The type of Carpet Fibre you select will determine how long your new carpet lasts, how soft it feels, what colours are available, how easily it cleans and how much it costs. This is one of the most critical factors when choosing and comparing new carpet. You must compare apples to apples. For example, you cannot compare a NYLON carpet to a POLYESTER carpet, or a WOOL carpet to an OLEFIN carpet. This would be like comparing apples to oranges. You have to compare similar carpets and narrow it down to the one that best meets your needs and lifestyle as well as your budget.
Nylon is a generic name or designation for a family of synthetic polymers first produced in 1935 by the DuPont Company. As far as fibres go, Nylon is the most durable and the most resilient of all carpet fibres. A resilient fibre is defined as having the ability to return to its original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched. Nylon is the most resilient fibre used to make carpet. This is what keeps a nylon carpet looking like new longer than any other fibre. Nylon is one of the more expensive fibres second only to wool. I would consider choosing a Nylon carpet if you have a lot of traffic and longevity was my biggest concern.
"Do the "softer" nylons hold up as well as the "regular" nylon fibres do?"
This is an excellent question. From my experience, I have found that the "soft" nylon fibres are not quite as resilient as a standard denier nylon fibre. The higher the denier, the heavier the filament. The way they make a standard nylon fibre softer is to make the strand thinner. By doing so, I believe that some of the resiliency is lost. This thinner strand creates a carpet that is softer to the touch but may be more susceptible to matting and crushing. Don't take this the wrong way, I'm not steering you away from buying a soft nylon, but if you want to have the absolute most durable and most resilient nylon for the money, I suggest you buy a carpet made with a standard nylon denier fibre.
What is fibre denier?
Fibre denier is easiest understood if you have ever gone fishing and used a nylon filament fishing line. The thicker the line is, the stronger it is. When fishing for Trout most fishermen use a thin 6-pound test line. For bigger fish like Steelhead or Salmon, a thicker 10 or 12-pound nylon test line may be selected. Some carpet fibres are manufactured thinner to make a carpet that feels softer to the touch, but in doing so some of the strength, durability or resiliency may be sacrificed. Therefore I believe a carpet made with a standard Denier Nylon fibre will be more durable and more resilient than a carpet made with a thinner strand as used in today's branded "Soft Nylons
SmartStrand Forever Clean
If you want a carpet that is durable, soft and resist stains, SmartStrand Forever Clean may be the fibre you are looking for. SmartStrand Forever Clean has permanent stain resistance that is engineered into the fibre and will never wear or wash off. But remember, no carpet is completely stain proof.
SmartStrand Forever Clean derives from Triexta or PTT and was developed by DuPont™. It is a polymer derived from corn. It is said to have the best anti-stain properties and cleans easier than any other fibre. They also say it is very durable. SmartStrand Forever Clean is clearly more durable than PET or Polyester, but is it as durable as Nylon? I do believe that SmartStrand Forever Clean resists stains and cleans easier than Nylon, but the durability and resiliency of Nylon is hard to beat. Either way, SmartStrand Forever Clean may be the fibre you need for your busy home and lifestyle.
Triexta is not a new fibre, it was invented back in the 1940's and was deemed too expensive to manufacture at that time to be able to compete with other carpet fibres like Nylon. Carpet prices have increased enough over the past 10 years to allow SmartStrand Forever Clean to be manufactured at a comparable cost.
Polyester or PET Polyester
Polyester is one of the least expensive fibres to manufacture. A thick polyester carpet may feel nice and soft, but it is not a resilient fibre, and it does not a make a long-lasting carpet. Polyester carpets mat down in a hurry, and that has always been the problem with carpets made from this fibre. When you walk on a carpet, with every footstep you bend and compress the fibres and soon they begin to fall over. Once polyester fibres are crushed, they won't spring back to their original position. This is why warranties for polyester carpets do not cover claims against matting or crushing.
Don’t be fooled by salespeople who recommend carpets made with polyester. It may be acceptable to buy a carpet made with polyester as long as you know what to expect and don’t pay a lot of money for it. I wouldn't expect to get a life span of more than 5 years on a polyester carpet, regardless of its tuft twist, density rating or warranty claims. I might consider choosing a carpet made of polyester if I wanted to spend as little as possible on a carpet that looks nice for a very short amount of time.
Some carpets are made with a blend of polyester and nylon. Usually a small amount of nylon is added to the mix. They do this to try to make a polyester carpet a little bit more resilient and durable. While this may have a benefit in some situations, I personally do not believe it makes a worthwhile or more valuable product. It's like putting a Mercedes hood ornament on a Ford Fiesta. It doesn't make much sense to me. But carpet makers have long tried to come up with a way to make polyester more durable because it is so cheap to make.
Olefin (also called polypropylene)
Olefin is a very strong fibre. It is often used to make Berber carpets, commercial carpets and outdoor grass carpets. Olefin wears well and has good stain resistance when anti-stain treatment is applied. Olefin also has good anti-static properties. However, Olefin is not easy to keep clean and tends to look dingy when soiled. It has poor resiliency so smaller looped Berber styles wear better than do larger looped styles.
Commercial looped carpets wear very well, as the loops tend to be very small which leaves little room for the loops to become matted or crushed. Wheelchairs roll easily over commercial level loop Olefin carpets that are glued-down without padding and may be a good choice for handicapped areas, hospitals and retirement home applications. When comparing Berber carpets made of Olefin smaller loops, in a tighter weave will yield a longer wearing carpet.
Wool and Wool Blends
Some carpets are offered with a blend of nylon and wool in varying amounts. Usually I see 20% nylon and 80% wool. This gives wool some of the characteristics of nylon like increased resiliency and durability as well as lower cost. This can be a very good blend to consider having.
Wool carpets are considered the most elite of fibres and are the most expensive of all carpet fibres. Wool is a natural fibre and is very soft. It has excellent insulating qualities and is naturally fire resistant. However, wool carpets must be professionally cleaned by specialized carpet cleaning methods and is more expensive to maintain and install than synthetic carpet styles.
Comparing wool carpets based on price and quality can be more difficult because well known brand names can increase the cost dramatically and the quality may be more difficult to determine. If you can afford wool carpets it would be an excellent choice for most people. However, children and pets can be very hard on any carpet so careful consideration should be taken if you have small children or pets prone to having accidents.
Disclaimer: This column is offered as advice only. All care has been taken to ensure that information is correct at time of publishing.