Finding the fibre for you

Carpet manufacturer Lano’s Gary Alp talks through the different carpet fibres available today, from old favourites to the latest innovations, to help you make the perfect selection for your build

There’s more to think about when choosing a carpet than colour or texture: today’s carpets come in a bewildering wide range of fibres that offer myriad benefits, from stain- resistant man-made yarns that can be bleach cleaned, to plant-based choices with great ‘green’ or even antibacterial credentials. Is bamboo right for you? Would traditional wool be best? Or are you better off with SmartStrand?

The choice can seem overwhelming, but the carpet that’s ultimately right for your build will depend on your priorities, and whether you consider colour fastness, comfort or durability – or another factor altogether – to be key.

Here we take a closer look at five of the most popular carpet fibres and their main advantages.

SmartStrand

An established favourite in the US, SmartStrand is now making its mark in the UK, bringing a unique blend of resilience, eco credentials (it’s partly made from corn!) and lifetime stain protection that no other fibre can match. Its top performance in stain tests is down to the fact that, unlike other materials, SmartStrand yarns present a closed cellular structure, making it impossible for any kind of fluid or liquid to get absorbed by the fibres.

Unsurprisingly it’s increasingly being seen as a rival to nylon and is becoming a more popular choice for households with small children and pets, and for those looking for a ‘greener’ flooring choice. However its advantages don’t stop there; SmartStrand fibres are soft to the touch and feel silky underfoot, and offer a high level of UV resistance. So even if you choose a bold colour,
it shouldn’t become washed-out over time.

Wool

Few fibres can compete with the unique look and feel of wool, and there’s good reason why this material has been championed in the craft of carpet making for centuries on end. Wool carpets are 100 per cent
natural, dependable and excellent for thermal and acoustic insulation. They are also mothproof, fire-retardant and biodegradable, achieving all of this without sacrificing on style.

A major advantage of wool is its natural ‘springiness’, which makes it incredibly resilient, while the fact that it takes dye well means wool carpets are available in an incredible array of colours.

On the flipside, pure wool carpets tend to be more expensive than their man-made counterparts, and can need regular maintenance to look their best – hence they’re probably not the first choice for households with small children or pets prone to accidents. However, properly looked after, a wool carpet should look fabulous for years to come.

Nylon

Nylon has a reputation as the most durable and resilient of all carpet fibres (where durability is defined as “having the ability to return to its original form or position after being bent, compressed or stretched”), which makes it an ideal choice for areas of heavy traffic such as hallways and living rooms.

As well as offering superb stain resistance, nylon fibre is known for its fabulous feel, having a silken, velvet-like texture and a subtle shimmer that adds to its stylistic possibilities. Unlike other man-made carpets of old, nylon is crush- and fade-resistant, so if you opt for a vibrant hue (like wool, nylon holds dye well and comes in a wealth of colours) the appeal will be maintained for a long time to come. Unsurprisingly, given its many plus points, nylon carpet tends to be second in price only to wool.

Bamboo

Another relative newcomer to the carpet world, bamboo is considered one of the world’s most sustainable resources thanks to its fast growth, 100 per cent biodegradability and the fact that no pesticides are needed in its production. As a carpet fibre it therefore makes a fantastic eco-friendly choice, but it also possesses antibacterial and humidity-regulating properties for a healthier home, and is toxin free.

Although as a raw material bamboo is incredibly strong, when its pulp is turned into carpet form it’s astonishingly soft, and offers the luxurious feel and subtle sheen of a silk carpet without the exorbitant price tag.

Polypropylene

Polypropylene carpets are affordable, practical and soft to the touch, which makes them great all-rounders for any home. Easy to clean and maintain, polypropylene carpets resist staining effectively, are durable and offer excellent value for money. As they can be cleaned with diluted bleach they’re often the preferred choice for families or anyone looking for a low-maintenance carpet, and are a sensible choice for those on a budget or those that may be considering renting out their self-build. Polypropylene is less easy to dye than wool, which means it tends to come in earthy or subtle tones rather than vibrant shades. However, be aware that poor- quality options are prone to crushing, so pay close attention to manufacturers’ wear-performance ratings.

It’s important to remember that there is no such thing – yet – as the “perfect” carpet fibre, and manufacturers will often blend different fibres together to enhance carpet performance or to meet a certain price point. As with all purchases, the general rule of thumb when it comes to carpets is that you get what you pay for, and your budget may well be influenced by whether you’re developing your property for immediate sale, planning to rent it out or intend
to live in yourself. Thankfully most manufacturers are generous in their supply of samples, so you can experiment with different looks and textures until you’re confident you’ve found the carpet that best suits your needs.

Gary Alp is residential sales manager (UK & Eire) at Lano