Some working knowledge of the usual suspects of carpet fibers and blends available is critical to your selection process.
It’s like checking the weather before you dress for the day…
The Naturals: Wool is considered to be the best fiber for this application for many reasons. Of all the fibers available for use in carpeting, wool wears the best and has the softest feel. It takes dye well in a wide range of colors. It’s the easiest to clean, because it is, after all, hair. It’s also the most expensive. The fact that a wool carpet wears beautifully and has the longest life makes it an excellent investment. This is one of the main reasons for buying higher quality at a comparable higher price. The cost is amortized over time.
By contrast, the natural fibers such as sisal, sea grass, (and to a lesser degree, jute, coir and abaca too) have been “decorator’s favorites” for some time. Because of their neutral color and uniform texture, they can work well in most décor categories and are considerably less expensive than top quality wool carpeting. However durability ranges only from poor to fair. Furthermore, they are very hard to clean, as the cellulosic fibers absorb liquids rather than repel them as wool does. They’re scratchy to walk on too. The best benefit is that for reasonable cost you can have an attractive neutral floor covering that adds color, texture and subtle pattern and gives you the perfect backdrop to layer your finer area and scatter rugs over.
Mix Masters: Nylon and acrylic mimic wool in some regards, and are the most widely used synthetics to blend with wool. Their addition maximizes the positive characteristics of wool while reducing the cost of the finished rug. To that end, you will most frequently see wool and nylon blends or nylon and acrylic blends. Nylon carpeting as the sole fiber is also a good, lower cost option now that the former problems of static electricity and shine have been modified with new treatments and solutions. As a synthetic fiber, nylon is very durable, strong and resists abrasion and is non-allergenic. It’s available in a wide range of colors and comes pre-treated with stain-guarding chemicals.
Acrylic fibers have some characteristics that resemble wool in look and feel also. It resists soil and holds up to wear, but it doesn’t take color as well as the other fibers mentioned. The pile can be subject to crushing as well. Because acrylic fibers are moderate in price along with their wool-like characteristics, they are a good choice in a blend with nylon. Olefin and polyester are inexpensive synthetics you will find in indoor/outdoor carpets because they are easy to clean and not adverse to water.
Next Time: Carpet Selection #3: What Am I looking At?
(Carpet Selection Four Part Series)
Article Photo: https://pixabay.com/en/photos/carpet/?image_type=photo
Large Article Photo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berber_carpet
The original version of this article was published on Hamptons.com. It’s presented here as a foundation for further topic discussion and updates.