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Choose Your Carpet Wisely
Various fibers and how they are used in carpet dictates how easy the carpet will be to clean (spot cleaning and regular maintenance cleaning), and how long it will last and retain its original texture and color.

As a smart consumer, you should have the same information.
There are four main fiber types in modern, broadloom carpet. They are:

  • Nylon (about 60 percent of market)
  • Olefin (about 30 percent of market)
  • Polyester (about 10 percent of market)
  • Wool (less than 1 percent of market)

What this Means for You
Shopping for carpet is an important adventure. The price for quality products dictates you do your research before entering the domain of a carpet retailer.

Most carpet shoppers choose on color and texture. Those are important decisions, but you need to expand your qualifiers.

Think about how a carpet will withstand the foot traffic and use in any given room in your home.

The following is a breakdown of the positive and negative points of the carpet fibers that make up the carpet you will purchase.

Use this information before your next carpet purchase.
Nylon and Durability: Synthetic Fiber
Nylon is known as a durable fiber. It's a good choice for heavy traffic areas.
Nylon's favorable qualities include:

  • Great resiliency (stands up to traffic)
  • Accepts wide range of colors (limitless colors you can buy)
  • Relatively colorfast (holds onto the colors after dyed by the manufacturer)
  • Easy to clean (with excellent results)
  • Not attracted to oily soils
Nylon's unfavorable qualities include:
  • Easiest of synthetic fibers to stain with typical food and beverage spills, and acid dye spills such as Kool-Aid (fabric protection helps fight this problem)
  • Will lose color in presence of bleach, especially chlorine
With this information, think about where nylon would be a good choice in your home.


It would be a good choice to install nylon in a heavily-used living room, hallway, stairs, etc.

But you might think twice about installing nylon carpet for bathrooms or areas where moisture is a concern, and especially when chlorine bleach might be used, such as a room close to an outdoor swimming pool, as the chlorine can be tracked onto the carpet.

Olefin and Stain Resistancy: Synthetic Fiber
Although olefin does not have the "strength" of nylon and tends to mat down and wear faster, it has some excellent qualities. Olefin's favorable qualities include:

  • Water resistance (including water-based spills and acid dye spills, such as Kool-Aid)
  • Colorfastness (will not lose color because the color in olefin is "locked in" due to solution dyeing at the mill)
  • Chemical resistance (you can use very strong cleaning solutions when cleaning or spotting olefin)
Olefin's unfavorable qualities include:
  • Mats and degrades faster than nylon
  • After cleaning or spot cleaning, tends to "wick" (soils move to the surface as it dries)
  • Attracted to oily soil

Olefin is a good choice in areas where moisture is prevalent, such as in a basement or around a swimming pool.

It's naturally stain resistant, which means it's a good choice when kids and Kool-Aid are in abundance.

But it's a bad choice for areas where oils and greases will be prominent, such as in a room close to a garage or right off a city street or paved parking area. Polyester a Close Third: Synthetic Fiber

Of the three main synthetic fiber types, polyester is in third place, but still holds a healthy 10 percent of market share.

Polyester's favorable qualities include:

  • Good "hand" (soft to touch) – which is why it's often in upholstered goods
  • Colorfast
  • Semi-resistant to bleaches and chemicals
  • Naturally stain resistant
  • Not attracted to acid dyes, such as Kool-Aid
Polyester's unfavorable qualities include:
  • Poor resiliency
  • Attracted to oily soils
  • After cleaning or spot cleaning, tends to wick (soils move to the surface as it dries)
Polyester is a good choice for low-traffic areas (bedrooms, etc), and areas that have spot and stain concerns.

It's not the best choice for heavy traffic lanes, such as hallways, entryways and living rooms.

Because it has a soft hand, it's often chosen due to texture.
Wool, the Warm Textile: Natural Fiber
Although wool holds such a small amount of market share (less than 1 percent), you have to remember that billions of yards of carpet are produced each year.

That means that 1 percent is still a significant number.
Wool's favorable characteristics include:

  • Wears well, long life
  • Accepts wide range of colors
  • "Warm" fiber (gives warmth to the room)
  • Fire and flame resistant
  • Hides soils
  • Repels moisture
Wool's unfavorable characteristics include:
  • Price (expensive fiber)
  • Dissolves in chlorine bleach
  • Some cleaning and stain removal is difficult
  • Does not react well with strong cleaning chemicals, which can hinder some cleaning projects
  • Color loss is a small concern
Wool is obviously a favorite fiber for many, and because of its durability will last many years in a home.

Wool's many positive traits make it a solid choice for most rooms in a home, but the price may inhibit your purchase.
Parting Thoughts
When shopping for a new carpet, be an informed consumer. It's smart to know as much as — or more than — the carpet salesman.