Just how important is your choice of carpet fiber? Today, we’re comparing the most common types of carpet fiber used in commercial applications – and looking at their impact on the performance and longevity of your carpet.
Comparing Fiber Types
Carpet typically uses one of three common fiber types. These fibers will each impact the longevity, performance and design aesthetic of your carpet in a different way. If you’re looking to choose a new carpet, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each type of fiber.
Polyester’s relatively high stain resistance and economical price make it a popular choice for residential use. However, with relatively poor durability, polyester carpet is prone to wear and fraying; and when combined with poor recyclability once dyed, it’s an uncommon choice in commercial spaces.
Wool is a naturally occurring product, offering a luxurious texture, self-extinguishing properties, and a degree of natural stain resistance. It’s also recyclable and biodegradable, but like many other recyclable materials, this is tempered by relatively poor wear resistance. Combined with its high price, and limited design flexibility, most organizations rule it out for commercial use.
Nylon carpet is the most popular fiber choice for commercial applications, combining stain resistance and design flexibility with excellent longevity. Most manufacturers offer two common types of nylon fiber, known as nylon 6 and nylon 6,6. Though many manufacturers tout the fibers as being near identical, they each impact carpet performance and longevity in a different way.
Nylon 6 is popular with carpet manufacturers because of how easy it is to dye and process. Its chemical structure means that dye and pigments bond easily to the fibers, and thanks to its supple nature, it’s far easier to process than other forms of nylon - allowing it to be recycled after use.
Unfortunately, these manufacturer benefits sometimes translate into problems for the end-user. Nylon 6 is easy to dye, and as a result, relatively easy to stain. Though it’s easier to process, it becomes less durable and hard-wearing as a result – and while nylon 6 is technically recyclable, the dyeing and pigmentation processes used to color nylon prevent most of the fiber from entering into the recycling stream.
Nylon 6,6 has a different structure to nylon 6, making it harder to dye and preventing it from being recycled. These characteristics result from its rigid, stiff shape, which serve to make the fiber much more hard-wearing and stain-resistant than nylon 6.
Though it isn’t as recyclable as nylon 6, the fiber’s durability is much greater, allowing it to be re-used and re-purposed multiple times during its life. With a regular maintenance schedule, this type of carpet can be used and reused in high-traffic areas for much longer than nylon 6. This reduces the amount of carpet going to landfill, and doesn’t require the same expenditure of energy needed to process nylon 6 carpet into a reusable form.
Fiber Isn’t Everything
While fiber type can impact longevity, it isn’t the be-all and end-all of carpet performance. Other factors (most notably your choice of backing, patterning and fiber processing) will play a larger role in determining the appearance retention of your carpet.
When choosing hard-backed products, it’s the fiber that takes the strain of foot traffic, and your choice of fiber will directly impact appearance retention. However, cushion backing acts as a shock absorber, taking the impact of foot traffic instead of the fibers. With the fibers protected, fiber type plays a much smaller role in determining carpet longevity.
Carpet patterning can help reduce the visibility of staining. Though this won’t improve the stain resistance of your carpet, it will help to make staining less noticeable.
Carpet fibers can be preconditioned to improve their durability. The use of heat setting and twisting can improve the wear rating of your carpet, reducing the need to choose a carpet fiber with a naturally high level of wear resistance.
To learn more about the important factors that impact the longevity of your carpet, download our free whitepaper below.