Carpet Fibre Types and Properties
Modern carpets are made of a wide variety of fibres. The vast majority of the carpets made today, contain one or a combination of the following four pile fibres: wool, polypropylene, nylon and polyester. Each type of fibre has it's strengths and weaknesses but when they are made into carpets, they are used in such a way to take advantage of their properties.
Wool is a traditional fibre that offers a deep, rich feel to the carpet. Wool has been used in the making of carpets for hundreds of years. Wool is the premier fibre in carpets, but the cost of good quality wool carpets can be prohibitive. The qualities of wool include excellent appearance, great resistance to soiling, low flammability and ease of cleaning. Because is has a very low luster, wool provides rich and deep colours.
Wool is resistant to cold water based stains but special care should be used when cleaning wool carpets. Although wool is naturally stain resistant, it requires a lot of maintainance, including mothproofing. Most modern wool carpets are permanently mothproofed, but this is not the case with older carpets, which are prone to moth attacks.
Unfortunately, wool has the tendency to wear down, and bald patches can appear, in time, as a result of heavy traffic. For added strength and durability and to reduce pile shedding, wool is often blended with synthetic fibres like polyamide and polyester, resulting in 80% wool and 20% man made blends or 50% wool and 50% synthetic blends, fit for any domestic or commercial installation.
Due to the fact that wool carpets can hold up to 10 times their weight in moisture, they are susceptible to shrinking and mold and mildew growth.
Wool used in carpets is sourced from all over the world, but British wool stands out as one of the finest carpets making fibres due to the uniqueness of the environment in which it is produced. British sheep grow in a harsh environment, making their wool prime carpet making material. The high degree of natural elasticity of British wool offers more resilience than wool sourced from other places, helping the carpets to withstand heavy footfall and pressure and helps the carpet maintain its appearance in time.
Wool is a natural insulator, which reduces heat loss, condensation and has excellent noise reduction capabilities. Wool improves air quality in the house and makes the floor very comfortable. Wool is naturally flame resistant so it does not have to be treated with nasty chemicals, so it produces less toxic fumes than other textiles present in household furniture.
Carpet made from British wool is easily kept clean with its natural resistance to soiling provided by the natural oils present on it. British wool carpets will always come up like new after a professional clean.
Polypropylene, also known as Olefin, is the most popular man-made carpet fibre. It is stain resistant because the fibre is usually dyed in solution, meaning that the dye has been added to the fibre while still in liquid form so when it is spun into a thread it is already coloured. Polypropylene is that colourfast, that the majority of polypropylene carpets can be cleaned with a part bleach, part water solution, which makes the polypropylene carpet and ideal flooring solution for todays modern family. The only stains that pose a real threat to a polypropylene carpet are oil based stains.
Polypropylene is colourfast to reduce fading, hardwearing and also cheap in relation to other carpet fibres making them fantastic value for money.
The disadvantages of polypropylene are poor resilience which may lead to pile crushing, poor abrasion resistance and low melting point that makes them prone to pile fusing if furniture or other objects are dragged across its surface. This does not mean that polypropylene carpets are to be avoided. A properly constructed olefin carpet will provide and excellent value for money and great performance. A good polypropilene carpet performs beautifully in any busy family house. Try to avoid big loop berber as well as low density cut pile polypropylene carpets.
NYLON or POLYAMIDE
Nylon is a very durable fibre, with excellent characteristics and it is very popular with carpet manufacturers.
Polyamide carpets can be dyed or printed after tufting, which means that they can be produced in vibrant colours and exciting designs. Nylon's strengths include great resilience, good shape keeping to be able to hold twist, good stain resistance and great abrasion resistance.
Polyamide is the strongest of the synthetic fibres, making it an excellent choice for high traffic areas in the home or commercial environments. Nylon carpets are soil and mildew resistant, very resilient but they are prone to static energy build up. Good nylon carpets are treated with and anti-static compound to reduce the accumulation of static energy.
There are two types of Nylon: type 6 and type 6.6 . Nylon type 6.6 is premium material for carpet making, with the DuPont type 6.6 Nylon being the best.
Polyester is the synthetic fibre that mimics wool the best in appearance and feel. Polyester is a well performing, easy cleaning fibre that is used in a blend with other fibres rather than on its own.
Polyester carpets can be made in the most beautiful colour patterns available. It is extremely fade resistant and stain proof. However, like polypropylene, it has a poor resilience that makes polyester carpets prone to crushing. To avoid disappointment, choose a polyester carpet with a dense construction and avoid high pile height carpets.
Polyester carpets are non allergenic, quite durable, easily cleaned, moisture resistant and cheaper than Nylon or wool carpets.
Many polyester fibres are recycled from fizzy drinks bottles. If you are concerned about carbon footprint, ask for carpets that have been made from recycled post consumer use products.