Commonly Used Fibers in Carpeting and Rugs

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About Carpet Fibers

Carpet Fiber Descriptions

Here you will find information about the types of fiber used to make today's wall-to-wall carpet. Fibers used are nylon, polyester,Triexta, olefin or polypropylene, wool, acrylic, cotton and rayon. Each fiber has its own set of characteristics that set it apart from the others. Also there are many different types of each fiber, and I will only explain the differences in types when they are important to your carpet purchase. If you're looking to replace your carpet, get the facts here on which fibers are the best for repelling stains.

NYLON

This is the most commonly used fiber in carpet today because it is strong, easy to dye, and readily available. If you have any traffic paths at all, AND the weight of the carpet you are buying is 32 ounces or less, there are a lot of recommendations to buy a nylon carpet or the new Triexta, and forget about PET or Olefin. There are many makers of fiber, but the leaders are Invista (formerly DuPont), Mohawk (formerly Solutia Wear Dated), BASF, and Shaw (formerly Allied Chemical). They all profess their nylon to be best. Invista have the most well-known brands of nylon with the Stainmaster and Wear Dated types respectively.

Stainmaster nylon and Wear Dated nylon are simply triloble (cross grain magnified picture looks like a clover leaf) fibers with a fluorocarbon added to resist staining. Invista and Solutia have done a super job of marketing to convince you that theirs' is best. Also, their yarn is a type 6.6 nylon and is marketed as being "better" than type 6 nylon. However, recent studies by leading chemical engineers suggest that the differences between the two types have little to do with a carpet's overall performance, and further suggest that carpet construction is more important than fiber. The reason the consumer has to pay about $1.00/sq.yd. more for Stainmaster or Wear Dated than unbranded nylon fiber is that Invista and Solutia spend millions of advertising dollars to convince you their fiber is better. This cost is passed on to the mill, and then to the dealer, and then to you. Invista did help the consumer by breaking their fiber quality into groups. The lowest quality Stainmaster is now Extra Body II; then Tactesse Stainmaster (provides a soft feel) , with Luxerell Stainmaster as their top of the line. If you really want the ultimate in SOIL hiding from a nylon look for Invista's Antron nylon. This fiber is only available in some residential styles.

NEW SOFT NYLONS:

The newest thing on the market is the introduction of the so called "soft nylons" This type of fiber has been around for a long time, but has always been more expensive because of how much of the fiber must go into the carpet in order to give the carpet a good feel (or hand). The fiber feels soft due to its super small diameter. The new soft feeling nylons are made from a very fine "denier" fiber. Thus, it takes a lot more of this fiber to feel and look like other carpets that may be full of air. These new nylons will go under various brand names i.e. "Tactesse" and "Luxerell" (Invista) or "DuraSoft" (Mohawk), or "Anso Caress" (Shaw Industries). If you are willing to pay a little more for this fiber, I think you will love it, but just be sure to purchase one well-constructed.

Pet

This is a new type of polyester fiber that has this long chemical name: Polyethylene Terephthalate, but still falls in the class of fibers known commonly as polyesters. This PET fiber, however, is "not your daddy's polyester". This fiber has natural and permanent stain resistance. PET fiber is stronger than the old polyester and has better abrasion resistance. Unlike the old polyester, the PET product has a higher melting point and is more resistant to abrasion.

The fiber is made from PET chips, some of which come from recycled plastic containers, hence the name "pop bottle carpet". Recycling does not affect the quality if the fiber, thus this product could be a future fiber that could be recycled over and over.

