Carpet Fiber 101

We get a lot of people asking which type of carpet is best when it comes to life span (wear) and maintenance (cleaning). Most of the time we recommend a cut pile nylon blend because in our 15 years of cleaning it seems to wear the least and clean up the best. But what are the different types of carpets? Roughly 90% of today’s carpet is made of synthetic fibers: nylon, polyester, triexta, or polypropylene. Even though these different types of fiber have very different characteristics, they are all made pretty much the same way. There are also natural fibers like wool and sisal, which are also similarly made.

To understand wear and maintenance we have to go a little deeper. Carpet fiber is like sewing thread and is bundled together, twisted into a yarn and then heat set to lock the carpet fiber’s shape(like a curling iron on hair). Once the fiber is shaped it is then woven into a backing (called the primary backing)and cut or looped depending on which style of carpet is being manufactured (like a “frieze” or “berber”, I’ll write another blog soon on the different styles of carpet). A second layer of backing is then applied to the first usually with latex glue to hold it all together.

So what does all of this mean? Different fiber types wear and clean up differently. Polyester, polyproylene and triexta seem to wear or “crush and matte” much faster than nylon. Once the fibers are damaged, they no longer return to an upright “fluffy” position and wont protect the backing, which can result in further issues. As for cleaning, they also seem to not clean up as well. Too much heat/steam during the cleaning process usually weakens and un-twists the fibers along with breaking down the latex glue holding the carpet together. Nylon is more durable and holds its shape much better against wear, however the same rules apply when it comes to too much heat/steam being used during the cleaning process. Natural fibers tend to be similar to nylon in both wear and cleaning characteristics but carry a much higher retail price.

Regardless of which carpet you decide to go with there are a few rules to follow. Vacuum a few times a week and have your carpets professionally cleaned using a true low moisture process once a year and you will greatly increase the life and appearance of your carpet.

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