Introduction

Choosing what type of flooring to have in your home might seem like an easy decision, however there are many qualities the savvy decorator has to weigh up: cost, durability, appearance, maintenance, longevity insulation…the list goes on and on. After weighing up the pros and cons of everything from engineered wood to tile and bamboo, you’ve finally settled on carpet. Great, you think. The decision making is all but done – all you need to do it choose a pretty pattern and you can start considering which shade of eggshell complements it. Unfortunately your decision making isn’t quite over yet, as one of the major factors in choosing your carpet should be the material.

Even if you’re not a carpet aficionado, you’re probably aware that carpets come in a range of different materials, each one with its own benefits and drawbacks.The key to picking the right carpet material (or flooring for that matter) can be summed up in one word – usage. The right carpet for your bedroom is not going to be the right carpet for your stairs (or vice versa). In order to ensure your carpet does the job it’s intended to and stays in place or a reasonable amount of time, it’s vital you think about how it is going to be used. If it’s a in a high traffic area that needs to be a real consideration, unless you don’t mind buying new carpet every few years.

So what’s the best material for your home? Luckily we have put together a simple guide which will explain all you need to know about carpet materials, making your decision easier and ensuring you pick the right carpet for your needs.

Jute

Let’s begin with a naturally beautiful choice: Jute. This material is constructed using woven, dried fibers of plant (such as hemp or flax) and provides a textured finish. It fits well with modern, bohemian, or even beach house interiors, and complements natural and neutral color schemes – though as it comes in such earthy shades itself, it can be partnered with bright and bold colors and patterns.

Pros

If you enjoy a natural touch to your decor, jute is the right for you. It has a rustic, organic aesthetic to it that other materials just don’t have, but that not all! It’s also very durable making it a great choice for high traffic areas or homes with pets. It’s on the thicker and softer side, but it can made even more so when combined with other materials (such as chenille) making it suitable for children play area or a cozy bedroom. It’s easy to clean, just a quick vacuum usually does it (opt for the brush attachment to get in between fibers). Ensure to go in different directions to get all the debris out. If you spill blot, don’t rub.

Cons

As it’s a natural material, Jute can be very absorbent making it a bad choice for particularly humid or damp areas. The last thing you want is for your rug to become moldy. It also leaves behind debris from the fibers underneath, so this area needs to cleaned regularly. It isn’t able to be steam cleaned and you should not use harsh cleaners as it will cause discoloration. Lastly if left in an area with a lot of sunlight it will fade. For this reason jute is often reserved for interiors.

Mountaingrass

Our second material is another eco-friendly option: mountaingrass. Iit even sounds pleasant! Mountaingrass is similar to seagrass; both are natural fibers made from plant materials, and both have similar benefits and drawbacks – though there are some differences. For example, seagrass is made from a flowering plant grown underwater, however mountaingrass (as the name implies) is grown in mountainous regions close to the pacific rim. Both are eco-friendly as are constructed from materials that are quick to regrow, harvest, and replenish, and both tend not be treated with any chemicals or dyes, making them a favored choice for households that prefer natural products. In fact they are one of the most environmentally-friendly flooring options on the market.

Pros

Mountaingrass is an extremely durable material, making it perfect for areas that see a lot of traffic (doorways, hallways, kitchens etc.) Like other natural fibers, it also adds to the overall aesthetic of a room without being too visually demanding. This means it complements the vast majority of decor styles and can be moved from room to room if required. It’s also very easy to clean (much like jute) in that a quick vacuum is often all it needs.

Cons

Due to its origin and construction, mountaingrass tends to only be available in a small variety of colors (usually on the darker, natural side). It’s also a little more rigid than its companion seagrass, meaning it’s not as soft underfoot. This makes it a bad choice for the bedroom or the play area. This can be altered by the way in which the mountaingrass is woven, but it still tends to be on the harder, tougher side. It can be easily stained, so remember to blot spills and if you need to use a cleaner test it on an inconspicuous area first. It’s also unsuitable for outside.

