4 Types of Synthetic Carpets and How to Choose One

High Angle View Of Gray Flip-Flops On Carpet
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Synthetic carpets, made of man-made fibers, make up the biggest portion of the wall-to-wall carpet market. There are several reasons why synthetic fibers are preferred by many over natural fibers (such as wool), including cost, strength, durability, and stain resistance.

You'll find four major types of synthetic fibers used for carpeting. Each fiber has certain characteristics that may make it more appealing than other fiber types or more suitable for specific uses than others. Here are the four main types of synthetic carpet fibers.

Types of Synthetic Carpet    
  Positive Negative 
Nylon Higher resiliency than polyester Less stain-resistant than polyester
Polyester Higher stain resistance than nylon Not as resilient as nylon
Triexta Very soft Newer fiber without a track record
Olefin Extreme stain resistance Least durable synthetic fiber
  • 01 of 04


    Close-up of a nylon rug
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    Best for: Heavy-traffic areas, including stairs

    Nylon is one of the most well-known synthetic fibers. For years it has been considered the "ultimate" carpet fiber. Nylon is, in general, a strong fiber with high resiliency (the ability to bounce back after becoming flattened or compacted). This translates into a very durable carpet.

    Nylon does have some disadvantages, though: it is more expensive than other synthetic carpet fibers, and less stain-resistant (although it is always protected with a stain treatment).

    • Easy to clean and maintain when treated for stain protection

    • Extremely durable

    • Excellent fiber resiliency (bounce-back)

    • Expensive

    • Not as soft as other fibers

    • Generates static electricity

  • 02 of 04


    Carpet color swatches on a sample board
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    Best for: Low- to medium-traffic areas, such as bedrooms and home offices

    Polyester (polyethylene terephthalate, or PET) is a very versatile fiber that has been used for a long time in carpeting. Historically, polyester has been viewed as a lower-quality carpet fiber than nylon, because polyester is not as strong or as resilient as nylon. However, there have been many technological advancements in polyester production, and as a result, polyester today is more durable than it has been in the past.

    A big advantage of polyester is its built-in stain resistance. Another bonus is that polyester carpets today are often made of recycled materials, making them more environmentally friendly carpets than their nylon counterparts.

    • Soft and plush underfoot

    • Less expensive than nylon

    • High stain resistance

    • Shows wear earlier than nylon

    • Not ideal for high-traffic areas

    • Fibers are not as resilient as nylon

  • 03 of 04


    Triexta color wall carpet samples
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    Best for: Low, medium, and high-traffic areas, except for mudrooms and entryways that may track in oil-based dirt

    Triexta is the newest carpet fiber and is currently generating a lot of buzz in the carpet industry. In 2009, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission officially recognized triexta as a generic name for polytrimethylene terephthalate (PTT), making it a new classification of fiber.

    Although triexta essentially comes from the same "root" as polyester, there are several key differences between the two fibers. The biggest difference is that triexta is more resilient than standard polyester. Triexta is also much softer than polyester (although there are many new "soft" polyester carpets). Many triexta carpets are made using biotechnology that utilizes corn glucose in the manufacturing process, making these carpets eco-friendly and resulting in less off-gassing.

    • More durable/resilient than regular polyester

    • Very soft

    • Colorfast, won't fade or discolor

    • Newer fiber, no long-term performance info

    • May soak in certain oil-based soil but can be cleaned

    • May need more frequent cleaning than nylon or polyester

  • 04 of 04


    A light beige colored berber carpet
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    Best for: High-moisture areas such as basements and outdoor spaces

    Olefin (polypropylene) is commonly found in looped styles of broadloom (such as Berber) and area ​rugs because its appearance is similar wool. Olefin is considered a less durable fiber than most other synthetic carpet fibers and is usually limited to products of entry-level quality and looped styles, where resiliency is not as crucial. However, olefin is extremely stain-resistant, and so it's well-suited to areas prone to spills.

    • Very affordable

    • Tolerates spills because of its stain and moisture resistance

    • Fade-resistant

    • Least durable synthetic fiber

    • Attracts oil-based dirt

    • Tough to clean if fibers trap oils

Choosing a Synthetic Carpet Fiber

Keep in mind that each type of fiber is available in carpets of all different qualities. The quality of the carpet depends on many other factors, including the fiber's construction and twist, so you can't judge a carpet based only on the type of fiber. Always consider the amount of foot traffic you anticipate in the room you are carpeting, which will inform you of which fiber you need to buy. Once you know the type of fiber that will function best in your room, then you can look for the style and construction of carpet that will suit your aesthetic needs.

For example, loop-pile (such as a Berber) and frieze carpets are ideal for high-traffic areas. Cut-pile carpets do well in less trafficked areas. Saxony and plush carpets are best in bedrooms and other low-traffic rooms.