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Almost all carpet (97%) is made from synthetic fibers. Synthetic fibers are more resistant to stains and much less expensive. However, natural fibers tend to resist crushing from traffic.
Major carpet producers such as DuPont, Solutia, Interface, and Allied Signal have brand names for their carpets. These brands are generally made from one or more of 6 types of fiber: acrylic (art wool), nylon, olefin (polypropylene), polyester, wool, and recycled material.
Acrylic fiber is known as art, art wool, or man-made wool because it is an artificial fiber. This fiber provides the look and feel of wool at a fraction of the cost. It resists static electricity, moisture, mildew, fading, crushing, staining, and sun damage. However, acrylic fiber is not durable enough for high traffic areas (it fails under abrasion when compared to other fibers).
Blends are typically made from nylon and olefin. This blend is resilient but the different fiber types often resist stains unevenly. Stains will often stand out prominently with these blends.
Nylon is the most popular fiber (about 90% of residential carpets and 65% of all carpets). Nylon is a good choice for all traffic areas because it is durable and static free, maintains fiber height, and resists soiling, staining, and mildew. Nylon fibers, which are dyed after production, maintain color. Nylon carpets vary from $8 per square yard for cut piles to $30 for multi-level loops. Nylon comes in continuous or spun fibers. Spun carpet is made of short lengths of fibers that are spun together. These continuous fibers are less likely to unravel.
Olefin (polypropylene) is the next-best seller after nylon (about 80% of commercial carpet). These fibers are colorfast because the production process involves mixing polypropylene with dyes. Olefin works best in loop carpets such as Berbers. It is strong (resisting abrasion), mildew resistant, moisture resistant, and easy to clean (bleach can be used safely in some cases). However, olefin can be easy to crush depending on the pile. This fiber is good for indoors and outdoors (e.g. artificial sport turfs). Olefin carpets are the most inexpensive fiber ranging from $7.50 per square yard to $40 per square yard for Berbers.
More about Polypropylene
Polyester does not hold its fiber height under traffic and shifting weight as well as other carpet fibers. Polyester is luxurious, durable against abrasions, easy to clean, and resistant to water soluble stains. Polyester carpets costs less than wool and nylon. Prices range from $7 per square yard for lighter cut piles and $24 per square yard for heavier cut piles. However, polyester can fade with sunlight.
Some carpet is made from recycled material. PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) carpet is made from recycled plastics of consumer packaged goods (typically soda and other rigid containers). PET carpet is durable, water resistant, and static resistant. More about Recycled Carpet
Wool is luxurious, strong, and stain resistant. It maintains its fiber height. Wool also has its weaknesses. It can maintain static and moisture, tends to fray, and is expensive (ranging from about $18 per square yard for Berbers to $66 for cut piles).