Best Carpet Materials (6 Carpet Fibers Comparison)

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Want to know the secret sauce that makes a carpet durable?

This might be a small exaggeration since there are at least 4 critical features for carpet durability (more on this in the conclusion), but finding the best carpet material is extremely important for how your carpet will perform.

Let’s start with a quick comparison of the different carpet fiber types, and then I’ll give the highlights of the pros and cons of each material.

Types of carpet fibers

So what are your options when it comes to carpet fibers? There are 5 common carpet materials to choose from, in order of popularity – not COST. As far as costs, most carpets cost in a range of $2 – $5 installed, except for WOOL, which can be very expensive!

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  • Polyester (PET polyester)
  • Nylon
  • Olefin
  • Wool
  • Smartstrand or triexta
  • Acrylic

This order by popularity is my experience from talking with readers. It can vary by location, especially different countries. Also, I think olefin would be second to last for homeowners but is used more in indoor/outdoor carpet and commercial settings.

Captain’s opinion on popularity: The popular kid isn’t always the best! This is an important distinction. The fibers listed above are in terms of how many people use them, but sometimes the less common fibers perform better (more on this below).

Let’s start by grading each of the carpet fibers:

Quick carpet fiber comparison (report card)

Quick Carpet Report

*Explanation of report card categories

Next, we’ll cover each of these materials in more detail…

Carpet material highlights and pros/cons

There’s a lot of misinformation out there. There’s no best fiber or worst fiber, but you’ll often hear there is. It’s true that certain materials have advantages over other materials, but knowing which material is best depends on what you’re looking for in your new carpet.

This is why we’re in this together. I’ll give you the pros and cons of each carpet material, but it’s up to you to use this information. The best carpet fiber for your home will depend on what you need most out of your carpet.

How long do you plan on living in your home? Is stain resistance or durability more important? How strapped for cash are you right now? Will the carpet be near a kitchen? And the list of questions go on.

Below you’ll find a summary of each of the major carpet materials. This will help you narrow down your choices between two to three. Then, you can click the title of each paragraph (the name of the material) to get more details to help make your final decision.

1. Acrylic Carpet

I used to not include acrylic because I don’t see it much, but I do get some questions on it. Acrylic is a man-made fiber that’s often used a replacement or in combination with wool.

This is sort of weird because it’s a completely different fiber than wool. It resists mildew and is easier to clean than wool, but it is far less durable. Acrylic is man-made; wool is natural. Basically, they are completely different fibers

Best thing about acrylic:it’s a cheap wool “filler”
Worst thing about acrylic:very poor durability

Other related articles:Acrylic is often mixed in with other carpet fibers, so our article on carpet blends can help you sort that out.

2. Nylon Carpet

Report Card - Nylon

Nylon is homeowners most popular choice. This isn’t surprising because nylon is debatably the best in two of the most important performance categories: stain resistance and durability. If comfort is important, soft nylon is also an option.

The problem with nylon is that not all nylons are created equal. Some people buy a nylon thinking it guarantees great stain resistance and durability. This isn’t the case. Another drawback for some people is it’s not as eco-friendly and is more costly than other carpet options. A famous brand is Tuftex Carpet.

Best thing about nylon: overall durability
Worst thing about nylon:stain resistance depends varies based on the treatment used

Other related articles: Learn more about nylon carpet pros and cons. Learn about branded vs generic nylon. Compare nylon vs polyester (two of the most popular)

3. Olefin Carpet

Report Card - Olefin

Olefin is another popular carpet material but for different reasons than nylon. Olefin may be the cheapest carpet material. And when you are getting quotes for carpet, cheap sounds good. Another benefit is olefin has impressive spill resistance.

Where olefin lacks is durability. It attracts oils making it look dirty, and it gets matted down prematurely. This can spell disaster for high-traffic areas.

If you want an inexpensive carpet that resists stain, you should at least consider an olefin carpet. If durability is a high priority, it’s best to ignore the temptation of olefin’s cheap price tag and move on to something else.

Best thing about olefin: mildew resistance makes a good indoor outdoor carpet
Worst thing about olefin: very poor durability/matts down in high-traffic areas

Other related articles:Learn more about olefin pros and cons.

4. PET Polyester Carpet

Report Card - Polyestern

Polyester is like an environmentally friendly version of olefin. It’s not that the two materials are related, but the way they perform is. Standard polyester looks great when it is new, is comfortable, is relatively inexpensive, and can have great stain resistance.

The drawback is it’s not built to last. In hallways or main living areas, 100% polyester will show its age after just a few years.

If protecting the environment is important to you, polyester is an interesting case. It is made of recycled materials. But I have also received emails from recycling companies that say they hate polyester because it can’t be recycled once you’re finished with it. So while it is advertised as green, it may not be.

Best things about polyester: softness, stain resistance, and price
Worst things about polyester:doesn’t hold up well in high-traffic areas

Other related articles:Learn more about polyester pros and cons. Compare polyester vs nylon (another popular carpet).

5. Smartstrand(aka triexta) Carpet

Report Card - Smartstrand

Smartstrand/triexta is the “new kid on the block.” It’s not brand new to the carpet industry, but it’s getting more and more buzz. The sales pitch is that Smartstrand is an eco-friendly version of nylon with better stain resistance. In other words, they want yo to think Smartstrand is going to make all other carpets disappear.

The truth is Smartstrand is a great carpet but not a miracle carpet. It’s proven itself to be a competitor to nylon but not to make it obsolete. I tend to think the durability of nylon is slightly better than Smartstrand, but the stain resistance of Smarstrand gets the edge over nylon.

