Comparing 5 Popular Carpet Options

Adding carpet to your home is a major financial and lifestyle decision. It’s an investment. Plus, there are so many choices! How do you make the best possible decision for your lifestyle, taste, and budget?

Start by selecting the type of fiber you want. This decision will take into account:

  • Where the carpet will be used
  • Your budget
  • If your lifestyle requires low-maintenance floor coverings
  • Your preferences, in terms of environmental considerations

Carpet and rug fibers fall into two broad classifications: synthetic and natural fibers.

Today, synthetic carpets dominate the market. They are machine-manufactured, using various chemical compounds.

Before heading to a store, consider these five leading synthetic fibers:

1. Nylon

Nylon floor coverings are extremely durable. Nylon is a firm, flat fiber that is well-suited to high-traffic areas.

Although nylon needs to be treated for stain resistance, it naturally resists dirt and fraying. It’s an excellent choice for homes with pets that may have occasional accidents or for spill-prone humans.

Due to its durability, resilience, and low cost, nylon is currently the most popular carpet fiber. If longevity is your biggest concern, nylon may be your best bet.

2. Polyester

Polyester carpets are soft, stain-resistant, and resist fading. Polyester fibers naturally repel liquid.

Even without treatment, polyester does not stain easily, which makes it another excellent option for house-training pet owners and households with youngsters.

Polyester is an economical choice, but it isn’t as long-wearing as some other fibers. If stains are your biggest concern, polyester may be the way to go.

Polyester carpeting is also readily recycled, making it one of the most eco-friendly synthetic fibers. In fact, recycled PET from plastic soft drink bottles is often used to manufacture polyester carpeting.

3. Polypropylene

Polypropylene (also referred to as olefin) is a stain-resistant fiber. This highly affordable, colorfast, water-resistant option comes in a rainbow of shades, patterns, and textures.

Polypropylene naturally resists damage from water and the ravages of mildew. Although it’s unlikely to fade, direct sunlight can weaken this fiber unless it’s been chemically modified.

Unlike some fibers, polypropylene does not suffer from static electricity issues. It is, however, more vulnerable to crushing, which may make it a better choice for Berber-style carpeting or low-traffic areas.

Water may not soak into polypropylene, but oil does. It’s a poor choice for any location where oily substances may spill, such as a dining room.

4. Viscose

Viscose, also called rayon, straddles the divide between natural and synthetic fibers. Production starts with a woody pulp from fast-growing trees and plants (like bamboo, soy, and sugar cane), but that’s where the natural part ends.

The pulp is dissolved in a chemical cocktail to create a substance that can be spun into fibers that become threads.

Viscose is intended to resemble silk. Like its natural look-alike, viscose has delicate fibers and a sheen best suited to low-traffic applications.

Viscose is more frequently used for area rugs than wall-to-wall carpeting. It tends to be super-soft and absorbent, making it an excellent choice for a bath mat, but less desirable in living areas where spills may occur.

Unfortunately, the delicate viscose fibers lose strength when wet, so cleaning must be approached with caution. Also, the non-resilient fibers tend to flatten and matt.

Reserve viscose rugs for low-traffic areas where spills and stains are least likely to occur.

5. Triexta

The newest synthetic fiber on this list, triexta, was invented by and is currently exclusively manufactured by DuPont (which also invented nylon fibers), under the brand name Sonora.  

Currently, Mohawk Industries is the largest manufacturer of triexta, which sells Sonora triexta carpets under the brand name SmartStrand.

Triexta is also called PTT, a subclass of polyester.

Triexta is considered more durable and resilient than polyester carpet. Even though the fiber lacks a long track record, some industry experts also consider its performance superior to nylon.

Triexta is cost-competitive with both nylon and polyester.

DuPont also provides an environmentally-friendly version of triexta that partially relies on fermented corn glucose, reducing the use of chemicals in the manufacturing process, as well as the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that disperse (“off-gas”) into homes following installation.

Manufacturing Considerations

Many synthetic materials are fabricated using fossil fuels and may include toxic by-products. Harsh chemicals, dyes, and other treatments often result in carpets and rugs that produce off-gassing of VOCs.

Carpet padding and adhesives may exacerbate the situation.

When shopping for new carpet or rugs, to protect your indoor air quality, be sure to check VOC levels for the products you are considering.

You may also want to look for products that qualify for the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label Plus program.

Be sure to provide adequate ventilation immediately after new carpeting is installed, especially if you experience that “new carpet” smell.