The Inside Story on Carpeting

When it comes to carpeting, the options can be a bit overwhelming. Here's what you need to know.

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Palisades 017 Arctic v2 1 Sitting Area Photo courtesy of STAINMASTER®

THE INGREDIENTS
Carpeting, no surprise, is indeed fabric. And, as in the fabric world, there are different ingredients that go into it, either natural or synthetic.

Natural Fibers
Wool is top of the pops natural fabric-wise, in terms of wearablity, holding dyes well—and it cleans up in a jiffy. Wool is a staple yarn (small strips spun together) so it can fuzz up a bit and pill (think of your favorite old wool sweater). It’s not hypoallergenic, which means you might sneeze a bit if allergic to wool.

Synthetic Fibers
Synthetic fibers can be broken down into four categories:

  • Acrylic is made to replicate wool but, fooled you, it’s not. Acrylic is also a staple yarn and can pill and fuzz. Acrylic is color fast and resists stains and sun bleaching. It won’t give you the hives as wool can, but is a bit harder to clean.

  • Numero uno in the wall-to-wall carpet world, nylon is the defending champ due to its ability to just say "no" to stains, static electricity and wear. Nylon is a continuous filament or a yarn that starts out as chemical stew and is then extruded, stretched into fibers. Its nature reduces shedding and it absorbs dyes well.

  • Olefin/polypropylene is great—if you happen to own a professional baseball team: it makes great indoor-outdoor carpeting.

  • Polyester is another staple yarn that wears well and won’t make you sniffle. It handles sun well but is a bit more difficult to clean than nylon or wool. It is not as resilient as those mentioned above and has a tendency to lie down on the job. In other words, it crushes underfoot and doesn’t bounce back as well as the others.

THE BACK STORY
Carpeting is tufted, meaning its unceremoniously punched through something called primary backing. A secondary backing is then applied over this to make sure those little fabric buggers don’t escape out the back way.

Backing is generally made of either natural fiber such as jute, or polyester. Woven carpets that are made by weaving the top and backing together into one piece don’t require backing.

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