Nylon

Now onto our first (and actually the first historically) man-made material: nylon. It’s one of the most popular carpet materials around thanks to many beneficial qualities and reasonable price. Nylon was invented in the 1930s when it was originally use for stockings, fishing line, and even toothbrushes. It wasn’t until the 1950s that it started being used to produce carpets, becoming the very first synthetic fiber to be used in this manner. It has continued to be a powerhouse in the carpeting world since then.

Pros

Nylon has the competitive edge over many other materials thanks to its high level of durability. A huge part of its resilience is due to the hydrogen molecule embedded in its structure – steaming the carpet reactivates this module and helps it to return to its previous state. This means the carpet doesn’t have the ‘flattened’ appearance other materials are susceptible to after time. This is also why homeowners are advised to have their nylon carpets steamed on an annual basis. Nylon carpet also comes in a huge array of patterns, colors, and price thanks to its popularity.

Cons

This type of material is extremely absorbent which means if something is spilled, it has the tendency to sink into the fibers. You can combat this by opting for solution dyed nylon, which cleverly adds the color in the production of the fibers as opposed to dyeing it after. This makes it much more stain-resistant and also fade less. The amount of nylon carpets out there means there are some very high quality and very low-quality options, so be sure to check important features (such as twist level, pile height, and padding) before buying.

Nylon Blend

If you’re looking to get a new carpet for your home, you might feel a little overwhelmed by what material to choose.This can be even further complicated when you start looking into blends. Blends are exactly as they sound – a mix of two different materials made into one. The percentage of each material in the carpet will affect its overall quality and durability; for example a 20% wool and 80% nylon will be different 20% nylon and 80% wool. The purpose of blends is try and negate the negative qualities of the ‘main’ material. It’s also a good rule to think of the carpet in weight – for example if it’s mostly made from wool, it will ‘act’ mostly like wool.

Wool Nylon Blend

Wool is one of the most luxurious materials, and although it’s durable if looked after correctly, mixing it with nylon can make it stronger. Nylon is more resistant to abrasion thanks to its construction. Nylon is also significantly cheaper than wool, so it can bring the price down without the affecting the quality. If you want a wool carpets that’s a little stronger without losing the aesthetic, then wool blend might be the right choice for you.

Nylon Polyester Blend

One of the most common carpets material mixes is nylon polyester. The two work well together as polyester is soft and can blend well with the strong nylon fibers. Polyester, however, is nowhere near as strong as nylon, and it cannot hold the test of time. This is why if you opt for this blend, ensure to purchase one that’s mostly nylon.

Nylon Polypropylene/Olefin Blend

Not recommended as polypropylene is not where near as strong as nylon – and it will show! Try to find an alternative blend, as the nylon will not dirty anywhere near as fast as the polypropylene.

Nylon Type 6

With nylon being such a strong presence in the carpeting world, you’re probably not surprised to learn that there are different types of it available (such as blends – see our previous blog for more information). Nylon type 6 is the most common on the market, and it was also the first created.

The material we know as nylon was created decades ago and has been steadily improving ever since. It was one of the first polymers, and was made to try and imitate natural fibers (like wool for example). This meant that the price of carpets reduced rapidly, whilst not compromising on quality. Nylon type 6 was the first of its kind and it has been used in many different industries over the years, one of the main ones being carpets. It excels in this industry because it has many useful attributes that homeowners or businesses look for. This include how lightweight it is, how easily it is to dye, and most importantly how strong, durable, and long lasting it is.

The two main types of nylon on the markets and nylon 6 and nylon 6,6, and although they may seem similar they do differ in terms of their molecular makeup. Nylon 6 has a more open structure than 6,6. This means it differs in terms of fiber recovery and strength.

Since its creation other synthetic carpets have been made, but in terms of quality and longevity nylon is by far superior. This means it can be on the pricier side of synthetic materials (although still significantly less expensive than natural fibers) but it’s worth it in the long run. Another thing to consider when choosing your nylon 6 is the brand is the guarantee available.Some premium brands claim to have lifetime warranties – if you’re intending on having the carpet in a heavily trafficked place, this might be an option worth looking into.

