Now it’s more widely used for its durability and appearance. Since it’s dyed before it’s made into a fiber, olefin is extremely colorfast.

A properly constructed olefin will outperform a similarly constructed nylon product because of its inherent stain and fade resistance, but a poorly constructed olefin will ultimately lead to dissatisfaction.

Polyester

Polyester fiber produces some of the most beautiful colorations available. It also is extremely fade resistant and provides excellent resistance to stains. Polyester fibres are generally sold in heavy face weights with high-density construction.

Polyester is not as durable as nylon, it’s quite durable and resists wear. Polyester offers a wide selection of textures and colors. It is non-allergenic, sheds moisture and resists moths and mildew at a lower cost than wool or nylon. While it’s susceptible to pilling, shedding and oil-based stains, it otherwise cleans fairly easily and is enhanced by stain treatments. Some polyester fibers are recycled from plastic pop bottles, so if environmental concerns are a major issue for you, ask for polyester fibers that have been reclaimed from post consumer use products.

Wool

This traditional favourite offers a deep, rich look and feel. Wool remains the premier fiber in carpet construction, but it’s price is out of reach of most consumers. It has excellent resilience and durability, but is very expensive, often twice as much per yard as nylon. Other synthetic fibers have done an excellent job of duplicating the characteristics of wool, although none can duplicate all of these characteristics. Wool cleans especially well, provides beautiful colors, and has good resiliency, but special care should be used in cleaning wool carpet. Unfortunately, wool tends to “wear down” or the pile tends to wear away. In some cases bald spots may occur as a result heavy traffic loads. Wool is naturally a staple fiber. Although it is naturally stain resistant, it requires a high level of maintenance including mothproofing. Most wool products manufactured in North America have been permanently mothproofed. While it’s still extremely popular for rugs, it accounts for less than 1% of the fiber used in carpet.

Since wool can hold 10 times its weight in moisture, it is susceptible to shrinking and mold and mildew growth.

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