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What is Acrylic Carpet?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Acrylic is a manmade substance, similar in appearance and feel to wool. A plastic fiber made from acrylonitrile, acrylic became a substitute for wool in a number of carpets after the 1950s. The acrylic carpet had some advantages. It was less expensive than wool, resistant to mold and mildew, easy to dye in bright colors, fast drying, and fairly stain resistant.

Companies that first developed acrylic, like DuPont, quickly made profits on acrylic carpet. However certain characteristics of the carpet meant it didn’t stay popular for long as a first choice fiber. The biggest complaint about acrylic carpet is that it tends to wear out quickly. So though it may be a less expensive fiber to use, it isn’t the best when compared to some of the other manmade fibers used for carpets today. The main manufacturer of acrylic, DuPont, did cease manufacturing the fiber in 1991.

While you can find some acrylic carpet types on the market, sinking popularity tends to be due to one factor. The carpet simply will not hold up in high traffic areas. Since people often use carpet for rooms that are in high use, carpets made from acrylic are not a good first choice. Also though acrylic carpet may be ideally suited for things like bathrooms because it dries quickly and is resistant to molds, many people prefer to use the same type of carpet in most of their home.

What you can find, for pretty low prices, is a variety of acrylic rugs, and these may be ideally suited and inexpensive for low traffic areas or places like the bathroom. With a look and feel similar to wool, they are usually a fraction of the price, and washable. Though high traffic areas may damage acrylic fibers, washing machines tend not to destroy or crush the shape of them, so small area rugs may be easy to keep clean, and fairly inexpensive to replace. A big expense in any type of carpeting is installation, but the advantage of area rugs is that you don’t have to pay someone else to install them.

Also, if you’d like to carpet a room that gets little use, such as a spare bedroom, acrylic carpet may be a good choice. There are still acrylic carpets on the market. They do, however, represent a much smaller share of the total carpets produced.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon312316 — On Jan 06, 2013

Maybe it's the way some carpets are made, but we had acrylic plush carpet in a rental that lasted over 17 years and was still not worn when we replaced it due to cigarette burns.

By matthewc23 — On May 27, 2012

@Emilski - I think it is still common to find acrylic carpet. Like the article says, it's good for low traffic areas. What is more common nowadays is nylon and polyester carpet. I believe polyester is similar to acrylic in terms of stain and wear resistance.

From my experience, nylon is by far the most common carpeting material. It lasts an extremely long time. It is also very resistant to stains, especially considering the different types of stainproofing techniques they have today.

Stainmaster is a type of highly resistant nylong carpet. It is what we have in our home, and my husband and I really like it. There are no signs of wear, and any spills are very easy to clean up.

By Emilski — On May 26, 2012

So maybe this is a silly question, but if acrylic carpet isn't a good choice, what is there that is better?

We are looking to replace the carpet in our home here in a couple of months, and I'm trying to see what all is available. The article mentioned that acrylic wasn't commonly sold now, but it seems like what I am mostly finding is acrylic. Are there different kinds of acrylic, maybe?

I have also read a lot about the stainproof carpets that are around now. Has anyone ever used these, and how do they work?

By Izzy78 — On May 26, 2012

@stl156 - I think you also started to bring up another aspect of the difference. I find that the actual style of carpet, not just the quality also plays a role.

In one house we had, we got the normal carpet and found that it wore out a little quicker than we had anticipated. After that, berber carpet was in style, so we got that. Because of the lower pile, it didn't seem to show wear as quickly. We also really like it because it didn't soak up spills quickly, so it made it easier to clean.

We still have the berber carpet after 10 years. It's almost at the point where giving it a good shampooing doesn't get the dirt out, but I think that's a little over the average life of a carpet.

By stl156 — On May 25, 2012

I think a lot of the complaints against acrylic also depend on the exact kind of carpeting. For one, if you buy cheap carpet, you shouldn't expect it to last as long as the stuff that costs twice as much.

Until just recently, we had acrylic carpet in every house we had owned. Even with kids and dogs running around, the carpet didn't get worn out. You could say there were "paths" that formed in the high traffic areas, but that was mostly just the carpet getting tramped down, not necessarily worn.

The biggest issue we had with the acrylic was that it seemed to stain easily. Interestingly, that's supposed to be one of the advantages of acrylic.

By KaBoom — On May 24, 2012

One big difference between wool and acrylic carpet is the fact that acrylic is very flammable. It also tends to smolder, increasing the possibility of someone getting burned.

On the other hand, wool is somewhat flame retardant. It tends to not burn much, and sometimes even extinguishes the fire.

Also, I don't think wool is very susceptible to mold either, although I could be wrong. Either way, I would still prefer wool carpet over acrylic.

By Monika — On May 24, 2012

@starrynight - That is interesting. Maybe yarn manufacturers know something that carpet manufacturers don't! Because I can definitely vouch for the fact that acrylic carpet doesn't last long.

My grandmother used to have acrylic carpet in her house, and after a few years, it looked just awful. I think she originally got it to save money and because she liked the brighter colors, but in the end she regretted it.

She ended up paying to get the whole house replaced with wool carpets! I think in the end, she spent more money than if she had just gotten wool carpet in the first place.

By starrynight — On May 23, 2012

I'm a bit surprised that acrylic residential carpet doesn't hold up well. I'm a knitter, and I used a variety of fibers when I knit, so I've had some experience with acrylic yarn.

Acrylic yarn tends to hold up very well. I know people who have acrylic afghans that were made for them in the 1970's that still look new after being washed many times! So I think it's very interesting acrylic carpet doesn't wear the same way.

However, I suppose a blanket and a carpet get different kinds of use.

By anon73025 — On Mar 25, 2010

then you shouldn't have bought it in the first place.

By dilu10 — On Dec 05, 2008

I have a acrylic Belgium carpet & it looks very dusty & stained. kindly help me to know how to clean it in home.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor,...
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