Carpets consist of an upper layer of pile attached to a backing. The pile can be made from various types of materials. The material of its pile determines primarily the quality of a carpet as well as all of its other features.
Carpets can be made from natural fibers like wool, cotton, linen, and silk, or synthetic fibers like acrylic fibers, nylon fibers, polyester fibers, and olefin fibers. Wool is the healthiest material, where the most durable carpets are made of nylon or polyester. Silk is extremely expensive, where acrylic carpets are good substitutes for wool ones. Keep reading to decide what type is best for you!
Carpet Material Types
As I mentioned above, there are mainly two types of carpet materials: natural fibers and synthetic fibers. Natural fibers are also divided into two groups as animal-based fibers and plant-based fibers.
Animal-based fibers consist of wool and silk, where plant-based fibers include cotton, linen, jute, bamboo, coir, sisal, seagrass, and tencel.
With the advancing technology, today, natural fibers are mostly replaced by synthetic ones. Among synthetic fiber types, there are nylon (polyamide) fibers, acrylic fibers, blends, olefin (polypropylene) fibers, polyester (PET) fibers, recycled polyester fibers, and triexta polyester (PTT) fibers.
Let’s take a look at all of the carpet material types one by one starting with natural fibers and then continuing with synthetic ones.
Wool is the type of fiber that determines the standard of carpet materials. It is like hazelnuts in chocolate, milk in ice cream or cotton in a shirt. It is the essential carpet material.
It is a natural fiber that shines and replenishes as you use it and does not smell. Wool fibers are highly resistant to abrasion. The rate of ignition of the wool carpet in case of a fire is lower than that of other carpets (acrylic, polypropylene, and others). It is not flammable. It removes excess moisture and returns when necessary.
Wool carpets act as regulators by preventing air drying to a certain extent in closed areas. They gather less dust than other carpet types. They can’t be crushed as well (when the heavy objects are lifted, the fiber re-collects itself.)
Wool carpets do not generate static electricity as synthetic carpets do. They neither produce nor keep bad odors. They are quite easy to clean with natural or white soap. They are also natural sound absorbers.
Choosing the right material type is just as important as choosing a color. When the carpets are first laid, they look beautiful and new, but only after a few years, the difference of the woven wool carpet is revealed. Among other fibers, wool is one of the most expensive types and therefore only used in luxury carpets and piece carpets.
When wool and polyamide (nylon) are used together, a more beautiful appearance is obtained and the comfort of wool is combined with the longevity of the polyamide (nylon). Also, alternative products can be developed according to these mixing ratios. The proportions of these mixtures and the properties of the fibers used in the mixture are the most important factors in determining the properties of the new products.
Silk is a soft, shiny fiber produced by silkworm. The silkworm is a caterpillar and produces it for cocooning. People make yarn from this fiber and weave fabric.
Silk is a very durable material. It’s also very flashy when painted. Silk weaving started in China 4,600 years ago, and it showed great improvement in Italy and France between 16th and 20th century.
Silk carpet is the symbol of nobility, splendor and wealth. Silk is the most expensive carpet material. People have traveled very long distances from China to Europe in order to achieve this fiber.
The genesis of silk, which is even a miracle, begins with the silkworm’s own cocoon. After long processes, silk is produced. The world’s highest quality silk is produced in Bursa region in Turkey.
After obtaining silk, the carpet is weaved. If you think that 1 m2 silk carpet is weaved in about 4 to 6 months, you can better understand the value of it.
The weaving time of each silk carpet depends on the fineness. As the fineness increases, the duration of the carpet making process increases as well.
The number of knots in a silk carpet is calculated by the average number of knots per square centimeter. Silk carpets generally have an average of 10X10 = 100 knots per square centimeter (equals to 100×100 knots per square decimeter). This means 10 knots per square cm vertically (on warp) and horizontally (on weft). There are also very thin carpets which can go up to 12X12, 14X14, 20X20 and even 40X40 knots.
The pile heights of silk carpets are between 1,5-2,0 mm (for wool carpets this value is between 4,0-5,0 mm).
