"How To Choose New Carpet Like a Pro"
Carpet Fiber and Durability Explained
When most homeowners think about shopping for new carpet, three things quickly come to mind...
1. The condition of your old carpet.
2. The cost of new carpet, pad and installation and...
3. The color and style of the carpet you want to buy.
However, the first thing homeowners need to consider before shopping for new carpet should be: "What type of fiber do I need to choose"
When you enter any carpet store the first thing you need to say is.. "I would like to see carpet styles you have that are made of ________" (enter the fiber of your choice).
You Have Five Basic Fiber Options.
Each one has its good and not-so-good qualities.
Choosing the Right Fiber
The type of Carpet Fiber you choose will determine how long your new carpet lasts, how soft it feels, what colors 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 meeting your budget.
Branded Carpet Style / Fiber ID Chart
This is my branded carpet style fiber identification chart. Wonder what fiber these popular branded carpet styles are made from? They don't make it easy to find out. I had to search high and low to uncover all the facts. I also reveal what stain treatment is applied.
Not all carpet samples identify the fiber they are made from. Even the salesperson might not have the answers you need. Print this and take it with you while you shop.
Click on the chart to view larger size.
Everyone in the carpet business knows polyester is not a resilient fiber.
Carpet made from Polyester or PET polyester will mat down quickly in moderate to heavy foot traffic areas of your home. This is especially true with main traffic lanes, hallways and stairs.
Extruding the Polyester fiber thinner or beefing it up to make it thicker will not change the fact that it is not a resilient fiber.
Nylon is the most durable and the most resilient fiber and therefore does not mat down so easily. It is usually the best choice for moderate to heavy foot-traffic applications. There are several other fibers to choose from, but every fiber has their good and not-so-good qualities.
Carpet Fiber Quackery?
Carpet manufacturers and fiber makers are constantly trying to convince consumers that their newest carpet style is made from a new and improved carpet fiber. This has been a common practice with the Polyester fiber since the 1950's.
Don't believe everything you hear about any newfangled carpet fiber or new manufacturing process they claim makes an old fiber better today than it was in years past.
"If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck."
These slightly modified fibers are often marketed under fancy new style names. They are still made with the same old fiber with the same inherent limitations the fiber has always had.
I have found a considerable amount of deception in the carpet business over the years.
In creating my Carpet Fiber ID Chart, it has been challenging to uncover what fiber many branded carpet styles are made from.
I have no problem with manufacturers naming their new carpet styles any way they want, but consumers still deserve to know exactly what fiber the carpet is made from.
Regardless of what style name they use, the type of fiber should be plainly shown on the carpet sample. Since it is often not shown, feel free to use my Carpet Fiber ID Chart above.
Nylon Carpet Fibers
Nylon is a generic name or designation for a family of synthetic polymers first produced in 1935 by the Dupont Company.
As far as fibers go, Nylon is the most durable and the most resilient of all carpet fibers. A resilient fiber 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 fiber used to make carpet. This is what keeps a nylon carpet looking like new longer than any other fiber. Nylon is one of the more expensive fibers second only to wool.
I would consider choosing a Nylon carpet if you have a lot of foot traffic and longevity was my biggest concern.
Nylon is a synthetic fiber that outperforms all other fibers. It wears exceptionally well, is very resilient, resists abrasion, resists stains and is easy to clean. Carpets made of nylon tend to look like-new longer than any other fiber.
Nylon comes in virtually all styles and colors. What more can you ask for? Nylon is the best wearing, most durable fiber available. Insist on a Carpet made of Nylon to reap these benefits over all other available fibers:
There are two types of Nylon fiber. One is referred to as Type 6 and is made by Anso® and the other is Type 6,6 also known as Stainmaster®, made by Antron®.
Personally I prefer the Antron® 6,6 Nylon and think it is a better fiber, but how much better? Not so much that I would pay a lot more to get it. However if all specifications and price were about equal then I would certainly opt for Antron® 6,6.
