What is the Best Carpet?
What is the best carpet type for wear and staining? This is a common question asked by many of our carpet cleaning customers. Today’s carpet comes in several synthetic and organic fibers. Most carpet manufacturers use nylon, polyester, or polypropylene during the manufacturing because of their durability, low cost, and color and style availability. These synthetic fibers are more durable than natural fibers such as cotton, jute, or wool.
Characteristics of Polyester Carpet Fibers
As a Nashville TN carpet cleaning company, EverClean feels it’s important our customers understand the differences between these fibers. Considering carpet replacement costs thousands of dollars, making the wrong choice is a costly mistake, and it’s easy to make. Most of us know berber carpet; however, what people don’t know is that berber is usually made of polypropylene, which is a stain-resistant fiber but can crush easily. Berber’s natural loop formation adds builds in the crush that often occurs with polypropylene fibers. This makes it a great carpet for wear, but this oil-based fiber still has its share of complaints.
Both polypropylene and polyester cut pile carpet are oil-based fibers so pet urine, synthetic dyes, or other organic based substances will not stain it. However, oil-based stains will surely stain it, and the most common traffic lane stains are caused by black soled house shoes or flip flops. Oil-based stains are also common with homes or offices that have blacktop paving outside as well as kitchens or hair studios that use oil-based products.
Removing oil-based carpet stains requires adding solvents during or prior to the carpet cleaning process to help break down the bond between fiber and oils. Removal is not guaranteed as the oil-loving carpet can absorb some of the oil-based dye making it impossible to fully remove, but your carpet cleaner should make a significant difference in removing most of the stain.
Other common problems with polyester or oil-based carpet fibers include the following: Matting, shedding, graying/abrading, wicking, odors that are amplified. Matting occurs within weeks of installation. Because polyester has a high memory, once it mats down, it will stay down, and again, we’ve seen this happens just weeks after installation. Shedding is not really a problem of polyester except that many polyester carpet fibers are made with staple fibers. Staple fibers are short fibers wound together to make a single yarn. These small staple fibers can shed over time during wear and vacuuming, so they can prematurely wear out.
Carpet graying is another constant problem with polyester carpet fibers. A polyester carpet fiber has a mirror finish when it’s brand new. This means it looks just like the finish of a new car, glossy. As you walk on polyester fibers, the soils scratch, or abrade this shiny finish much like sand paper would on a shiny car. This ultimately means that polyester fibers start to look dingy over time not necessarily because they’re dirty, but because they’re scratched. That once shiny finish is now marred with micro scratches that refracts light in millions of directions. This causes the fiber to appear dirty when really it’s just scratched up. One of the top complaints after cleaning polyester carpet is that it still looks dirty, and graying or abrading is to blame.
The next complaint with polyester carpet fibers is wicking. As mentioned, polyester fibers have a mirror-like finish when new. This means water cannot penetrate polyester so it evaporates off of the surface more easily than a porous surface. After carpet has been cleaned, the water at the base of the carpet can still absorb the stain or soils under the carpet. As the carpet dries, that soil or spill evaporates up the shaft of the polyester carpet fiber. Once at the top, the water evaporates to the atmosphere, but the stain cannot, so it remains on the tips of the carpet fiber thus creating a wicking stain. Wicking stains however are easily removed with a spritz of rubbing alcohol and a clean terry clothe.
The last concern with polyester carpet is that it can amplify wet dog smell. I personally have no idea why, but it is common for polyester fibers to let off a wet dog smell sooner than most fibers. Similar to oil-based air fresheners, certain oils can evaporate at a slow rate. It is maybe because the fibers themselves act like mini diffusers allowing the dog smell to be emitted from each fiber, and that’s a lot of diffusers. Either way, pets and polyester don’t mix. A dog has oily skin and hair that can transfer oils to the polyester making it a stinky combination.
Now for the only two benefits I know regarding polyester carpet. First, polyester is usually made from recycled soda bottles. This gives additional life to plastic bottles that would be going to a dump much sooner. Second, polyester is a solution dyed fiber, which means the dye goes through the fiber so it cannot be stained with organic materials. This means that if you want hot pink carpet fibers, polyester makes that possible as the dye is added to the fiber when it’s in liquid form. Nylon is limited with vibrancy, so it cannot handle vibrant colors like polyester. Also, nylon has the dye sprayed on, so it can also be removed through color loss, bleach and sun bleaching.
Characteristics of Nylon Carpet Fibers
Now let’s talk about my favorite type of synthetic carpet fiber, nylon. As a carpet salesman years ago I used to sell polyester carpet for its stain resistance not knowing how quickly it would break down under normal residential wear. When it comes to wear, nylon fibers are supreme! Nylon not only can wear for decades but feels soft to the touch unlike polyester, which is more rough. Nylon however is more porous so it can stain easier, but that should not dissuade anyone choosing nylon. As a professional carpet cleaning service, we can remove most stains. I tell my clients that I personally would rather have carpet that stains easier but lasts 15 years longer. Not a believer yet? Go to your local home improvement store and feel the difference between polyester and nylon rope. You’ll agree nylon has a quality that is superior to polyester.
When comparing nylon to polyester, nylon always wins with durability, cleanability, longevity and customer satisfaction. This is because nylon carpet fibers are porous, which means they cannot gray or abrade. Because it wears longer than polyester, is does not mat down like polyester giving it much more body. After cleaning nylon carpet it almost looks new. Granted, it can wear out, but nylon typically the color and style will go out of style before the nylon fibers are wear out.
Overall, nylon is a far superior to polyester unless you want hot pink carpet. Based on my field knowledge, nylon wears as many as five times polyester as I’ve seen thirty year carpet that was still in great shape compared to polyester that looked bad just a few years after installation. Because nylon is porous, you can have a stain protector applied to the nylon fiber to reduce or eliminate carpet stains. We recommend reapplying a stain guard to your nylon carpet every 12 to 18 months to reduce or eliminate carpet stains.
If you have any questions before purchasing carpet or about attempting to clean carpet yourself, feel free to contact us at EverClean Carpet Cleaning by calling for a few tips.