Polyester

Another popular synthetic you might be considering for your home or business is polyester. Invented in the 1940s (so around 5 years after nylon) this ubiquitous material is used largely for clothing but it has many other uses – including carpet. Another interesting fact about polyester is although it’s a type of plastic, it does have an eco-friendly side. Many manufacturers have been opting to make their material with recycled plastic, which creates exactly the same material but without the negative environmental impact.

Pros

Polyester has many advantages to homeowners, the first one being price. It is one of the least expensive options when it comes to buying carpet for your home, making it an attractive option for many people (prices typically start at less than a dollar per foot!)  It’s also extremely soft, as well as being stain resistant, and quick drying. Finally due to its easy construction and popularity, there are a whole plethora of colors and patterns to choose from.

Cons

Unfortunately it isn’t all good news. Polyester may be stain resistant, but if it does fall prey to an oil based stain it can be extremely tough to get clean again. In this case you may have to employ a professional cleaning service. Another weakness of polyester is its ability to become matted. Unlike nylon, the fibers do not ‘spring’ back, which can be an issue if you want to move your furniture around after a while. Finally the biggest issue you have to content with is the durability, which is nowhere near the level of some of the other materials on offer. If you often redecorate or its in a low traffic area this isn’t a huge problem, however if it’s in an area that’s underfoot daily, the carpet will have to replaced after a few years.

Polypropylene

Polypropylene – sometimes known as olefin – is a type of man-made material which (just like other polymers) has many different applications and uses. One of the which is carpet. It has a much lower price tag than other synthetic materials, however it also has certain weaknesses that mean it’s not suitable for all rooms.

Pros

The price point on polypropylene is pretty unbeatable. It costs significantly less than other synthetic fibers – even polyester. It’s often praised for its aesthetic similarity to wool, making it a cost-effective alternative (at least in terms of looks). It’s great for damp areas as it drys much faster than other carpets, and thus isn’t susceptible mold and mildew. This makes it a great choice for the basement or for outdoors (additionally it doesn’t fade when exposed to sunlight). If you do intend on using it outside, you should ensure to get a type which is designed for this purpose. Finally, it’s very stain resistant.

Cons

Although polypropylene is stain resistant thanks to its molecular construction, it is not soil resistant in any way. This means it attracts oils, even from your skin (a good tip is to wear socks at all times when traversing it). This makes it a terrible choice for kitchens. The main weakness of this material however is it’s lack of durability. Some carpet materials are designed to spring back, and therefore look plush for longer. This isn’t the case with polypropylene, and because of this it’s not suited to high traffic areas.

Seagrass

Seagrass is a great carpeting choice for the environmentally conscious, but that isn’t the only reason it’s grown in popularity. It has many strengths alongside it’s eco-friendliness, but that doesn’t mean its it’s the perfect answer to all your flooring needs and you should carpet your entire home in it from top to toe. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons seagrass has:

Pros

Seagrass is constructed from grass and reeds which are dried in the sun and then woven together to create a biodegradable and stylish product. You’d be wrong to think that because of the former, the material is not durable – seagrass is actually very strong and has great longevity. This makes it’s a great choice for heavily trafficked areas in the home. It doesn’t have deep pile like other carpets, meaning it’s much easier to clean and stains can just be blotted up (perfect if you have little ones and/or pets). Lastly it’s a great choice for those who suffer from allergies as seagrass is less porous than other materials, and to top it off it’s very soft and comfortable.

Cons

As a natural product, seagrass unfortunately only comes in a small variety of colors (most notably greens). Whilst this works well with neutral palettes and as a contrast to bold colors, your choices are somewhat limited. The other big issue seagrass poses is it doesn’t hold up well in wet and humid environments, meaning it shouldn’t be used for exteriors or for bathrooms.