The Stainmaster® brand is popular because of the millions spent in advertising since 1986. However, any brand of carpet made with the Antron® 6,6 nylon fiber has the exact same qualities and benefits as a Stainmaster branded nylon carpet. It is the exact same fiber.
Sorona® - PTT / Triexta
(aka Smartstrand® by Mohawk™)
If you want a carpet that is durable, soft and resist stains, Sorona® may be the fiber you are looking for. Sorona has permanent stain resistance that is engineered into the fiber and will never wear or wash off. But remember, no carpet is completely stain proof.
Sorona, also known as Triexta or PTT 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 fiber. They also say it is very durable.
Sorona™ is clearly more durable than PET or Polyester, but is it as durable as Nylon? I do believe that Sorona resists stains and cleans easier than Nylon, but the durability and resiliency of Nylon is hard to beat.
Either way, Sorona may be the fiber you need for your home and stain resistance is your main concern. Bear in mind, I would not suggest this fiber for those with heavy foot- traffic applications, especially if you expect your new carpet to last more than 10 years.
Sorona® and Smartstrand®
My Latest Thoughts Regarding Sorona?
Q. Sorona has been around for many years now, do you think it is as good as they claim it is?
What I have come to believe at this point is that Sorona IS a durable fiber, it also cleans easily and resists stains a little better than a Nylon.
It is imperative that you choose the right quality or grade in order to be satisfied with the overall performance.
This is true with any carpet no matter what fiber it is made of. This means having enough face-weight, pile density and adequate tuft-twist to meet or exceed your needs, goals and lifestyle.
It is also important to keep the pile height below
3/4 of an inch or risk potential matting and crushing of the pile in medium to
heavy traffic areas. (stairs and hallways)
That's why I created a
free and simple Carpet
Traffic Test so folks would have some idea about where they
stand and what grade of carpet to consider buying.
Polyester or P.E.T.
Polyester is well-known as a soft fiber and is one of the least expensive synthetic fibers to manufacture.
P.E.T. stands for Polyethylene terephthalate. It is made from recycled plastic bottles. PET fibers are naturally stain-resistant, retains its color and resists fading.
Carpets made from polyester tend to mat down in a hurry, and that has always been the main problem with this fiber. It is best suited for low foot-traffic applications.
When you walk on a carpet, with every footstep you bend and compress the fibers and soon they begin to fall over. Once polyester fibers 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 polyester. It may be acceptable to choose a carpet made from 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. How much does carpet cost?
Carpet Fiber Blends
Some carpets are made with a blend of Polyester and Nylon fibers. 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 slightly more durable.
While this may have a benefit to consumers 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 carpet made from Polyester more durable because it is so cheap to manufacture.
Olefin Carpet Fibers (aka Polypropylene)
Olefin is a very strong synthetic fiber. 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.
When comparing Berber carpets made of Olefin, smaller loops with a tighter weave will yield a more durable carpet. Learn more How to Choose Berber Carpet Wisely
Commercial Grade Carpet
Commercial Level-Loop Carpet made from Olefin (polypropylene) are very durable. It's because the loops tend to be small and are densely packed. This leaves less chance for the pile to become matted or crushed.
Wheelchairs roll easily over commercial cut-pile carpet that is glued-down without padding. This is a great choice for hospitals and retirement home applications.
Wool and Wool Blend Carpet Fibers
Wool is a natural fiber and should not be compared to a synthetic fiber. 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 in your home.
Wool carpets are considered the most elite of fibers and are the most expensive of all carpet fibers. Wool is a natural fiber 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 carpet it would be an excellent choice for most homes. However, active children and pets can ruin any carpet, so choosing wool might not be the best choice.
Stainmaster® Brand Update 2022
The Stainmaster brand name was recently purchased by Lowe's. From now on, the only way to purchase carpet with the Stainmaster® brand name is to buy it at Lowe's or one of their outlets.
However, the same nylon fiber known as type 6,6 is still available at other retailers under a different brand name.
You can buy carpet made with Antron's nylon 6,6 at most local carpet stores and still enjoy all the same benefits without having to pay extra for the Stainmaster® brand. This is good news for homeowners.
