Determining A Carpet’s Durability

Lillian SteinBy Lillian SteinNov 6, 20170

When shopping for carpet, many people look at color and cost of a carpet rather than looking at the substance of the carpet. Many different types of carpet exist, which one is right for you will depend on many factors. Taking the time to understand the basics about carpet could save you time, money, and frustration.

Many consumers will dig their fingers into the carpet pile, but this will only give you its “perceived quality.” In actuality, it is difficult to insert your fingers into a good quality carpet. Poor quality carpets can result in several problems, such as:

  • Fuzzing

    A hairy effect that is caused by fibers that have become loose either from snags or as the result of a weak twist.

  • Matting

    An irreversible adhesion of the carpet yarn. It is usually caused by traffic or dirt.

  • Pile Crushing

    A loss of pile thickness caused by compressing or bending the tufts. It can be irreversible.

  • Pilling

    The appearance of little balls of tangled fibers and lint, causing a rough appearance. It is caused by fibers that loosen because of a weak twist or snag. This is also called sprouting.

To avoid these problems, you should find the best type of carpet. Carpets should be evaluated based on their fibers, type of pile, density, and twist level.

Carpet Fibers

Carpet Fibers

Ninety-seven percent of carpets sold today are made of artificial fibers. Most carpet producers have brand names for their carpet fibers, which are generally made up of a combination of one or more type of fiber. The five most common fibers used in carpets are nylon, polypropylene, polyester, acrylic, and wool.

Nylon is very popular because it is durable, strong, and resistant to abrasion. Almost two-thirds of all carpets in the U.S. are made of nylon. Most nylon carpets made today will no longer generate static electricity because they are treated with an anti-static treatment.

Nylon is also soil and stain resistant. It can also come with a protective coating that will prevent the growth of mildew and fungus. Nylon’s strength makes it a good choice for commercial facilities and areas with heavy traffic.

There are two basic types of nylon: type 6 and type 6,6. Type 6 is generally cheaper, more elastic, and fatigue resistant. It also has a better thermal stability and dyability. Type 6,6 is more stain resistant, harder, and has a slightly higher melting point. However, the differences between the two minimal and research testing have shown that they perform similarly.

Polypropylene, or olefin, is cheaper than nylon, cleans well, and very resistant to stains (except oil-based) and fading. However, it is also less resilient, which can lead to crushing. It has a low melt point and fibers can fuse together simply by dragging furniture across its surface.

Polypropylene is a solution-dyed product, which means that although color selection is limited but it is very colorfast. It is especially suited to indoor/outdoor applications and basements because it is resistant to moisture, mildew, water damage, pilling, and shedding. Olefin makes up about thirty percent of the fibers used in carpet manufacturing today.

Polyester offers superior softness and color variations. Unfortunately, it is not as resilient as nylon and tends to pill. It is extremely fade resistant as well as being resistant to stains (except oil-based stains). Polyester is frequently blended with nylon to create carpets that possess qualities of both carpets.

Acrylic is a generic term that includes both acrylic and modified acrylic, or modacrylic, fibers. Acrylic is a polymer that is at least eighty-five percent by weight of acrylonitrile. Modacrylic is a polymer that is at between thirty-five to eighty-five percent by weight of acrylonitrile.

Acrylics offer the feel of wool with a low static level. It also resists moisture and mildew. Acrylic is frequently used in bath mats and washable rugs, but it is rarely used today in carpets. It has poor wear qualities and poor resilience.

Wool used to dominate the carpet world, now only one percent of carpet fibers used is wool. It is soft, ages gracefully, and has a certain prestige because of its durability. However, it tends to attract moths and costs more than other fibers. It also tends to wear down, which can cause bald spots.

In addition, since wool is capable of holding ten times its weight in water, it is susceptible to shrinking, mildew, and mold. Make sure any wool carpets that you purchase are treated to resist mildew. Wool is extremely popular for use in rugs.

Types Of Pile

Types Of Pile

Pile is the term for the upright ends of yarn that form the wearing surface of carpets or rugs. There are two types of pile: looped and cut. Looped pile is generally multi-colored and durable, but it can retain dirt and may be damaged from snags. Cut pile is more popular and is created by cutting looped carpet fibers. It is less resistant to crushing than other types of carpets.

