Types of Commercial Carpet Fibers
While there are many considerations when replacing or cleaning old commercial carpets, property manages must be aware of carpet fiber types. This is because fiber type refers to the actual material used to manufacture the carpet. The type of fiber will dictate price points, applications, maintenance needs and longevity. There are six main types of commercial carpet fibers:
- Nylon Carpet Fibers
- Olefin Carpet Fibers
- Polyester Carpet Fibers
- Wool Carpet Fibers
- Wool Blend Carpet Fibers
- Synthetic Blend Carpet Fibers
The various types of commercial carpet fibers have various advantages and disadvantages for commercial properties. There is no “one size fits all” solution for property managers when it comes to commercial carpets. Property managers should first understand the various types of commercial carpet fibers, then work with an IICRC Certified company when they need to clean, repair or replace their carpets.
Nylon Carpet Fibers
In general, nylon fiber carpets offer property managers the best performance of any commercial carpet fiber. A synthetic material, solution dyed nylon is both strong and extremely durable. As a result, commercial carpets with nylon fibers stand up well against abrasions and offer great texture retention. Due to their chemical makeup, nylon fiber carpets also respond very well to hot water extraction cleaning. Using this commercial carpet cleaning method will help crushed and matted nylon fibers to bounce back to their original shape. Drying the carpet can be sped up using a fan, air mover or HVAC.
While commercial nylon fiber carpets offer many advantages to property managers, they also have their drawbacks. First and foremost, nylon that is not solution dyed is prone to color loss or staining. Consequently, stain resistant treatments and dye blockers are frequently applied to nylon fiber carpets. Additionally, nylon fiber carpets are the most expensive synthetic carpets.
Olefin Fiber Carpets
Another synthetic product, Olefin fiber carpets are common in commercial properties. This is because they offer a solid combination of performance and affordability to property managers. In terms of performance, olefin fiber carpets are stain, mold and moisture resistant. They also are great for walk off mats because they attract and retain natural and synthetic oils that are tracked inside. All of these attributes are because of their chemical makeup. Olefin fiber carpets are also less expensive than nylon carpets.
Although olefin fiber carpets sound great, they have flaws. Most notably, they have a shorter lifespan than other synthetic carpets. While they are resistant to stains and liquids, they are susceptible to soiling from walk off or spilled oils. This includes oils from human skin, driveways, garages, parking lots and cooking ingredients. Olifin fibers also can be perminently damaged, with what the industry calls a carpet burn, from dragging furniture on top of it. Lastly, olefin fiber carpets require frequent cleaning to prevent soiling.
Polyester Fiber Carpets
Polyester fiber carpets fall between nylon and olefin fiber carpets in terms of price and performance. Similar to the way olefin carpets naturally repel liquids, polyester fiber carpets are inherently stain resistant. They are solid performers and typically cost half as much as nylon fiber carpets. Polyester fiber carpets also come in a wide range of colors. Lastly, they are typically much softer than nylon fiber carpets.
No different than other commercial carpet fibers, polyester fiber carpets have disadvantages. Polyester fiber carpets mat and crush quickly in high traffic areas and do not bounce back well from matting. The lifespan of a polyester carpet can be as short as 5 years. Similar to Olefin fiber carpets, it can be very challenging to remove oil based stains from polyester fiber carpets.
Wool Fiber Carpets
All in all, 100% wool fiber carpets offer the best performance to property managers. They hold their shape, naturally repel stains including oils and are incredibly comfortable. Other benefits include being fire resistant and they can even offer a degree of insulation. Lastly, because they use wool right off sheep, they are 100% all natural, organic and hypoallergenic.
While wool fiber carpets are durable, comfortable and easy to clean, they are the most expensive type of carpet. This is the major reason why many commercial properties do not use 100% wool carpets. In addition to costs, wool fiber carpets tend to fade when continually exposed to sunlight. They also naturally absorb water, making them prone to mold and mildew issues if left in damp unconditioned spaces. The final concern with wool fiber carpets is maintenance.
Since wool is a natural fiber, improper cleaning techniques can damage and sometimes effect wooven backing yarns, changing lenght or width of the wool carpets. Bleach and acids will cause color loss spots. As a result property managers should contact a professional carpet cleaner to maintain wool fiber carpets.
Wool Blend Fiber Carpets
Blended fiber carpets combine one of the three synthetic carpet fibers (nylon, olefin or polyester) with natural wool material. These materials are designed to offer some of the features of natural wool carpets at lower price points than 100% wool carpets.
Property managers must assume a blended fiber carpet will take on the attributes of the materials being used based on proportions. A carpet that is 80% wool and 20% nylon will act like nylon 20% of the time and wool 80% of the time. As a result, the strengths and weaknesses of wool blend fiber carpets is understanding the characteristics of the synthetic materials being used.
Nylon wool blends perform best in terms of durability and lifespan. They are also the most expensive of the three options. Polyester and olefin wool blends typically offers superior performance in high traffic areas .
Synthetic Blend Fiber Carpets
Finally, there are synthetic blend fiber carpets. While wool blends combine natural wool and a synthetic material, synthetic blends combine nylon, olefin and/or polyester. These also follow the 80%/20% rule mentioned above.
The most common blend used in commercial properties is a nylon polyester blend. This offers most of the durability and features of nylon, while being budget friendly. Even though it is rare, property managers would be wise to avoid nylon olefin blends at all costs. These carpets quickly appear dirty, are typically uncomfortable and have frequently crush. In general, blends of all three and polyester with olefin do not exist.