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bedroom with grey carpet

Natural vs. Synthetic Fibers

Wool has always been the most common natural fiber for carpeting and area rugs. As a natural fiber, wool is expensive, and less than one percent of the carpeting purchased in the United States today uses wool fiber. Here are other insights into wool carpeting:

  • Argentina, New Zealand and the United Kingdom provide the primary source for wool that is used to make carpeting.
  • Wool’s natural colors range from almost white, through earth-tones, to black. As a natural fiber, wool can be dyed any color very well.
  • While wool doesn’t handle moisture or rough treatment as effectively as synthetic fibers, it ages well – cleaning fairly easily and looking attractive for many years after installation.

Synthetic fibers are a mix of up to three materials including nylon, polyester and polypropylene. As much as 75 percent of today’s carpeting is made of nylon. It is a completely renewable fiber, which means that old nylon carpeting can be 100 percent recycled into new nylon carpeting. Nylon is an appealing choice because it:

  • Demonstrates the best overall performance as a carpeting material.
  • Leads the pack in maintaining its original appearance, resisting soil, stain, fading and heat.
  • Maintains both color and style over time.

Polyester fibers were brought into carpeting materials around 1965. Polyester absorbs dyes well and resists stains and fading. It performs well, but it is not as long-lasting as nylon carpeting.

Polypropylene follows nylon in popularity and currently represents over 35 percent of the material used in carpeting. It has a natural resistance to liquids, fading and stains; however its color choices are limited. It also does not have the performance capabilities of nylon when it comes to rough usage or long-term appearance. You will see this material commonly in carpeting with loop or un-cut pile carpeting.

Several synthetic fibers used to make carpeting are branded. Two of the most well-known include PET, which Mohawk carpeting generates from plastic bottles. The resulting carpet takes color well and has exceptional durability and resistance to stains. 40 percent of DuPont’s SmartStrand fiber comes from the by-products of corn. The end result is durable and stain resistant carpeting.