Nylon vs. Polyester Carpet
Carpeting the rooms of your home constitutes a major decorating expense and requires decisions you may live with for years. Wear and cost take precedence over color and appearance, and the kind of traffic your carpet is expected to bear can be a big factor in your final choice. The two most popular carpet fibers are nylon and polyester. Learn more about them to make a good-looking and great-wearing carpet choice.
Nylon carpet comes recommended by manufacturers and carpet professionals first and foremost for its durability. Spun as a bulked continuous-filament yarn (BCF) or a yarn twisted from short fibers (staple), nylon can be made into a number of carpet styles, from low- to high-pile. Yarn retains its resilience, which means that even plushier weaves bounce back after foot traffic. According to the National Floorcovering Alliance, some nylon yarns are manufactured specifically with crush-resistance in mind. As a low-pile weave, nylon endures wear well enough to be a primary choice for office and institutional carpeting needs, as well as residential. Choose nylon for the rec room, family room, basement stairs and hallways.
Nylon fiber has natural stain-resistant properties that endear it to active families. Stain resistance can be enhanced; the popular “Stainmaster” carpet line is made of nylon. The Carpet Buyers Handbook rates nylon carpet stain-resistance and removal as good to excellent. Nylon carpet is therefore a good choice anywhere that food and beverages are served.
Carpets in sunny rooms, like curtain and upholstery fabrics, run a chance of fading and deterioration from constant light exposure. Again, the Carpet Buyers Handbook gives high marks to nylon carpet in terms of both fade and wear, noting that special dyes can enhance performance in areas of prolonged sunlight exposure. A good color-holder, nylon carpet makes sense in sun-rooms and any rooms with an unshaded skylight. ]
Nylon also shows high abrasion resistance, important in rooms where doors may brush against carpet, shopping carts and strollers are constant traffic, or furniture is frequently moved around. In a family room, where chairs may travel frequently from the card table to the TV, a mud-room or back hall, resilient nylon carpet shows few furniture-foot indents and is not easily worn by friction. If you’re carpeting a dining area, nylon stands up to both spills and the constant movement of chairs.
For great color intensity, polyester carpet is the way to go. Fade-resistant staple yarn holds color well and offers greater flexibility in tones and shades than nylon. This makes polyester carpet great when you want your rugs to make a statement. For the pinks, reds and purples that meet a little girl’s decorating fantasies, the strong colors that carry out the colors of a sports-themed boys’ bedroom or any room where color matters, polyester carpet packs the punch you want.
While polyester carpet has always had a reputation for lush softness, it was often at a tradeoff for durability. New technology has increased durability while maintaining the traditional velvety quality. The inherently bulkier yarns of both traditional polyester carpet (PET) and newer PTT (Polyethylene Terephthalate – Triexta) can offer heavy, soft-textured carpets that feel cozy and lush underfoot. For a bedroom or dressing-room, a high-quality polyester carpet brings a feeling of luxury and relaxation that is hard to duplicate in other rug materials. PTT Triexta claims to be the silkiest synthetic carpet fabric ever created.
Above all, polyester carpet lets you stretch decorating dollars for great looks. Available in a variety of weaves and a broad spectrum of colors, polyester carpet can cost as little as one-third as much as nylon, although comparable grades may show smaller savings. For a guest room or a study, where there is low foot traffic; for a growing child’s room, where childhood is yielding to tween; for a grad-student apartment, whose lease will last only as long as the time it takes to get the degree, polyester carpet gets the job done, leaving you both time and money to tend to other matters.
Polyester carpet has become increasingly green. Today, a fraction of your rug may be composed of recycled soft-drink bottles, just like the polyester fleece of your favorite outdoor wear. When you’re ready to change carpets, this one can go back into the cycle, emerging as new carpet for new customers without adding to landfill.
The major reason to look at alternatives to nylon carpeting is cost. Even allowing for a wide range of quality, nylon appears consistently more expensive than its synthetic competitors olefin and polyester. For installed nylon carpet, for example, Homewyse estimates a range of between $4.35 and $7.49 per square foot. Stain treatments and padding can increase costs as well.
Nylon carpet also has exasperating quality which may irritating enough to send you looking for alternatives. In dry weather, or in rooms where air is consistently dried out by heating, nylon carpet is prone to static electricity. While generally no more than irritating, the “sparky” quality of nylon carpeting may make it a less-than-perfect choice in a nursery or young child’s room and may even prove aggravating in an adult bedroom.
While there have been many advances, polyester still lags behind comparable qualities of nylon carpeting in durability. Both foot-traffic and abrasion remain issues in high-use areas, where polyester fibers show both matting and wear-spots. Yarns less resilient than nylon bounce back less under furniture feet and door grazes. Replacing the buffet or a favorite armchair may be far easier than removing trace indentations of the old one from the carpet. Professionals hedge firm opinions with qualifiers: everything depends on the quality of fiber used, its twist and density; but no one claims that even high-quality polys outwear nylon. High-traffic areas need nylon, not polyester, for long wearing coverage.
The story of a customer who spilled hair dye all over her new polyester carpet and successfully removed it is claimed by a number of dealers and manufacturers as their own, but it illustrates strides in stain and soil resistance of which manufacturers are proud. Polyester is not as inherently stain-resistant as nylon, and you should check whether the polyester carpet you like has been—or can be—treated for soil- and stain-repellence. Oil-based stains seem to be the greatest concern, and performance can be uneven. Food spills and natural-oils-based lotions or cosmetics may present problems with polyester carpet.
Buying new carpet is always educational. Learning as much about how carpets you like are made and how quality standards are established will help you spend money wisely on a large home purchase. Assessing the needs your carpet must meet in a specific location is the best way to choose carpet that will beautify your home and last as long as you need it.