To understand carpet is to know about fiber.
Fiber is the basic material that a carpet is made up of. Over ninety percent of
all of the carpet made today is made up of synthetic fiber.
The rest is natural fiber, most commonly wool. First, let’s look at the most
common synthetic fibers.
Synthetic fibers are usually made up of one of three materials: nylon, polypropylene
or polyester. All three are created by similar chemical processes using oil and
Nylon leads the way.
Almost 75% of carpet today is made of nylon and, compared to the other fibers below,
it performs the best overall. Nylon is the leader in: appearance retention, fade
and heat resistance, soil and stain resistance, and color and styling. The highest
performance nylon is Type 6.6, which has a tighter molecular construction, making
the carpet more resistant to stain penetration.
Polypropylene is popular and naturally resistant.
The next most common material used in carpet manufacturing is polypropylene. Introduced
in the late 1950’s in Italy, polypropylene BCF has seen fast growth over the
last twenty years, and today represents more than thirty-five percent of the total
fibers used in the carpet industry.
While polypropylene is not as resilient or resistant to abrasion as nylon, it is
naturally stain and fade resistant. Its natural resistance to moisture means that
it must be dyed before being extruded, resulting in a more limited range of color
options. Polypropylene is most often used in loop pile carpet constructions.
Polyester’s performance satisfies many.
The third type of material commonly used in carpet manufacturing is polyester. Polyester
was introduced to the carpet industry in the mid 1960’s, and has been well
accepted for its bulkiness, color clarity, and good stain and fade resistance. While
not as resilient as nylon, Polyester fiber carpet constructed with today’s
new technologies can be a good performer.
Wool is natural but expensive.
The above three materials make up the majority of synthetic fibers. The other type
of fiber used in carpet construction is staple fiber. While some synthetics are
used in the creation of staple fibers, the original staple fiber used in the making
of carpet is wool.
The wool used in today’s carpet comes primarily from New Zealand, Argentina,
and the United Kingdom. Since wool is a natural fiber, it ranges in color from off-white
to black, with many earthen tones between.
Berber, now considered a type of carpet construction, actually comes from the name
of a group of North African sheepherders called the Berbers. The Berbers were known
to produce very coarse wool, with characteristic color flecks in their yarns.
Although wool doesn’t stand up to abrasion and moisture as well as synthetics,
it cleans well and is known to age gracefully. Wool is the most expensive
carpet fiber, and represents less than one percent of the U.S. carpet market.