Wool, nylon, olefin, sisal... Level loop, plush, Saxony, Berber, matting, crushing, staining, soiling, etc…
What Does It All Mean?
How can you choose when there are soooo many choices? Let us help you cut through the confusion and understand what all these terms mean to carpet shoppers.
We'd like to guide you through the different fibers, styles and grades of carpet so when you're ready to hit the stores, you'll be confident in choosing what you really want and need.
Evaluate Your Needs
The first things to consider in choosing carpeting relate to you and your home. You need to ask yourself the following questions. What is the room you wish to carpet used for? What is your lifestyle? What look do you want? And, of course, what is your carpet budget?
When you consider the use of the traffic room, think about how much traffic it gets, whether it is an area where food will be served, and whether you will be sitting or lying on the carpet, or just walking across it to get to somewhere else. Another consideration is whether there is direct access from outside into the room. If so, the carpet will be exposed to more soil than in a room with no direct outside access. You should also consider whether the room receives direct sunlight, which would make fade resistance important.
Your lifestyle is an important consideration. If you like to eat in front of the television or have pets or small children, you may value a stain resistant carpet more than someone else. If you frequently have guests, you may want to put more durable carpet in your entertaining areas.
Matting, Crushing & Stain Resistance
Once you have an idea what your needs are, you can consider the types of carpet available. There are several aspects of carpet performances you will want to keep in mind. The first is how well a carpet resists crushing and matting. A carpet that does not have good resistance to crushing and matting can "ugly out" in a short time. The second aspect of carpet performance is how soil and stain resistant it is. There are different levels of each of these qualities within each fiber type available.
Choice of Fiber
More than anything else, the fiber your carpet is made from will determine its characteristics. There are five basic fibers that are used to make installed carpeting.
The finest carpet fiber is wool. This is the only natural fiber used to make installed carpeting. It is also the most luxurious and the most expensive. Carpets made from wool do an excellent job of resisting matting and crushing. Wool feels soft and warm to the touch and can absorb one third of its weight in water without feeling wet, an important feature in humid Florida. Because wool does not support a flame, it is the only carpet fiber used for elevators, airplanes and other areas where flame retardants are a must.
As with all fibers, there are different quality levels for wool carpet. New Zealand is the world's largest single source of carpet wool traded internationally. One way to find a quality wool carpet is to look for carpet carrying the Wools of New Zealand brand. Carpets bearing this brand, call a "Fernmack" have been put through 20 quality assurance tests. Because of the higher cost of wool carpet, synthetic fibers have become popular as less expensive alternatives.
The most popular carpet fiber is nylon. It is the most resilient of all synthetic carpet fibers, meaning it has the ability to spring back to its original position after it is walked upon. It also wears well, taking longer to develop worn traffic patterns than other synthetic fibers. Because nylon is not inherently soil and stain resistant, manufacturers have found ways to create stain resistance. One way is through applying fluorochemical protectors such as Scotchgard™ or Teflon during manufacturing; these cause the carpet to release soil more easily. Nylon carpets treated in this way are referred to as "fourth generation" carpets.
A newer type of stain resistance first used in 1986 uses nylon treated with dye blockers that act as colorless dyes, preventing staining substances from penetrating the fiber. This "fifth generation" nylon is then treated with the fluorochemical protector after the dye blockers are added. It is the most stain resistant of all nylon fibers, but costs more that untreated nylon or nylon treated with fluorochemical protectors only.
If you buy stain resistant carpet, you should be aware that the use of certain cleaning solutions can remove the dye blockers and void the manufacturer's warranty. To be safe, you should limit your spot removal solutions to the Kidds Quality Cleaning spotting solution that we give you. To be sure that your professional carpet cleaner uses the solutions that do not harm stain resistant nylon, confirm that your cleaner is certified by the International Institute of Cleaning and Restoration Certification. Of course Kidds Quality Cleaning is. We have received extensive training about what solutions can safely be used. Without this special training, cleaners may not know the difference.
Stain resistant nylon carpet costs more, so if your budget is tight, you may want to save it for areas such as dining rooms and children's rooms where you know spills will occur. REMEMBER – carpet can only be made stain RESISTANT. NOT STAIN PROOF. The major carpet manufacturers only warrant that their stain resistant carpets will not be stained by food and drink, not other substances. And then they limit it further by excluding stains made by food and beverages with strongly colored natural dyes (i.e. mustard, herbal teas). They also do not warrant against stains from vomit, urine and feces. While they do not warrant that all of these substances will come out of even their stain resistant carpet, Kidds has found that these carpets release soils better than non treated nylon.