Knot amount is directly proportional to the quality of the carpet. The total number of knots is calculated after determining the total area of the carpet. There are 1,000,000 knots in a silk carpet carrying an average of 100 knots per square meter and having 1 square meter area. Even a master weaver can weave 1 square meter silk carpet in a year.
Cotton is a natural substance obtained by bending the long, fibrous hair that surrounds the seeds of the cotton plant. These fibers vary in length and thickness and are absorbent, making cotton soft.
Long, fine and bright yarns produce the finest quality cotton, such as Egyptian and Sea Island cotton. Cotton, in terms of weight and quality, can be used in a variety of fabrics ranging from light and loose knitted fine fabrics to heavy and hairy fabrics like velvet.
Cotton carpets absorb moisture well and expel heat. They do not generate static electricity. Their paint adherence is really good. However, if they are exposed to mold or sunlight for a long time they will be damaged. They are more durable when dry and they easily crease. Cotton carpets may get dirty easy but they are easy to clean as well.
There is a method named mercerizing used for processing cotton so that it becomes shinier and looks almost the same as silk. Some carpets have piles made of mercerized cotton. When this kind of a carpet is new, it is very similar to a silk carpet, but in time it wears out quickly and has structural deformations.
Jute carpet models are an indispensable part of home decorations because they make the rooms look pleasant by having a comfortable and natural harmony.
Jute, also known as Golden Fiber because it preserves its bright appearance, is a vegetal body fiber grown in tropical regions. In order to obtain textile fiber, the jute fibers are dried first and then introduced into the factory for production. The method of production simply consist of a decaying process. Since it is a natural plant fiber type, its usage area is quite wide.
Jute fibers, which are recyclable materials, have positive effects on human health with their environmental characteristics. For this reason, their demand has been increasing in recent years.
Jute carpets are hand-woven products, so they must be cleaned in view of the fact that its sensitive structure. When any liquid is spilled on it, it should be buffered with a paper towel without wasting any time and then be absorbed without further spreading. After that, you can gently wipe off the carpet with a soft, damp cloth.
The production of jute carpets is usually carried out by hand work, but there are also models woven in the machine. Thin or thick knot, mat, and knitting jute carpet models that appeal to different styles can be used double-faced as well.
Linen is another natural fiber. It is a flax seed plant and produced from the stems of the flax plant. It grows in humid and cool climates. When grown for seed, ‘linseed oil’ is obtained.
If the fibers are to be used, the plant is cut down when it is a sapling. Each plant stem has an average of 1000 flax stem fiber. Approximately 25% of flax stem can be used as fiber.
The flax plant is processed in three steps to become a fiber: it is decayed, beaten and spun. After that, when it becomes a yarn, it can be woven.
In the early ages, the first raw material used in weaving after cotton is known to be linen. Weaving is a textile production technique developed after people learn to spin yarns.
Linen carpets that are usually woven using hand tufting system, may have varying pile heights and densities and can be designed custom.
Carpets Made of Bamboo
Used as a raw material of natural yarns, bamboo trees are cut into pieces and turn into fibers by pulpifying. They are then separated from their fibers and converted into yarn by technical processes on various machines. During these processes, the yarn is kept completely natural and pure.
Bamboo yarn is a white and thin yarn thanks to its natural structure. Despite its thin structure, it’s very durable and wear-resistant. That’s why it is also very suitable for knitting or weaving.
Because it has a light texture, coolness is a unique feature of bamboo. It provides good moisture absorption and air permeability to help the carpet breathe. It does not cause skin allergies, refracts ultraviolet rays and has antibacterial properties.
Carpets Made of Coir
Coir is a natural fiber type obtained from coconuts. Coconut products are derived from the fruit of the coconut tree (Cocos nucifera). Only mesocarp fibers (thick, airy layers of the rind of the fruit) should be defined as coir. The rest of the mesocarp is mostly used as coconut food or coconut powder.
The coir carpets made of coconut fibers consist of a hard and flexible material. It can make you feel quite harsh on bare feet, so choosing the room is an important factor when buying a coir carpet. Besides that, it is really a durable material that can set off a room.
