Fibers

All about Carpet Fiber

Here you will find information about the types of fiber used to make today’s wall-to-wall carpet. Fibers used are nylon, polyester,triexta, olefin or polypropylene, wool, acrylic, cotton and rayon. Each fiber has its own set of characteristics that set it apart from the others. Also there are many different types of each fiber, and I will only explain the differences in types when they are important to your carpet purchase

NYLON

This is the most commonly used fiber in carpet today because it is strong, easy to dye, and readily available. If you have any traffic paths at all, AND the weight of the carpet you are buying is 32 ounces or less, I strongly recommend you buy a nylon carpet or the new triexta, and forget about PET or Olefin. There are many makers of fiber, but the leaders are Invista (formerly DuPont), Mohawk (formerly Solutia Wear Dated), BASF, and Shaw (formerly Allied Chemical). They all profess their nylon to be best. Invista and Mohawk(formerly Monsanto) have the most well known brands of nylon with the Stainmaster and Wear Dated types respectively.

Stainmaster nylon and Wear Dated nylon are simply triloble (cross grain magnified picture looks like a clover leaf) fibers with a fluorocarbon added to resist staining. Invista and Solutia have done a super job of marketing to convince you that theirs’ is best. Also, their yarn is a type 6.6 nylon and is marketed as being “better” than type 6 nylon. However, recent studies by leading chemical engineers suggest that the differences between the two types have little to do with a carpet’s overall performance, and further suggest that carpet construction is more important than fiber. The reason the consumer has to pay about $1.00/sq.yd. more for Stainmaster or Wear Dated than unbranded nylon fiber is that Invista and Mohawk spend millions of advertising dollars to convince you their fiber is better. This cost is passed on to the mill, and then to the dealer, and then to you. Invista did help the consumer by breaking their fiber quality into groups. The lowest quality Stainmaster is now Extra Body II; then Tactesse Stainmaster (provides a soft feel) , with Luxerell Stainmaster as their top of the line. If you really want the ultimate in SOIL hiding from a nylon look for Invista’s Antron nylon. This fiber is only available in some residential styles. Your light-weight sparse carpet will not carry the Extra Body II label, heck it may not even carry the Stainmaster Label at all. Don’t be confused. You can purchase a super tightly twisted, medium dense carpet that is multicolored to help hide traffic and soil, and you will love the way it looks new for years; it just will last even longer if the fiber is nylon.

NEW SOFT NYLONS:

The newest thing on the market is the introduction of the so called “soft nylons” This type of fiber has been around for a long time, but has always been more expensive because of how much of the fiber must go into the carpet in order to give the carpet a good feel (or hand). The fiber feels soft due to its super small diameter. Think of it like baby hair vs. corse hair; or better yet like gauges of wire. The small gauge wire is has a smaller diameter than the larger gauge wire. This is similar to nylon fiber; only instead of gauge we use the term “denier”. The new soft feeling nylons are made from a very fine “denier” fiber. Thus, it takes a lot more of this fiber to feel and look like other carpets that may be full of air. Imagine fifteen very fat people in an elevator. The space is full, but there on only fifteen people inside. However, that same space can take 25 very thin people, and the combined strength of the 25 people will be stronger than the fifteen people. These new nylons will go under various brand names i.e. “Tactesse” and “Luxerell” (Invista) or “DuraSoft” (Mohawk), or “Anso Caress” (Shaw Industries). If you are willing to pay a little more for this fiber, I think you will love it,but just be sure to purchase one well constructed.

PET POLYESTER:

This is a new type of polyester fiber that has this long chemical name: Polyethylene Terephthalate, but still falls in the class of fibers known commonly as polyesters. This PET fiber, however, is “not your daddy’s polyester”. This fiber has natural and permanent stain resistance. PET fiber is stronger than the old polyester and has better abrasion resistance. Unlike the old polyester, the PET product has a higher melting point and is more resistant to abrasion.

The fiber is made from PET chips, some of which come from recycled plastic containers, hence the name “pop bottle carpet”. Recycling does not affect the quality if the fiber, thus this product could be a future fiber that could be recycled over and over.

On a personal note, I had a customer spill hair dye on her 6 month old PET Polyester carpet. Hair dye is on the list of not warranted stains, but this lady got the stain out with a laundry detergent and water. I was impressed.