If your carpet sill be in an area where it receives direct sunlight, you need to look for solution dyed nylon. This means the color is added when the nylon is in a liquid state and cannot be removed even by bleach. These carpets resist fading even in bright sunlight.
Another factor that affects quality in nylon carpet is whether it is made from continuous filament or carded nylon. Carpet made from continuous filament is of better quality.
Another popular carpet fiber is olefin also called polypropylene. This fiber has become popular in recent years as a less expensive alternative to nylon. But is has some problems that make it a poor choice for many uses. It has low resilience, so it is prone to matting and crushing, and does not do well as a tufted carpet. It also does not wear nearly as well as nylon fiber carpets, so permanent traffic patterns are more quickly worn in. Also, olefin attracts oily soil, making it a bad choice if you have an asphalt driveway in your parking lot.
One place where olefin is the fiber of choice is for indoor/outdoor carpet installed on a lanai, porch, pool deck etc... Because it is almost always solution dyed, it is extremely colorfast, and not affected by bleaches, acids or alkalis. So you don't have to worry about chlorine from the pool discoloring it. Like solution dyed nylon, it also resists damage from sunlight and mildew.
Polyester is another synthetic carpet fiber that is less expensive then nylon or olefin. It is naturally stain resistant and comes in bright clear colors. However it lacks resilience and is susceptible to abrasion, getting a "fuzzy" look with use. It will develop worn traffic patterns very quickly.
A less commonly used synthetic fiber called acrylic, is also a possible choice. It is naturally stain resistant, feels warm to the touch like wool, and wears better than olefin or polyester, but not as well as nylon. One drawback is that it comes only in medium or dark colors because the fiber naturally has a yellow color that gets darker when exposed to heat or sunlight.
One new fiber that we caution against buying is called Sisal. Made from a plant, sisal has a straw or wicker look to it. The problem, with this fiber is that it cannot be thoroughly cleaned, and even plain water stains it. If you like the look of sisal, try one of the wool or nylon carpets with a pattern designed to look like sisal.
After fiber type, the next important consideration in choosing carpet is style.
First there is LOOP PILE
, where the tips or the tufts are not cut. Level loop carpet (where the loops are the same height) is commonly used in commercial buildings. It is also becoming very popular in the residential market and is a good choice for areas that receive heavy wear, such as family rooms, recreation rooms, or children's play areas. The difference being that it has large, thick loops and a distinctive color pattern.
There are also multi-level loop carpets with loops of different heights that make a pattern in the carpet. This is called a sculpture. Berber comes in sculpted too.
, as the name implies, has the tips of the tufts cut off. There are several types. Plush or velvet cut pile uses yarn that is not twisted or only slightly twisted. This is the most luxurious style in look and feel, but it does not stand up to wear as well as the others. You might want to use it for a master bedroom or formal living room that gets little traffic.
Saxony cut pile uses yarns that are twisted and then heat set. These wear better than velvet styles. There are also textured Saxony carpets that combine fibers with two shades of the same color. These are considered trackless because they look the same from any direction and do not show footprints or vacuum marks. Frieze pile carpet uses yarns which are so tightly twisted that the ends curl up, so the wear is applied to the sides of the yarns rather than the tips. This carpet wears very well and is a good choice for a high traffic area. It also hides footprints fairly well.
Pile Height & Density
Another variable is the length of the pile. Some carpet has very short pile. This is also a good choice if you don't like the look of footprints or have a family member that uses a wheelchair, which can be difficult to maneuver through deep pile. Longer pile carpet might be more desirable in an area such as a den where you plan to sit or lay on the floor, because it feels softer than short pile. Another variable that affects both appearance and matting and crushing is the density of the pile, meaning how close together the tufts are. The closer they are the higher quality the carpet and the more it resists crushing, because the fibers support each other. You can check the density by bending a corner of the carpet back to see how much backing shows. The more backing that shows, the less dense the carpet is. Like density, the face weight of the fibers will affect the carpets performance. Face weight is the number of ounces of fiber in a square yard of carpet. All other things being equal, the higher the face weight of a carpet the better.
– Another factor that affects durability for tufted carpets is the amount of twist in the yarn. The tighter the twist, the more durable the carpet is. While twist is not an important consideration for loop carpet, tuft blind is. That is the strength of the attachment of the yarn loops to the backing of the carpet. The higher the number, the better it is. A carpet that is woven rather than tufted would be stronger in this respect than any tufted carpet because all of the yarns are an integral part of the weave, not attached to a backing.
Now you know some of the basics of fiber, style, twist and density, you can make a more educated decision when you choose your new carpet.
(We're sorry this was so long, but it's important!)