For many years, I thought carpet was just carpet. It goes on the floor; it keeps your feet warm and feels nice. That’s about it, isn’t it? Well, no, not really. You see, there are many different types of carpets (wool, nylon, polyester,…) all of which have been developed over time, some going way back to six thousand years BC. I’ll spare you the history lesson, only to say we’ve known about the benefits of laying carpets on our floors for many thousands of years.
These days, we can choose from a multitude of materials, and a whole rainbow of colours and patterns. Computers, robots and graphics designers can weave intricate patterns in minutes using CAD, and you can even have your own designed weaved into carpet if you wish. That’s technology for you.
So what are all these new fancy carpets made of? Well, a variety of materials as it happens, some more expensive and better than others, but all of them make good comfortable carpets for residential use, or for commercial carpets or contract carpets.
The most popular is probably nylon. It is fairly inexpensive, has excellent wear characteristics, and can be coloured and printed on easily. Nylon carpets are probably the most common on the market today, but a disadvantage is they tend to stain easily because they possess dye sites on the fibres. The cost of nylon tends to fluctuate with the price of oil, as it is a petroleum-based product.
Another type of carpet is polyester, or otherwise known as polyethylene terephthalate. Polyester unlike nylon does not have dye sites, so it is more stain-resistant. However, it is not as soft and luxurious as most other types of carpet, and is typically used for commercial carpets or mid to low prices carpets.
An inexpensive material is polypropylene. This is mostly used because it is inexpensive. On the down side it is difficult to dye and does not wear as well as nylon. Makers of polypropylene carpets compensate by making carpets with smaller loops, and this makes them wear very well, making them suitable for areas with heavy traffic. You can also make outdoor grass carpets with polypropylene.
Acrylic carpets came onto the market in the 1940’s and have come a long way since their first introduction. Rather than using strands that degraded easily, they have been developed to be harder wearing and stronger. Acrylic is usually colour-fast, and they have the feeling of wool, making it an ideal material for making rugs.
Finally, wool carpets are best known for their luxurious feel, and are used almost entirely on the domestic market. Wool is extremely durable, and luckily there is no shortage of sheep willing to give up their fleeces, so it’s quite abundant. Even so, it is fairly expensive compared to the other types of carpet, especially when combined with synthetic fibres to make it stronger and more durable. Most wool carpets today are a mixture of 80% wool and 20% synthetic fibre.