Carpets Made of Sisal
Sisal is another durable natural fiber which meets the day to day use expectations. It is derived from the Sisal plant. It is softer when compared with other plant-based natural fiber types.
All sisal carpets are made of 100% natural plant fibers woven on the latex base. Sisal material is inherently anti-static, anti-bacterial, sound-absorbing, flame-resistant and elastic. These features make it an ideal floor covering material.
Sisal carpets with rich patterns and color alternatives offer you many different options when you want to redecorate or differentiate your room. They can be used in all kinds of places even as wall-to-wall carpets or bordered area rugs. They are especially preferred in stair, corridor and entrance projects due to their resistance to abrasion.
Carpets Made of Seagrass
Seagrasses are water plants which can be found nearly anywhere throughout the world. They live at the bottom of the seas with a form consisting of root, stem, and leaves. They are rooted to the bottom of the sea (sediment) and they can produce their own food by photosynthesis with the help of the sun rays.
Due to photosynthesis, they provide oxygen and nutrients to all seas in the world as well as providing egg laying areas for many species of fish that need to leave their eggs to these plants.
Even seagrass has a deeply textured look, it has the ability to resist stains. That is why it is preferred as a carpet material. However, carpets made of seagrass is quite smooth and shouldn’t be used on stairs.
Carpets Made of Tencel
Tencel, which is a regenerated cellulosic based fiber type, has a high resistance against intensive mechanical processes. High wet strength and modulus, in other words, the durability, provide dimensional stability in carpets.
Due to its nature, it is air permeable. It also transfers moisture very well. It maintains its brightness and color even after a lot of wash and therefore has high color fastness.
Tencel’s absorbency is also very high. This feature is used to provide excellent swelling of the fiber during the wet finishing process. Thus, a soft and flexible touching is obtained in the finished fabric.
When developing fabric construction from tencel yarn, fiber swelling and module should be considered. High modulus and robustness mean that tencel fiber in the fabric will not be easily deformed and will more easily reclaim its original shape and position.
It is a great sustainable material, as well as a breathable fiber which is 50% more resistant to mold than wool or cotton. Besides, it is a natural anti-bacterial fabric which makes it the healthiest plant fiber among all carpet materials.
Now lets dip into the synthetic fabric types.
Acrylic fiber is the most similar type of fiber to wool among artificial fibers. According to the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and BISFA (International Standardized Bureau of Synthetic Fiber) definitions, fibers containing at least 85% of acrylonitrile in their chemical structure are called acrylic fibers.
Due to its resemblance to wool, it is often used with wool. Its raw material is petroleum. It is produced as a filament but generally used as a staple fiber.
Although their cost is low, we can list the advantages of acrylic carpets which have many positive features as follows.
They have a soft feeling like wool carpets.
They are resistant to chemical materials and oil.
Moths can eat wool carpets but cannot harm acrylic ones.
They are resistant to sunlight as well.
They can be painted with bright and vivid colors.
They preserve their color and vitality for many years.
In short, durability, likeness to wool and vitality of the acrylic carpets are their superior aspects along with the advantage of being cheap. Unfortunately, they can be stained easily.
Nylon carpet fibers are more expensive than other synthetic carpet fibers and are the most widely used carpet fibers since the early 1960s.
In terms of overall performance characteristics, nylon fiber is the most versatile of all fibers and allows for the creation of a wide range of carpet styles as it provides excellent flexibility.
Extremely durable, resistant to stains and molds and non-static, nylon is a very good choice for carpets of all sizes and applications. Carpets made of nylon fiber are durable and flexible. Many new nylon yarns are also exceptionally soft.
Although it is not particularly resistant to stains, most of the nylon carpets are subjected to special processes to provide protection against potential spills and stains.
It can resist the weight of heavy furniture and people while maintaining the fiber height. Nylon carpets are dyed during the production of the fiber so that no color migration occurs after production. Nylon fiber is the material of the majority of all residential carpets.
In recent years nylon carpets became very well-liked. They are durable, they contain eye-catching colors, and they are positive for hiding dirt and stains. Large furniture brands, children’s room producers, and new fashion carpet brands have made this carpet very popular.
