Carpet Fibers 101: Nylon, polypropylene, Wool, Polyester, Triexta

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 10:00 AM

When it comes to carpet, face fiber makes a difference. That's what you walk on and enjoy for comfort underfoot and style, design and color for your eyes. One type of fiber isn't necessarily better. However, depending on what your reason is for adding carpet to a room, you may wind up preferring one over another.

Ready to learn more about carpet fibers?

The Different Types of Carpet Fibers

In this Carpet Fibers 101 article, we'll explore the major types of fibers used in carpet and then review the different types of carpet construction.

Manmade vs. Natural Carpet Fibers

Nylon Carpet Fiber

Polyester (PET)

PTT (Triexta Polyester) Carpet Fibers

Polypropylene or Olefin Carpet Fiber

Wool Carpet

Carpet Construction Basics

Discover Stylish Atelier Magnifique Collection from Stanton Carpet

Discover Stylish Atelier Magnifique Collection from Stanton Carpet

Manmade vs. Natural Carpet Fibers

When you think of the role carpet plays in a home, you realize that it needs to perform in a number of tough conditions:

  • Resist foot traffic, some of it abusive (i.e., pets, shoes, accidents...)
  • Provide style and design to the space
  • Be comfortable underfoot especially if you are barefoot
  • Require minimal maintenance
  • Meet your budget requirements

No surprise, then, that the majority (~97%) of carpets available are made from manmade or synthetic fibers such as nylon, polyester, Triexta, and polypropylene or olefin. Natural fibers make up the remainder, with wool in the top place because of its crush-resistance. Others include sisal, cotton, seagrass, jute, and silk.

Manmade carpet performs just that much better than natural fibers at a more affordable cost.

That said, each type of fiber has unique characteristics that may make one better for your requirements than another.

>> See Comparing Synthetic and Natural Carpet Fibers

See Bellera and Stainmaster PetProtect: For Carpets that Perform

See Bellera and Stainmaster PetProtect: For Carpets that Perform

Nylon Carpet Fiber

Think of nylon as a premium carpet fiber with terrific product benefits:

  • Strong, excellent resistance to abrasion, crush and wear, insects, molding, mildew, rot, and many chemicals.
  • Easy to maintain and dye, and colorfast. 
  • Durable
  • Versatile styling possibilities
  • Nylon is durable and static-free, maintains fiber height, and resists soiling or staining.

When treated with stain protection, it withstands stains in addition to soiling. Because of its versatility, it is used in a variety of styles and carpet constructions. Because of its durability, it's often used in high-traffic areas.


 Godfrey Hirst - Trails End in Thunder Godfrey Hirst - Trails End in Thunder

Polyester (PET) Carpet Fiber  

Polyester is known for its luxurious look, feel, and wonderful selection of bright, bold colors and styles. Many of the super-soft carpet introductions feature polyester fiber. These carpet styles are ideal for lower traffic areas such as bedrooms, offices, or TV rooms.

Many polyester carpets, called PET (polyethylene terephthalate) contain content made of recycled plastics such as water bottles. This can make polyester a “green” option, and also helps strengthen the fiber to help it last longer. Polyester is also naturally stain-resistant and easily recyclable.

Since polyester carpet isn’t crush-resistant, it will wear down and lose texture faster in high-traffic areas faster than wool or nylon. Although less expensive than other fibers initially, polyester carpeting may have to replaced more frequently.

However, it is more stain-resistant than nylon carpet and at least as resistant to mold and mildew. It is also non-allergenic.

PTT (Triexta Polyester) Carpet Fibers - also known as Smartstrand and Corterra

PTT (Polytrimethylene Terephthalate) is a polyester fiber with better resilience than PET. Mohawk's PTT is called Smartstrand whereas Shaw's is called Corterra.
PTT features good resilience and excellent inherent stain resistance, although it is susceptible to dry and oily soil substances. It is also soft.  

Polypropylene or Olefin Carpet Fiber

Polypropylene or Olefin Carpet Fiber

Olefin offers good stain and moisture resistance, but scores below nylon and polyester for wearability. Unlike nylon, it isn't resilient and can easily crush and lose texture. It is best suited for loop pile construction or high, very dense cut piles where crushing isn't a concern.
Unlike other fiber types, polypropylene won't absorb water, leading to two major benefits:
  • It must be solution-dyed. Solution dyeing is a process in which color is actually built into the fiber when it is formed making the color an inherent part that cannot be removed from the fiber. As a result, color doesn't fade, even when exposed to intense sunlight, bleaches, atmospheric contaminants, or other harsh chemicals or elements.
  • It lends itself to colorful styles and designs.
  • It's easy to clean.
  • It is ideal for installations where mildew is a concern (i.e., think basements and outdoor carpet or rugs).

>> See You Will Love these Couristan Indoor/Outdoor Rugs

Austere_5477-019See Try Flatweave Wool Carpet for that Nubby, Natural Sweater Look

See Try Flatweave Wool Carpet for that Nubby, Natural Sweater Look

Wool Carpet

For the ultimate in carpet, there's wool. Not only is it truly natural but it has many natural benefits:

  • Natural soil resistance (although not inherently stain-resistant)
  • Green, renewable, and environmentally-friendly (including biodegradable)
  • Soft and luxurious to the touch
  • Naturally flame-resistant
  • It's non-allergenic.
  • Resilient and durable enough to perform well in high traffic areas without wearing out

However, it absorbs moisture and can potentially be prone to mold and mildew in damp areas.

In appreciating wool, you realize the amazing qualities associated with this age-old flooring solution:
  • The natural elasticity of wool fiber allows it to stretch up to 40% beyond its original length and return to its original size. Wool carpet not only retains its shape, even under heavy traffic but also resists furniture crush.
  • Although wool can absorb moisture, the fiber itself repels water and stains due to a unique membrane covering the fiber core. Water and other spills remain on the surface, repelling stains and allowing spills to be blotted up with a clean and dry white cloth.
  • That natural membrane fibers also allow for ease in cleaning. The membrane prevents dirt and dust from sinking below the surface, permitting regular vacuuming to keep wool carpet looking clean and new.
  • Did you know that wool naturally resists static (because of wool's natural 30% moisture retention) and mildew (because of wool's naturally low pH)? Wool also improves and maintains indoor air quality by absorbing contaminants without re-emitting them.
That said, wool carpet must be maintained properly. It tends to fade in sunlight, has low resistance both to stains and to the chemicals used to remove stains. Unlike synthetics, wool can attract and suffer damage from moths, beetles, and other types of insects.
Carpet Construction Basics

Carpet Construction Basics   

Michael Phoenix, Floor Decor Design Center

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