In 2020 alone, Americans purchased more than 10 billion dollars in carpet and area rugs. Almost all Americans have carpet in their homes and replacement can be one of the most tedious and expensive parts of being a homeowner. We here at Fresh Start Carpet Cleaning have been asked many times by our clients what type of carpet we prefer, which carpet lasts longest, cleans the best and so on. We created this guide to help all our customers understand the different types of carpet and how to choose the best type for long-term customer satisfaction.
Before we talk about the different pros and cons of the carpet materials, we need to highlight a couple key terms. These are the words we use to describe the characteristics of a carpet.
Crush: Just like it sounds, crush is the carpets’ ability to spring back to its original shape.
Face Weight: This measures the weight of the face fibers in the carpet, giving an indication of how many fibers are packed into each square foot. A durable material with low face weight may be less comfortable and begin to wear quicker than a cheaper material with many more fibers.
Stain Resistance: All carpets can be stained permanently, however the ability to be cleaned and to remove spots varies among materials. We will discuss the stain properties of each material, based on our experience cleaning each.
Tuft Twists: Carpet tufts are the pieces of carpet you see sticking up. Each one is made up of thousands of fibers that are typically twisted together under heat and cooled to set their shape. A 1-inch tuft with 2 twists will be a cheaper carpet but the tufts will unwind much quicker under traffic than a more expensive 1-inch carpet with 5 twists.
Now that we have a couple terms to discuss carpet characteristics, we can talk about all the different types of carpet.
Known for its outstanding resiliency and resistance to crushing, Nylon has remained a top-quality competitor for decades. We find that Nylon carpet springs back to its original shape and resists matting better than anything else, due to the fiber’s high density. Nylon is so resilient that carpet manufacturers have revised the manufacturing process many times to improve on the downside of Nylon, primarily stain resistance.
There are two types of dyeing that are crucial to choosing a Nylon carpet. Most Nylon carpet is acid-dyed, meaning the fibers are produced and then dipped in an acid that stains the plastic fibers the desired color. This version is more affordable. However, this is some of the worst material when it comes to stain removal. Many acidic stains (think red stains and urine), and other types of stains will dye the fibers in the same way the manufacturer did. These stains are often permanent. This material is great for a household that is very careful about spills and spots, that vacuums often, takes off their shoes, and has annual carpet cleanings. In our honest opinion, there are better and often cheaper alternatives than acid-dyed Nylon.
A more expensive dyeing process that adds color to the nylon material before it is turned into fibers. The result is a brilliant flooring option. While typically one of the more expensive options, solution-dyed nylon gets our approval as one of the most stain-resistant and the most resilient option available. Choosing the face weight of your carpet will depend on foot traffic. While Nylon is resistant, choosing a very low face weight (less fibers) to save money in a highly trafficked hallway is not recommended.
PET / POLYESTER:
Polyethylene Terephthalate or PET is a type of polyester plastic. When not referring to another specific type of polyester, we typically assume in the carpet industry that when someone says polyester, they mean PET. This is the cheapest fiber to produce, and it comes with outstanding colorfastness and stain resistance. PET is solution-dyed and therefore has outstanding color choices, UV resistance, chemical and spill resistance and all the while maintains affordability.
This fiber is less dense than Nylon and has a softer feel. This affects the crush resistance of PET in a very negative way. This material does not like being crushed and loses its shape quicker than other materials. It also wears down, mats, and degrades more than others. Choosing a heavier face weight, having more twists per carpet tuft and regular cleaning can help combat the crushing and wear problems.
Landlords, apartments and property managers have embraced the affordability of PET. Rental properties often use dark color, low face weight, low quality PET carpet because it resists stains so well and can be cleaned easily. When the carpet is damaged or reached the end of its short life (2-4 years), it can be cheaply replaced. If the damage was caused by a tenant, the carpet is so affordable that the security deposit probably covers the entire cost of replacement.
PET is a great option for many circumstances. Fresh Start Carpet Cleaning technicians love cleaning PET; the amount of soiling that can be removed and the stain removal is amazing to watch. The homeowner should be willing to pay more for a higher face weight and higher tuft twist, as this typically gives the perfect balance for home living. It is a soft, easy to maintain and affordable carpet option.
PTT / SMARTSTRAND / TRIEXTA / SORONA:
Our next material is another polyester plastic known as PTT; carpet professionals will most likely refer to it as one of the Trade names above. This material provides some great benefits in being incredibly soft and cleans very well. However, we have noticed that this material tends to show wear in heavy traffic areas akin to PET carpets. It also has a colorfastness comparable to PET. Triexta is partially made from plant-based plastics and is being manufactured in unique ways (like SmartStrand), making it a cutting-edge carpet choice. However, much remains to be seen about the long-term durability of these PTT carpets since they have been a staple of consumer carpeting for about 10 years. Many people don’t even know these brand names. Unlike Nylon that has been used and improved upon since the 50’s, there is much to be learned about PTT and how it holds up. In general, we do not see much downside in our clients’ homes, but we aren’t sure we would spend the money on it for our own. In a few years’ time, improvements to PTT and its track record may change our minds completely.
The last material on our list is Olefin. This plastic has a couple characteristics that make it a unique choice for carpet needs. Olefin attracts oil more than any other carpet material. It is also mildew-resistant and colorfast. We see olefin rugs used in doorways to the outdoors and the garage, where they suck the oil off shoes and keep it from getting into the rest of the house. Olefin is affordable and great for rugs, especially for oily traffic and outdoor patios. When it comes to olefin carpeting in a whole house, we often find that it wears heavily and despite the best maintenance, the appearance dulls over the first several years. On top of this, the melting point of olefin is much lower than other materials. This can cause burn marks from furniture or vacuums set to the wrong height, something that is much less likely with other materials.
If we were to replace our carpets today, we would go with a high face weight PET carpet with a good tuft twist. The price to lifetime ratio is great and the stain resistance and cleaning ease fit our lifestyle full of pets and teenagers. If we had less people at home and no pets, we would opt for a good Nylon product. There are plenty of options out there to fit each homeowners unique needs, and the more you know the better prepared you are to make the right decision for you.