Carpet Fibers 101: All You Need to Know

By Samuel N •  Updated: 02/03/23 • 

Carpet fiber is the material from which the strands are made. There are different carpet fibers, including nylon, polyester, polypropylene, wool, acrylic, and triexta. Understanding the different carpet fibers should help you choose the best one for your home.

The carpet fiber you choose will determine its durability and performance. In this post, I’ll break down the different carpet fibers explaining their strengths and drawbacks so you can make the most informed decision. However, first, let’s look into natural and synthetic carpet fibers.

Natural vs. Synthetic Carpet Fibers

All the carpet fibers available fall into two categories: natural and synthetic.

Natural fibers come from natural materials. The most commonly used natural fiber for carpets is wool. Natural carpet fibers are far more expensive than synthetic carpet fibers. However, they are sustainably produced and suitable for your indoor air quality because they release fewer V.O.C. gases. Other natural fibers you’ll find around include cotton, sisal, jute, silk, coir, and seagrass. However, most of these are too weak or rough to be used for larger carpets and area rugs.

Synthetic fibers are the most commonly used type of fiber for carpets. They are materials that are not found in nature. Synthetic carpet fibers perform better than natural carpet fibers at a lower cost. They’re more stain-resistant, durable, and can be cleaned easily using everyday household products.

With that said, whether natural or synthetic, each carpet fiber has unique characteristics that may make one better for you than another. Below are the different carpet fibers to consider.

Types of Carpet Fibers

1. Nylon

Nylon is the most popular carpet fiber material used in most carpets today. This is because it is very durable and very resilient. When treated for stain resistance, nylon will resist most stains you through at it.

Because of their durability and resiliency, nylon carpets are great for high-traffic areas. Nylon carpets are also sure to last a few decades with proper maintenance. To maintain the resiliency of its strands, you can steam clean a nylon carpet occasionally.

The most significant disadvantage of nylon carpet fibers is the price. Nylon carpets are more expensive than other synthetic fibers like polyester and polypropylene. Read more about the pros and cons of nylon carpet fiber.

2. Polyester (P.E.T.)

Polyester or Polyethylene terephthalate (P.E.T.) is a budget alternative to nylon carpet fibers. Polyester is known for its soft and luxurious feel and the ability to hold vibrant and bold colors. Polyester, particularly P.E.T., is made from recycled plastic bottles, making it an eco-friendly solution.

The biggest advantage of using a polyester carpet is its stain-resistant properties. Polyester is naturally resistant to stains and can take most liquids you throw at it without leaving patches.

However, the durability of the polyester carpet is one of its major drawbacks. With time, polyester will flatten under weight. This limits the use of polyester to low-traffic areas, such as a spare bedroom or an economical home improvement when flipping your home. Read the pros and cons of polyester, and our comparison of polyester vs nylon carpet fibers.

3. Polypropylene (Olefin)

Polypropylene, also referred to as olefin, is another popular synthetic fiber used in carpets. Though not durable, olefin is renowned for its water resistance and colorfast properties. It does not fade when exposed to sunlight and naturally wicks moisture up, so it dries up faster. Olefin is often used for outdoor carpets and is also ideal for damp basements.

Polypropylene carpets, like polyester carpets, are great for low-traffic locations. This is because polypropylene has low resiliency and will flatten or mat down when exposed to high foot traffic or when you place heavy objects. Choose a low-pile or low-loop polypropylene carpet to help with being crushed or matted down. Read our detailed guides of carpet pile types.

A disadvantage of polypropylene is that it is prone to soiling and oil stains. Even walking barefoot on olefin carpets will have enough oil to show the traffic pattern. The upside to this is you can use strong cleaners on a polypropylene carpet without the risk of damaging the fibers. Read more about the pros and cons of olefin carpet fiber.

5. Wool

Wool remains the most expensive and luxurious fiber of all the carpet fibers used today. Wool fiber carpets are mainly made from sheep wool, but some also feature hair from goats, llamas, and alpacas hair. Wool is durable and naturally resilient. You should expect it to last a few decades when well taken care of.

Wool is naturally stain-resistant, but it is sensitive to some stains, like wine, coffee, and tea. It also absorbs protein-based stains like blood and meat juice. Wool can also create a static charge, especially in dry weather, making it a no go option near your computer.

Carpets made with pure wool are a good choice for people with allergies and sensitivities to chemicals. However, because wool is costly, some manufacturers combine it with synthetic fiber to achieve both benefits. Wool and acrylic fiber blends are a more common combination. See the pros and cons of wool carpets.

6. Acrylic

Wool is expensive, but acrylic is the answer if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative.

Acrylic is also known as synthetic wool or art wool. Acrylic carpets are made from acrylonitrile, a clear plastic. Of all the synthetic fibers available, acrylic is the closest in appearance and feel to wool.

The major advantage of acrylic is the lower price compared to wool. It also has the luxurious properties of wool but lacks the less desirable properties of wool. Unlike wool, it is easier to clean and not susceptible to moth damage. Acrylic is also resistant to sun fading and does not absorb moisture.

The disadvantage of acrylic carpet fiber is that its neither durable nor resilient as a wool carpet fiber. The fibers will deteriorate over time and can easily be stained by oil and grease. Read more about acrylic carpet fiber and its pros and cons.

7. Triexta

Trieste or PTT (Polytrimethylene Terephthalate) is a relatively new carpet fiber. It is a polyester fiber with improved resilience compared to P.E.T. triesta goes under different names like smartstrand, sorona, and corterra.

Because triesta is produced without petroleum, it releases fewer V.O.C. gasses into your indoor air.

Trieste is praised for its excellent stain resistance and durability. It is softer and can stand up better to foot traffic than normal P.E.T. polyester. However, being a relatively new carpet fiber, triesta does not have a long-standing record to prove most of these claims, especially the durability part.

Samuel N

Samuel N is the founder of Improve Floor and has been in the flooring industry since 2005. Since then, his mission has been to make flooring easier for everyone. He helps countless people with flooring installation, finishing, maintenance, and repairs each year.