Pile fiber represents greater than 80% of the cost of most residential carpet; therefore differences in price between carpet styles usually can be attributed to differences in fiber. |
Synthetic fibers make up more than 99% of the fiber used by the U.S. carpet industry. Each fiber has strengths and weaknesses that must be recognized and should influence how it is to be used and constructed. Some fibers have very low resiliency and only should be manufactured in high-density loop pile constructions to limit crushing or pile flattening.
Other fibers have the tendency to absorb oily soils and other oil-based compounds including body oils and should be carefully considered before installing in areas subject to these contaminants. It should be emphasized that there is no perfect fiber and carpet is a fabric that is subjected to incredible abuse through foot traffic, accidental spills, environmental contaminants, and other abuses. 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, 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. Polypropylene
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. 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. However it has poor resiliency, which can lead to crushing. Color selection is 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 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 its more widely used for its durability and appearance. Since its dyed before it's made into a fiber, olefin is extremely colorfast. 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. 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.
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