Types of Carpet Fibers

All carpets and rugs are constructed with different types of carpet fibers.  Carpet fibers can be continuous such as a nylon fiber or staple fibers, 6 to 7 inches in length, which are spun together to form a continuous length – such as wool or cotton.  Because carpets are made with different fibers, a professional carpet cleaner must know the best method to clean each fiber type.


Natural fibers come from plants or animals.  They absorb water so are more sensitive to spills than synthetic fibers.  Natural fiber carpets have an appealing look and are softer than man-made fiber carpets.

Two natural fibers used to construct carpets that come from animals are wool and silk.  These fibers absorb dye well so that patterns can be imprinted into them.  They are sensitive to heat so water temperature for cleaning should be kept to 150 degrees or lower.  Do not use a steam cleaner on them.  Bleach will destroy wool and silk so a bleach spill cannot be fixed.  Alkaline cleaners should be very mild as high alkaline will also damage the fibers.

Plant fibers are also used in carpets.  Some carpets are made with cotton.  It is very absorbent and can mildew or brown if left wet.  It can also shrink if not properly dried.  Jute and sisal are plant fibers that are used in carpet backing.  Since these are natural fibers they can mildew and shrink if left very wet.


Man-made or synthetic carpet fibers are more durable than natural fibers and don’t absorb as much water.  They can resist stains better but are not as soft as natural fibers.

Rayon is the first synthetic fiber developed but is rarely used in carpet manufacturing as it is not strong enough.  It may be used in small rugs and sometimes is used in upholstery or drapes.  Nylon is a very popular material for many things including carpets.  Early generations of nylon were transparent and showed the dirt in the carpet.  Later generations of nylon addressed this issue as well as reducing static shock and becoming more stain resistant.  Nylon carpets dry quickly, are abrasion resistant, and the carpet pile will bounce back from crushing.  Olefinis another synthetic carpet fiber.  It is very water and stain resistant and can have bleach applied to it without damage.  It is not as tough as nylon and will wear in high traffic areas and retain furniture marks where it gets crushed.  Acrylic fibers are designed to look like wool without being as expensive.  Acrylic is resistant to stains and fading from the sun.  It does not wear well in high traffic areas though.  Polyester is inexpensive, can be recycled and is a versatile carpet fiber.  It is soft, quick drying, and stain resistant except for oil-based stains which can become permanent on a polyester carpet.

There are many types of carpet fibers that can be found in your home.  Each type has its benefits and limitations.  Consult a professional carpet cleaner if you are unsure of what type of fiber is in your carpet and how best to clean it.  New Again Carpet Cleaning of Charlotte is here to help.

Reference: Carpet Cleaning by Debbie Poulos and Steve G. Poulos.


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