You don't have to shop for nylon 6,6 carpet at Lowe's just because they own the Stainmaster® brand name. Take my free Carpet Foot-Traffic Test to help determine what grade of carpet you need for your home.
Q. Does branded "Soft Nylons" hold up as well as a regular (non-soft) Nylon fibers?
The higher the denier, the heavier the filament. The way they make a standard nylon fiber 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.
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, I suggest you buy carpet made with a standard denier nylon fiber.
What is Fiber Denier?
Denier is the measurement of the strand diameter. Fiber denier is easily understood for those who gone fishing and used a nylon filament fishing line. The thicker the line is, the stronger it is.
When fishing for Trout, fishermen may use a thin 4-pound test line. For bigger fish like Steelhead or Salmon, a thicker 6, 8 or 10-pound nylon test line may be used.
Some carpet fibers are purposely 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.
A carpet made with a standard (heavier) Denier Nylon fiber will be more durable and more resilient than a carpet made from a thinner strand as is commonly used in today's branded "Soft Nylons".
What Does "Branded" Mean?
A branded product is one made by a well-advertised or well-known maker with label or name attached to it. When it comes to carpet, a specific type of product can be branded and advertised and marketed to attract consumers. Mohawk and Shaw are branded names as is Coca Cola and Pepsi.
Soft nylon styles have been branded under certain names and advertised to market the product to consumers who are interested in having a carpet with soft qualities similar to those made from a carpet made from wool, but not as costly.
The price for "branded" products are more costly because of their marketing costs and popularity of certain characteristics.
What Does B.C.F. Mean?
Bulked Continuous Filament
Q. I am confused about carpet specifications. I see these initials on the back of some carpet samples but not others? What does BCF mean?
A. BCF stands for Bulked Continuous Filament. You might want to buy a carpet made from a Continuous Filament fiber if you hate vacuuming. Why do some carpets shed and fuzz?
The word "Bulked" refers to a process where the manufacturer makes the strand of fiber beefed up, or bulked to create a fatter and more beefy feel. Think of it like using a volumizer on your hair. It makes it feel thicker and fuller.
The "CF" or Continuous Filament, means the strand is formed in one long strand. When they make carpet from a CF fiber is virtually eliminates the shedding and fuzzing that you experience with carpet made from a Staple Fiber.
What is a Carpet Staple Fiber?
A "staple fiber" is short lengths of fiber strand, usually 3 to 10 inches long, that are spun (twisted) together to form a strand. Then several strands are grouped together to form a tuft. All Wool carpets are made from staple fibers due to the nature of the fiber.
When carpet is made from a staple fiber, the carpet will shed and fuzz for up to a year after installation.
Every time you vacuum, your vacuum bag will fill with loose carpet fuzz. This is to be expected.
If you select a carpet made from a continuous strand, (BCF) you will not have serious shedding or fuzzing issues.
Learn more: Carpet Shedding and Fuzzing
What is a Continuous Filament Fiber?
BCF, CF, or CFN?
Continuous filament is a synthetic polymer that is melted and then extruded through a nozzle in one long never-ending strand. They do the same type of procedure to make spaghetti.
If the Carpet Sample does not indicate that the fiber is made from a Bulked Continuous Filament strand (BCF), then you should assume that the carpet pile is made from staple fibers and therefore will shed and fuzz for a period of time after installation.
The amount and duration of shedding and fuzzing is determined by the quality of the carpet and the length of the staple fibers used in construction. There is no way to know for sure how long a carpet will shed and fuzz in your home.
"Unless you like vacuuming three times a day, and filling up your vacuum bag with loose fuzz,
then I suggest you buy a carpet made from a Continuous Filament."
Some Carpet Samples might use the abbreviation of CF, for Continuous Filament, or CFN for Continuous Filament Nylon.
If a carpet sample is simply marked "100% Nylon" you should assume it is NOT a "Continuous Filament" fiber.
Carpet Fiber Specifications
Carpet Specifications and Carpet Durability
Dupont™ and Sorona® are a trademark and a registered trademark of E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company.