Olefin (Polypropylene) Carpets
Unlike other types of fibers, olefin does not absorb water and therefore needs to be dyed with a solution to give color. Solution dyeing is a process of pigmentation in which the color is actually introduced into the fiber while the fiber is being formed and thus cannot be removed after. The color will not fade even when exposed to intense sunlight, bleaching agents, atmosphere pollutants or other harsh chemicals or elements.
Olefin carpets which are resistant to moisture and mold, are easy to clean and maintain. However, as it is not as flexible as other fibers, the olefin is often used in knot pile structures that do not require superior flexibility.
Polypropylene (olefin) fiber, which controls the commercial market with a large share, is the cheapest of artificial fibers. Since it is very strong, it is widely utilized as artificial grass.
It is a fiber type that does not stretch and does not feel soft like a nylon carpet. It is the most resistant carpet fiber type to water. This plastic material is durable, does not fade in sunlight and can be easily preferred for outdoor use.
Carpets Made of Fiber Blends
Blends are generally made from olefin and nylon. This blend (olefin-nylon) is resilient but the different fiber types typically resist stains unevenly.
Therefore, even if they are cheap, stains will often be a problem with these blends.
Polyester (PET) Carpets
Although polyester fiber is not as flexible as nylon, carpets made of polyester fiber will perform well if they are made well.
Polyester carpet provides exceptional softness and color clarity. They are easy to clean and are naturally resistant to stain and fade.
Their resistance to being crushed and having a wide range of dynamic colors gives many advantages to polyester carpets. Polyester fiber, which is cheaper than nylon or wool, is a very useful carpet material.
The main advantages of polyester carpets are being easy to clean and more resistant to water than wool or acrylic carpets. They also contain vivid colors.
However, this carpet does not absorb moisture and very vulnerable to stains. The most unfavorable sides are the hardness, not getting shaped easily and not being healthy. It does not provide a comfortable and cozy environment due to its stiffness.
Carpets Made of Recycled Polyester
Polyester is an easily recycled substance. Actually, most of the polyester in today’s carpet industry is made from recycled polyester, derived from the materials like used plastic bottles.
This helps to keep millions of these bottles out of solid waste landfill sites and saves the resources in the production of polyester.
Triexta Polyester (PTT) Carpets
There are several reasons why triexta is separated from the polyester. The first is that triexta is considered to be more durable and flexible than conventional polyester. In fact, it is as durable as the nylon carpet fiber that has long been considered the king of synthetic carpet fibers.
Triexta’s look is more like polyester than nylon. Polyester has a higher gloss and gives a brighter appearance than other types of fibers. Like nylon, triexta has a duller appearance.
Triexta naturally doesn’t stain much. Many stains can only be cleaned with water, instead of using a spot cleaner.
The main reason for the high stain resistance level of triexta is that the fiber is hydrophobic, ie it does not absorb moisture. Triexta has been used in the clothing industry for a longer time than in the carpet industry.
In addition to resistance to stains, triexta fiber also resists fading. Not very flammable, so direct exposure to sunlight and UV rays does not cause the fiber to change color.
A further advantage of triexta is that it is significantly softer than both polyester and nylon. Its softness is partly due to the fact that it does not have chemicals applied to the fibers for stain protection.
One of the most attractive aspects of triexta is that it is available in an environmentally friendly version. While trying to reduce the cost of production, companies began using biotechnology based on fermentation of corn glucose. This changes the use of oil in fiber production by up to 37%. As a renewable source, corn glucose is much more sustainable than oil.
If you only consider durability, the choice of polyester (PET), polypropylene (olefin) and polyamide (nylon) carpets, which are plastic materials, seem to be correct, since they are more resistant to water, mold, and stains. Large furniture and children’s furniture brands offer very cute and colorful models.
However, these carpets are not good choices at the point of being soft comfortable ground cloths, which is the main motive while choosing a carpet. They won’t maintain their color and vitality for many years as well. Moreover, they cannot be said to be completely healthy (due to plastic materials).
Therefore, I highly recommend wool carpets. They are soft, natural, healthy and have a lot of useful features as being non-flammable, anti-static and sound absorbing. But if you can’t afford those, acrylic carpets would be fine as well.