Sisal

Another strong player in the natural fiber game is sisal. A sustainable option, sisal is fabricated from the plant sisalana (also known as agave) which is native to Brazil, Mexico, and Africa. It’s a super strong fiber often used to make ropes and twines, and is one of the most popular renewable material choices on the market. Let’s take a look at why:

Pros

Sisal is by far the strongest and most durable eco-friendly material on the market. This means it will last for a very long time. It’s aesthetic is often a selling point too; it comes in a variety of earthy, neutral tones that are a complement to many different decor trends. That being said if you prefer something patterned, it can be woven and dyed or mixed with other materials in order to achieve this. Like other natural materials, it’s a good choice for those who suffer from allergies. It’s also a very low-maintenance material – it just needs regular vacuuming. For these reasons, it’s often used in areas that see a lot of footfall (such as hallways).

Cons

The fibers that make up sisal are incredibly absorbent, so much so that people even use the carpets as a natural way to humidify their home and keep it cool. This characteristic also means  it’s a terrible choice for anywhere that’s damp regularly. Additionally because of its absorbency it tends to soak up stains easily and it can’t be steamed to get these out, so make sure to clean up promptly! Lastly it’s fairly coarse underfoot, and after a while becomes slippery.

Viscose

This partly man-made fiber was originally created way back in the 1890s as a less expensive alternative to traditional silk. Since then it has continued to evolve, going by many names (often each with a subtly different molecular makeup)  including rayon, faux bamboo, modal, alt. silk etc. Viscose begins with a natural material (for example cotton) which then goes through a chemical process, resulting in several different products that come under this umbrella. It’s worth noting that viscose isn’t often used as a ‘full’ carpet material – more often it’s an option for a decorative rug or is combined in a blend with a stronger material.

Pros

As it was created as a silk alternative, it aptly imitates the luxurious, soft, smooth, feel of it’s inspiration. Not only that, viscose is often offered in aesthetically pleasing, unique, decorative styles making a beautiful focal point for a room. Other materials simply can’t compete with the ornate look that viscose so effortlessly creates. Finally, as mentioned, viscose is extremely affordable, so if you’re on a budget but don’t want to compromise on style, it’s worth considering.

Cons

The main weakness viscose has is its lack of durability and strength. Whereas other materials have the ability to content with day-today wear and tear, this does not, making it a no-no for areas with high traffic. Some viscose does have the tendency to ‘shed’, though this is usually  sign of poor construction. Additionally as the fibers are more delicate, they do not enjoy harsh chemicals or moisture as a whole – any kind of spill could immediately discolor. It’s production is also not environmentally friendly, and because it lacks strength it’s longevity is nowhere near  to the other synthetic or natural fibers. To sum up, it looks beautiful but only has a short life. As such people often opt for a viscose blend in order to strengthen it.

Viscose Blend

Viscose is a partly synthetic material created over 100 years ago to content with a silk plague. As such its purpose was to mimic the soft, decorative opulence silk rugs offered. Since then it has had several different application (most notably in clothing). It’s construction begins with a natural material – anything from cotton to soybeans – which is then treated in a variety of ways depending on the manufacturer and the intended end product. This means viscose actually has many different names.

Due to the nature of its construction, viscose is naturally not as strong or durable as other synthetic or natural fibers. This means it shouldn’t be used in any area that sees a lot of foot traffic or moisture – it simply doesn’t have a the strength to bounce back and can even shed as a result. The main benefit of viscose is it’s aesthetic appeal and the price. It’s incredible soft and can be used to create visually beautiful carpets or rugs. Because of this, it’s often combined with other, stronger materials to try and counteract it’s weaknesses in order to extend its longevity.

The strength of your viscose blend will be dependant on the percentages of the partnering material, and it will act accordingly based on this. If you want your rug to last longer and not discolor as easily, you should find a blend which has more wool in for example. Even the addition of another material into viscose does not mean all it’s weaknesses will dissipate: it should still only be used in an areas with very low footfall and never in areas prone to staining or moisture.

