BCF and staple are terms you will likely hear if you are shopping for carpeting. Are they indicators of quality? Is one always better than the other?
BCF and Staple
BCF stands for "bulk continuous filament." As the name suggests, it is essentially one long continuous strand of fiber that is used to make a section of carpet.
Staple fibers are shorter lengths, usually only a few inches long. They are twisted together to form longer strands.
Types of Fiber
Wool is a natural staple fiber. Nylon and polyester can be made in either BCF or staple form, depending on the desired end product. Both triexta (PTT) and olefin (polypropylene) are made in BCF only.
The major difference between BCF and staple is that staple fibers shed initially after installation. The shedding period should be brief; it should last no more than two weeks. It is not an indication that the carpet is flawed or is of lower quality, and it will not affect the appearance or performance of the carpet. It is simply a natural result of the cutting process; shorter fibers will sometimes be cut loose entirely.
After your initial vacuuming, you may be shocked by the number of fibers in your vacuum bag or canister, but the quantity will reduce with each subsequent vacuuming. Frequent vacuuming will help to minimize the shedding. Due to the increased shedding of staple fibers, those with allergies or who are susceptible to breathing problems may opt for BCF.
Despite the drawback of shedding, staple fiber has certain advantages that make it preferable to BCF in some instances. For one, the staple is more uniform than BCF and is a good option for solid colors. By contrast, BCF is preferred in multicolor products and highly twisted friezes, which require less uniformity. For another, the staple is often produced in-house (meaning at the manufacturer's site) while BCF is usually purchased from outside (meaning that the carpet manufacturer buys the yarn from a fiber producer, such as DuPont). This means that BCF is generally a higher cost, so a staple fiber helps to keep the price of the carpet down.
Being a lower cost, however, doesn't necessarily mean that staple fiber is of lower quality than BCF. In fact, staple is preferred in many higher-end products due to its uniformity. Both types of fiber are available in various qualities, so one is not absolutely better than the other. It depends on the desired finished product.
That being said, if you were comparing two products that were equal in every other aspect, but one was a BCF and one was a staple, you may want to choose the BCF as it will have a higher resistance to pulling (especially with pets). This doesn't mean, though, that you should shy away from the carpet you like just because it is a staple—chances are many of the features you like about it would be drastically changed were the same carpet made from BCF because BCF and staple do have different appearances.
BCF has a higher luster than staple. Due to this, manufacturers will often use BCF in low-weight carpets, as the increased light reflection helps the product to appear bulkier. By contrast, staple has a more dull or matte finish, similar to wool.