Recently, some PET carpets have been produced in solution dyed form, and in continuous filament form. This has resulted in a carpet that is even stronger than the old staple versions of the fiber, and in a fiber that holds its twist even better. So if you find a newer PET carpet that has a great twist to the fiber, a face weight of at lease 40 ounces, and continuos filament, then go for it, as you will like the end result. Just keep this and all carpets clean.

TRIEXTA

This fiber is known as SMARTSTRAND (trademark) when marketed by Mohawk. Mowhawk recently received FTC apporval to market this fiber under its own class. This PTT fiber will now be know as TRIEXTA. In the future you will see more about this name change. This fiber is even stronger than PET polyester, and has better colorfastness and cleanability features than PET. PTT is as colorfast as solution dyed nylon. This fiber is extremely soft, and yet behaves better than staple nylon, especially in a shag construction. If you have kids and pets, and are going to be in the home more than 10 years, PTT is a good choice; especially the 3GT Sorona Dupont Polymer offered in some Mohawk carpets. I have not had a comsumer complaint on this fiber in the eight years I have been selling it. By the way, PTT is just one step away chemically from 4GT polymer that is used to make tough auto parts. Triexta will indeed be a fiber for the future. The newest triexta is called “silk” and is the softest fiber on the planet. Lookout Stainmaster!

OLEFIN or Polypropylene:

This is one of the most color fast fibers on the market. It also is one of the most naturally stain resistant. Thus, this fiber is best suited for indoor-outdoor carpet in both loop and grass styles. Olefin is a cheap fiber. It performs well in wear tests if the profile of the pile height is super low. If one adds air to the fiber to give it some bulk (so it feels good), it will not produce a carpet that looks good for longer than six months. This puffed up Olefin will crush! I guarantee it. Also, Olefin has such a low melting point it must have oil added to the fiber in order to survive the tufting process. When the carpet is finished, most American manufacturers do not spend the money to rid the fiber of all the oil. As a result the carpet crushes even quicker.The one exception to this process is a new type of olefin fiber called “Comfortouch” by Shaw Industries. This new fiber is softer to the feel because this olefin fiber is scoured three times during the making. Then the fiber is treated with R2X. The result is a fiber that feels like cotton, resists soil and stains , and wears better than other olefin carpet. My advice is to leave olefin to the outdoor market or light traffic indoors unless you are able to find a dealer who carries olefin carpets from Europe, or the new Comfortouch from Shaw. Those of you who have fallen in love with the Berber style of carpet make sure it is not made of polypropylene or olefin with the larger loops.

WOOL

If you are looking for your basic commodity carpet, do not expect to find it in wool. Wool makes excellent berber carpet, plush carpet, and frieze carpet. The best quality wool is from New Zealand. Wool naturally resists general soiling, crushing, and most stains. Wool is also naturally resistant to fire. Look for wool carpets made with jute backing (yes like the good old days) as it has a superior tuft bind. The soft look and the rich feel of wool is still unmatched by any man made fiber, but be prepared to pay for it. Cheap wool and wool blends will not perform. Look for the “Wool Mark” and fiber mostly from New Zealand. Wool carpet is indeed a long lasting luxury carpet.

ACRYLIC:

Acrylic fibers were popular for broadloom carpet in the 1960’s. Acrylics look and feel a lot like wool. However, the fiber has a tendency to fuzz and pill. Some acrylic fiber is being revived by the mills for use in the popular berber style of carpet. I know that this “experiment” has not worked, and that most mills have once again stopped making residential carpets from acrylic fiber.

COTTON:

This long wearing fiber is still used in throw rugs and areas rugs. Not much is being used to make broadloom because of cotton’s lack of crush resistance. In fact, cotton will flatten out even quicker than olefin. Also, cotton absorbs a great deal of moisture. This makes the fiber difficult to clean. Cotton rugs only look good if you can take them to the laundry to have washed. For wall to wall, forget buying a cotton carpet.

RAYON:

This fiber is seldom used for carpet. It has a low melting point and is hard to dye by today’s modern methods. Rayon is best for different types of clothing, not carpet. Some inexpensive area rugs are made of rayon, and they are not designed for heavy traffic; as an ornament maybe!