TRIEXTA

This fiber is known as SMARTSTRAND (trademark) when marketed by Mohawk. Mowhawk recently received FTC approval to market this fiber under its own class. This PTT Poly(Trimethylene Terephthalate) fiber will now be known as TRIEXTA. In the future you will see more about this name change, but this means that this will have a huge impact on the residential carpet industry and gives Dupont and Mohawk well-deserved bragging rights. In a very rare decision by the FTC, Mohawk and DuPont have been successful in changing the classification of PTT fiber (DuPont's Sorona polymer which is used to make Mohawk SmartStrand) as Triexta instead of Polyester. This means the FTC believes what DuPont and Mohawk have been saying for the past 41/2 years regarding the superior performance of this product. The FTC confirmed today in a unanimous decision that the performance aspects of PTT fibers is so much superior to PET (traditional polyester) that it deserves an entirely new classification. Remember, the PET polymer is classified as Polyester. The new PTT polymer (also referred to by the proprietary term 3GT as designated by DuPont) is now classified as "Triexta". Why is this important to you the home owner? See a brochure from Mohawk.

You will be hearing a lot about this new fiber in coming months and years and so should you. In fact, this is the biggest big news in the textile industry since 1959 when Nylon was classified as a fiber. This fiber is even stronger than PET polyester, and has better colorfastness and cleanability features than PET. PTT is as colorfast as solution dyed nylon. This fiber is extremely soft, and yet behaves better than staple nylon, especially in a shag construction. If you have kids and pets, and are going to be in the home more than 10 years, PTT is a good choice; especially the 3GT Sorona Dupont Polymer offered in some Mohawk carpets. By the way, PTT is just one step away chemically from 4GT polymer that is used to make tough auto parts. Triexta will indeed be a great fiber for the future. Lookout Stainmaster!

Tom Tape, Mohawk's Residential Flooring Business President talked about the FTC decision in a 15 minute audio interview with Kemp Harr of the Floor Daily and summarized the following benefits of SmartStrand:

Fantastic softness. Mohawk constantly hears stories from retailers such as how a customer after feeling how soft the product sample is, puts it under their arm and carries it around the store!

Enhanced durability. It is far superior to Polyesters. In some cases, it is even comparable in performance to higher priced Nylon.

Permanent stain resistance.

Sustainability. 37% of the content of SmartStrand is derived from Corn. (Note: Not all Triexta has this bio component; Only Dupont's Sorona which is used in Mohawk's SmartStrand.) Tom concludes by saying: We are getting closer to finding the ideal fiber for carpets; since SmartStrand has been on the market for almost 5 years, Mohawk feels it has stood the test of time.

OLEFIN or Polypropylene:

This is one of the most color fast fibers on the market. It also is one of the most naturally stain resistant. Thus, this fiber is best suited for indoor-outdoor carpet in both loop and grass styles. Olefin is a cheap fiber. It performs well in wear tests if the profile of the pile height is super low. If one adds air to the fiber to give it some bulk. It will not produce a carpet that looks good for longer than six months. This puffed up Olefin will crush! Also, Olefin has such a low melting point it must have oil added to the fiber in order to survive the tufting process. When the carpet is finished, most American manufacturers do not spend the money to rid the fiber of all the oil. As a result the carpet crushes even quicker. The one exception to this process is a new type of olefin fiber called "Comfortouch" by Shaw Industries. This new fiber is softer to the feel because this olefin fiber is scoured three times during the making. Then the fiber is treated with R2X. The result is a fiber that feels like cotton, resists soil and stains, and wears better than other olefin carpet. My advice is to leave olefin to the outdoor market or light traffic indoors unless you are able to find a dealer who carries olefin carpets from Europe, or the new Comfortouch from Shaw. Those of you who have fallen in love with the Berber style of carpet make sure it is not made of polypropylene or olefin with the larger loops.

WOOL

If you are looking for your basic commodity carpet, do not expect to find it in wool. Wool makes excellent Berber carpet, plush carpet, and frieze carpet. The best quality wool is from New Zealand. Wool naturally resists general soiling, crushing, and most stains. Wool is also naturally resistant to fire. Look for wool carpets made with jute backing as it has a superior tuft bind. The soft look and the rich feel of wool is still unmatched by any man-made fiber, and can be more affordable than you think. Wool carpet is indeed a long lasting luxury carpet.

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