Most cut-pile carpet is made out of polypropylene, and polyester fibers are usually heatset. Heatsetting is the process of heating or steaming yarn so it will hold its twist.

Level loop pile consists of even loops of yarn that are weaved into the carpet backing at both ends. It is very durable and track resistant. Short, densely packed loops are easier to clean than higher loops because they will prevent dirt from filtering into the carpet.

Berber carpet is a type of level loop pile that is usually made from a thicker yarn. Berber is generally made from polypropylene or wool fibers and is ideal for active areas. Multi-level loop pile is just like level loop pile, only the loop heights vary.

Cut-pile Saxony carpets have a smooth appearance. They are tightly twisted cut piles that are heatset straight. It is usually made out of nylon and available in solid colors. It has a good appearance, performs well, and has a soft texture. The one drawback to cut-pile Saxony carpets is that they will generally show footprints and vacuum-cleaner marks.

Textured cut pile is also called textured and textured Saxony. The pile is tightly twisted and heatset. This carpet has a more casual appearance, but its soft feel and medium durability make it very popular. It also has the added benefit of not showing vacuum-cleaner marks and footprints. It usually has a multi-colored look.

Frieze carpet consists of highly twisted cut pile with short fibers that tend to curl in different directions. This gives it a textured, knobby appearance that is suitable for high traffic and informal areas. It is extremely durable and more expensive than textured cut pile.

Patterned carpet combines cut and looped fibers. The different levels can help hide dirt and traffic patterns. It is available in solid or multi-colored designs and has a medium durability. It is good for both formal and informal settings.

Carpet Density

Carpet Density

The density of the pile is important. Several formulas exist to evaluate carpet density, but the US Government Federal Housing Administration uses this formula: weight (pile yarn weight in ounces per square yard) multiplied by thirty-six and divided by the pile thickness (height in inches).

You can get a good idea of a carpets density by bending the carpet and seeing how much pile appears. Carpets with a very dense pile will wear better and be more soil resistant. High-density carpets cost more, but are generally worth the cost for areas that receive a lot of traffic because they are more resistant to crushing and matting.

Carpet Twist Level

Carpet Twist Level

Carpet twist level is largely ignored, but can indicate how well a carpet will perform. A carpet’s twist level is measured in turns per inch, usually ranging between three to nine turns per inch.

Carpets with a higher twist level will hold their original appearance longer. Lower twist carpets have the tendency to untwist and appear matted.

Now that you have an idea on how to evaluate carpet and choose one that will best meet your needs, you have a far more difficult task. You have to choose a color. At least you know that whatever color you choose, the carpet will last. Of course, if you pick the wrong color this might end up being a curse rather than a blessing.

Other Terms To Know

Other Terms To Know

When carpet shopping, you may find yourself faced with one or more of these terms that can help you determine the carpet’s quality.

Abrasion resistance is the ability of a fiber to withstand rubbing and surface wear.

Bulked continuous filaments, or BCF, are long filaments of fiber that are plied together so that they will form continuous bundles of fiber. Polypropylene is usually a BCF.

Cleanability is the ability of a carpet to release soil or stains without being damaged provided the correct method is used.

Hand is how a carpet feels to the hand. Weight, stiffness, fiber type, denier, density, and backing can all play a factor in a carpet’s hand.

Resilience is the ability of a carpet pile or padding to retain its shape after it has been crushed or walked on. It is also called texture retention or carpet memory.

Soil retardant is a topical treatment that is applied to a carpet that will help prevent soil from attaching to the fiber.

Staple fibers, or staple yarns, are yarns that are produced in short lengths and spun and twisted together to form long threads of yarn. Polyester fiber is available in staple only; cotton and wool are usually staple fibers.

Stain blocking is when unused dye sites are filled in, which helps eliminate many staining problems.

Shading, or pile reversal, is when traffic bends the carpet fibers in different directions. This causes an impression of light or dark areas that generally disappears after vacuuming.

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