Carpet fiber can be made from a variety of materials, each with its own distinct characteristics. Some types of carpeting are harder to care for than others, and each type of fiber has advantages and disadvantages. The most common types of fiber can be broken down into three categories: animal fibers, synthetic fibers and natural fibers.
Wool is an animal fiber, and this type of carpet’s advantage is its natural resilience and resistance to wear and tear. A wool carpet is considered more desirable by many homeowners than its synthetic counterparts. As a safety feature, wool fibers are naturally self-extinguishing, meaning that once they are removed from flame, they cease to burn. Wool is also considered a renewable resource, which is an added bonus for ecologically conscious homeowners.
Wool is often more costly, and depending upon the treatment the carpet has received, it can be harder to clean. Due to the nature of the fibers, wool carpet absorbs moisture, which can act as a temperature and humidity controller. On the other hand, it also will soak up stains easily. For this reason, many people who choose wool carpet fibers choose a style with a low pile, or length of fiber. This can cut down on stain absorbency and allow for easier home cleaning.
Synthetic carpet fibers do not easily absorb stains and are generally cheaper to install and clean. Olefin, polyester and nylon are the most common types of synthetic fibers. Nylon carpet is considered the most desirable synthetic carpet fiber with better resiliency, less shedding and lower cost. An olefin, or polypropylene, carpet is generally considered the second most desirable among consumers due to superior stain-repellent properties and resistance to fading.
Polyester offers excellent resistance to mildew and insect damage, and it’s easy to clean. Polyester carpet fiber is hypoallergenic, and like olefin, it resists fading. Unlike the other two synthetic options, polyester is not resilient and may flatten out and show wear in high traffic areas. Polyester carpet may be made from recycled materials, which is a draw for consumers looking for affordability and ecologically friendly carpeting choices.
Unlike wool, synthetic carpet fiber burns and melts easily. The color choices are limited because of the way synthetic fibers are manufactured. Many people also report that the texture of synthetic carpet is undesirable and not as lush as that of wool. Synthetic fiber does not retain moisture, but repels it, leading to poor temperature control in some instances.
There are also natural fibers, such as cotton and hemp. These are usually considered the best options for carpets that can be removed, such as area rugs and mats, due to their poor stain resistance. While some people choose to use these fibers as their main carpet, it can be costly.