Best thing about Smartstrand:stain resistance is top of the line and has better durability than polyester
Worst thing about Smartstrand:overall durability is controversial

Other related articles:Learn more about Smartstrand pros and cons, where I also cover Smartstrand vs nylon (it’s main competitor).

6. Wool Carpet

Report Card - Wool

This is the elitist carpet material. It’s 100% natural. It’s durable and has great stain resistance.

If cost isn’t a concern, there aren’t many drawbacks to wool carpet. However, it’s a natural fiber that carpet cleaners don’t run into as often, so you have to be a little more careful when cleaning/caring for it.

Also, it can mildew if exposed to moisture that is not removed.

Best things about wool carpet:all-natural, eco-friendly durability
Worst things about wool carpet:cost

Other related articles:Learn more about wool pros and cons. Wool has some of the best durability, but it’s also worth checking out a wool carpet disaster to learn why material isn’t everything.

Captain’s tips on what you should do now:

You now know the best carpet material for your home – from kitchen to bedroom.

By the way: if you run into mixes of carpet materials (eg 50% nylon 50% polyester), you can read more on carpet blends to help you make that decision.

Now that you’ve decided on the typer of carpet fiber you want, I’d check out these articles next:

  1. Exact carpet face weight and other important factors that will have a big impact on your carpet durability.
  2. Choose the type of carpet (Berber, frieze, etc) and learn why that’s not as important as material
  3. Consider getting a free quote from a pre-qualified installer by clicking here

Also, if you haven’t check out our carpet buying guide, it will walk you through everything you need to know when buying carpet.

Any questions on your carpet material? Let me know in the comments below.

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63 thoughts on “Best Carpet Materials (6 Carpet Fibers Comparison)”

  1. Carpet captain – Thank you! ! In the future, I would love to see an extension of your chart to include a column for static electricity. I gather that nylon is the worst, while wool and olefin perform quite well. Would love to see your opinion.

  2. Any thoughts on Stanton’s Antrim Carpet? It’s made of “polysilk” which is a fancy name for polyester?? But this polyester carpet is not relatively inexpensive – it’s $10 – $15 a square foot. BUT it is 15′ wide, so the cost is about the same as less expensive 12′ wide because of the extra needed to carpet my 14 x 14 room.

  3. There is sadly no information regarding the VOC and chemical allergies listed in any of the comparisons. I was blessed to get a wool carpet on sale due to severe allergies to chemicals and was looking for more info about the dangers of VOC and carpeting but it has been challenging to find. Hopefully this will be added at some point for anyone else looking too. Loved the rest of the info posted and it was very helpful to me. Thank you.

  4. I have narrowed down my search to two carpets. Would you mind giving me your opinion on which you think is better for two bedrooms and a stairway that will have light to moderate traffic? Dixie Home Treasured Moments nylon carpet or Malibu III Dream Weaver polyester carpet. Of course, the polyester is cheaper, but wondering if it is worth paying the extra for nylon.

    1. Carpet Captain

      Nylon is a big upgrade over polyester in my opinion. In a guest bedroom or other room that doesn’t get much traffic, you may not notice the difference (not worth paying extra for), but in frequently trafficked rooms, polyester will last years less.

  5. but the stain resistance of Smarstrand gets the edge over nylon……..This is absurd. Please rsconsider. Signed a profession carpet cleaner

    1. Similar to Tactesse(R) mentioned in the comment below. It’s a soft nylon, and you can read more on those in that link. I’m not sure what stain technology they’re using.

        1. Yeah, I think the “soft nylon” are only a small step back in durability, so they’re still going to be more durable than…say polyester. That said, if you want maximum durability you could do the same carpet in a standard/not soft nylon.

  6. I need to get carpet for family room, living room, stairs and upper hallway. Looking at Home Depot. From what I have read of your web page. 40 oz. face weight and higher, density <4500. I want low pile. What do you recommend?

    1. Some cool things about air.o: it has felt backing pre-attached, it’s supposed to “breathe” easier than other floors allowing for more efficient vacuuming, and it’s a low VOC carpet. The second of those points is most unique to this carpet. I don’t have a lot of experience with how durable it is (I think it’s only been out 2 years), but I believe it’s made with PET polyester, which isn’t my favorite material for lasting a long time with foot traffic (but it is good for stain resistance).

    1. Yeah, in a very short summary it would be good for stain resistance but maybe not great on foot traffic over time (which could matter in high traffic areas). For more details, check out the pages on triexta and polyester, and then weight those according to the mix % of your carpet.

    1. Carpet Captain

      I haven’t had experience with it in a home, but Empire claims it has a molecule that reduces odors in the home, that it’s made of recycled materials, and that it is low in VOCs (indoor air pollution). My take: Reducing odors in the home could be nice but not a major carpet I need. The last two are interesting. I like that it’s made of recycled materials, but there are other carpets that are as well (polyesters in generally usually are). The reduced indoor air pollution could be the biggest benefit, but I haven’t seen any certifications (maybe there are), and they use Scotchguard which I’d imagine emits a decent amount of VOCs so I’m not convinced on this point (as of now). It’s also made of polyester, which isn’t the most durable. Oh yeah, one last feature is it’s supposed to be easier to vacuum with better airflow. That’s maybe the most appealing part of the carpet to me right now.

  7. Kate Callahan

    How is Phenix’s SureSoft PET 65 oz face wight for stairs? Or should I go with the 55 oz? Looking to do a plush, cushiony carpet for both stairs/hall and bedrooms. Or would the better choice be to get nylon for stairs and hall and this polyester for beds? Thanks for all of the info on your website, it has helped me tremendously!

    1. