Carpet Fiber Types

 

Nylon

Nylon is utilized in approximately 65% of the carpet sold in the U.S. It is a very durable fiber with excellent performance characteristics. Its strengths include good resiliency, good yarn memory to hold twist ("Spring Back"), good carpet cleaning efficacy, 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. Continuous filament fibers minimize pilling and shedding.

There are two basic types of nylon (type 6 and type 6,6) and each provides different performance characteristics. For many years, type 6,6 has been considered to be the premium nylon fiber, but technological advances in dyeing and twisting processes have narrowed the gap between the two. However, type 6,6 remains the premium nylon fiber used today. If you are looking for value goods, type 6 nylon fibers offer a considerable benefit for the money. Nylon fibers also can be branded or unbranded. For example, DuPont nylon (type 6,6) is manufactured by DuPont and is a premium fiber. Many fibers that do not carry a brand name may be extruded by the carpet manufacturer (typically type 6) and can be considered value goods. Branded fibers traditionally cost more than value goods. This can be attributed to a number of factors including the shape of the fiber (soil hiding), topical treatments (stain inhibitors), minimum construction requirements (twist level, pile weight), and consistency of fiber quality. However, you should not base your purchase decision solely on branded vs. unbranded or type 6 vs. 6,6. Because of lower cost for the fiber, an unbranded type 6 fiber may be able to provide better construction attributes for the same dollar amount.

 

Polyester

Polyester fiber produces some of the most beautiful colorations available. It also is extremely fade resistant and provides excellent resistance to stains. However, like olefin, it does have poor resilient properties and thus is susceptible to crushing, matting and packing. Polyester fabrics are generally sold in heavy face weights with high-density construction. Avoid high pile heights with low-density construction. These products tend to flatten and "ugly" out. Also look for high twist levels rather than "blown" yarns. Loose twists (blown yarn) tend to untwist and the yarn tips tend to fuse together creating a matted appearance. Most consumers like to dig their fingers into the carpet pile and if it provides a luxurious feel (hand) they believe this is excellent quality. This is referred to as "perceived" quality. True quality exists when it is difficult to insert your fingers into the pile. This is a true test for all carpet constructions, but it is a necessity for polyester fibers. 

Polyester is manufactured as a staple fiber only. While it is not as durable as nylon, heavy face weights (40 oz. +) with a good twist and a low profile prove to be somewhat durable and resist wear. Polyester offers a wide selection of textures and colors. It is non-allergenic, sheds moisture and resists moths and mildew. While it's susceptible to piling, shedding and oil-based stains, it otherwise cleans fairly easily and is enhanced by stain treatments. Some polyester fibers (P.E.T.) are recycled from plastic pop bottles.  If environmental concerns are a major issue for you, ask for P.E.T. polyester fibers that have been reclaimed from post consumer use products.

 

Polypropylene (Olefin)

Polypropylene, also called olefin, is the fastest growing fiber segment in use today. It is a relatively inexpensive fiber, which is easily extruded by most carpet manufacturers. There are very few, true branded olefins available other than those brands registered by carpet manufacturers. Olefin makes up about 30% of the fiber used in U.S. carpet manufacturing today. The advantages of polypropylene include superior stain resistance, with the exception of oil-based stains, and low cost. Like polyesters, polypropylenes have an affinity for oil. The fibers will soak up oil from your socks, skin and from the paws of a dog and/or cat. What happens when fabrics get oily? They get dirty faster and they tend to hold onto that oil.

 

Polypropylene is a bulk continuous filament solution-dyed product, which means color is added during extrusion in its molten state rather than topically applied. Because of the dye method, it has superior resistance to bleaches and sunlight fading. However it has poor resiliency, which can lead to crushing or piling. Color selection is also limited due to its dye method. It has poor abrasion resistance and its low melt point can cause fibers to fuse if furniture or other objects are dragged across its surface. Olefins do 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, piling, shedding and static, all for lower cost than nylon.

The description is not intended to scare you away from olefin, because if constructed properly, olefins provide an excellent value and decent performance. Olefin would not work well in a busy airport or a school environment, but will perform well in a busy family room. Steer clear of big loop Berber with low density and never consider any cut pile olefin for residential use. These constructions typically fail with any fiber system, but olefin is especially susceptible to pile crush in these constructions. 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.