Wool

Moving onto another natural fiber that has a long history in the carpeting and comfort world: wool. Wool is an all rounder in terms of its strengths, but with that often comes a hefty price tag. It’s made using short lengths of wool from sheep, and as such is a renewable energy source with less impact on the environment that synthetic fibers. It’s one of the most popular and well-known materials for carpets and rugs, and with good reason!:

Pros

One of the main benefits of choosing wool for your home is it’s incredible durable. It has the ability to spring back, keeping it looking and feeling plush for much longer than other materials. It can stand decades of wear and tear, and as such can be used in areas of high footfall. This is thanks to the the fiber’s natural coil, so it doesn’t get the ‘matted down’ look many synthetic alternatives suffer from. Additionally wool dyes exceedingly well, the color is locked in and doesn’t fade for a long time. It’s offered in a huge variety of patterns and colors, and has an inbuilt resistance to water-based stains – just make sure to blot them as soon as possible.

Cons

The main problem with wool carpets is the expense. Wool carpets are pricier than the vast majority of other materials, costing nearly twice as much as synthetic fibers. Then there’s the cleaning aspect; although water-based stains are no problem, oil based ones most definitely are. Though this is true for the vast majority of carpet materials, wool is more likely to stain permanently from such spills. It’s advised to have it professionally cleaned on a semi-regular basis to content with this. Finally wool naturally absorbs water, meaning it can be used to keep your home nice and cool in the right rooms, however if it comes in contact with too much water regularly it can become waterlogged, resulting in mildew.

Wool Blend

Wool is a powerhouse in terms of its durability in the flooring world, making it an appealing choice for many homeowners. Thanks to its natural ability to resist flattening and stains, it’s one of the most well-known and ubiquitous carpet and rug types around (and has been for years). But with all these benefits comes a cost – wool can be nearly double the price of synthetic fibers. If you’re on a budget it might not be feasible for you, and not only that pure wool carpets do have some drawbacks (namely the water retention and the vulnerability to oil stains). For this reason many homeowners choose to opt for wool blend carpets in their home, which helps to bring down the price and contend with some of the weaknesses inherent to this natural material.

Wool-Nylon

A wool-nylon blend is often desirable because both are extremely hardy materials, meaning you won’t lose out on the durability.

Wool-Polypropylene

A cheaper alternative to nylon mix, wool-polypropylene has the latter as a sort of inexpensive filler. The problem with this is polypropylene is nowhere near as strong as wool or nylon, and as such these fibers can cause the carpet to flatten in parts. If longevity is important to you, it’s advised to err on the side of caution and buy a wool majority – anything less than 60% wool probably won’t last very long.

Wool-Silk

One of the most luxurious carpet blends, wool and silk complement each other to create a wonderfully opulent, strong, and completely natural material. If you want the durability of wool partnered with a more decorative design, then this is the choice for you. It does however come with a high price, as would be expected.

Conclusion

So overall, which material is best for your home? It all depends on a few factors:

  • The environment the carpet will be in

Will the carpet be in a humid or wet room? Make sure you choose a material which won’t absorb it and run the risk of mildew. What about stain and spill retention? Will the carpet be in an area where it will have to contend with these often, such as the kitchen? If this is the case you should opt for a material which won’t be at risk from permanent damage (this also applies if you have young children or pets)

  • Foot traffic

A major deciding factor will be figuring out the amount of foot traffic the area gets and if you need to get a material that has the ability to cope with that.

  • The style you want

Do you have a neutral color scheme? Natural fibers might work well for you. Are you looking for something to blend with your current decor or do you want a stand out, focal piece? If it’s the latter a wool-silk blend or synthetic carpet might serve your needs better.

  • Longevity

Are you getting your carpet or rug for the long haul? Then maybe you should fork out the extra cash and get a wool or wool blend. If you’re counting on the carpet only being there for a few years and you like to decorate often, it might make more sense to go for a material with less durability and a lower price tag.

Overall the carpet or rug you choose should be based on asking yourself the above questions, and treating each room and area as its own entity. Shopping for your carpet shouldn’t be a headache, so figure out your needs and speak with your flooring provider for advice.