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Types of Carpet Fibers

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Types of Carpet Fibers

Carpeting is sold in rolls and comes in a variety of colors, styles and fiber types.

Introduction to Carpet Fiber Types
Yes it's true. Carpet is comfortable, versatile and durable.
Carpet is king.

Carpet remains one of the most popular and economical residential floor materials available, surpassing other residential flooring options such as hard wood flooring, soft resilient flooring like vinyl, linoleum or cork.

The word carpet is derived from the Latin word "carpere" which means "to card wool" since carpet was made almost exclusively from wool until the 1930's. The carpet industry in the United States was essentially started in 1791 by William Sprague who began the first woven carpet mill in Philadelphia, PA. Broadloom carpet was introduced in 1877 by Erastus Bigelow who in 1839 gave genesis to the invention of the power loom for weaving carpet which then allowed the carpet industry to grow. Before this invention US carpet manufacturing was very tedious and used manually operated machines.

US carpet production has grown from 100 million square yards in 1910 to over 2 billion square yards in 2005. Carpet production today uses many more fibers than just the wool and cotton of the industry's infancy. Today's broadloom carpets (typically 12 foot wide rolls) are made from synthetic, natural and recycled materials.

Carpet Fiber Types

    The most common types of carpet fibers in use today include natural fiber such as wool, and synthetic fibers such as nylon, olefin, acrylic and polyester. Synthetic fibers are made by extruding molten polymer and forcing it through a metal plate with tiny holes creating a continuous filament. These holes give the extruded continuous filament special shapes and when cooled, the filaments can be treated to have special characteristics. Let's review these most common types of carpet fiber.

  • Wool
    Wool and cotton made up 100% of carpet production until the 1930's. Scarcity and uncertainty of desirable natural materials gave way to synthetic fiber development. Today approximately 1% of broadloom carpet production is wool (cotton only used for area rugs). However, wool remains the most beautiful and durable of all carpet fibers. Its natural characteristics include outstanding durability, natural stain resistance, an excellent ability to recover from a crushed state, excellent resiliency and environmental sustainability with no off-gassing of VOC's. Wool fiber is a staple yarn meaning it comes in short lengths and is spun / twisted together to make a longer thread which is then tufted into carpet.

  • Nylon (polyamide)
    Nylon fiber is today's carpet fiber of choice. With about 60% of the carpet production market its use is pervasive. Nylon is an engineered petrochemical synthetic fiber and has great characteristics. These include economy, durability, ability to take and excellently retain dyed color, ability to be used as a staple yarn or continuous filament (providing more design / manufacturing options), ability to be treated to take on anti-soiling properties and ability to be used in many carpet styles or carpet face types.

  • Acrylic
    Seldom used in commercial carpets, acrylic is sometimes used in residential rug applications yet was one of the first hydrocarbon synthetic fibers used in carpet production. Acrylic is a staple yarn and has fiber characteristics similar to wool including a nice bulk. It is sometimes used as a blend with other fibers.

  • Olefin (polypropylene)
    Olefin is a hydrocarbon synthetic fiber that is typically manufactured as a continuous filament. It is inexpensive but has poorer aesthetic properties than other fibers. Due to its lower cost, the use of olefin fiber has continued to increase and is approximately 30% of carpet fiber production. This is a carpet fiber that has the ability to look good when new, but "uglies" out easily and quickly in some carpets. Olefin has poorer crush resistance and limited color dyeing capabilities than other synthetics such as nylon. Olefin fiber is also used in "outdoor carpeting."

  • Polyester (polyethylene terephthalate)
    Polyester synthetic fiber is primarily offered as a staple yarn and is made from terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol. Yummy! It is however, very water repellent and easy to care for. It takes dye very well and retains its color excellently. It is also noted for its luxurious feel. Durability however, is less than nylon and has similar crush-prone properties like its olefin cousin. It also tends to pill and shed fiber. Polyester is a fiber than can be made from recycled material such as plastic bottles.

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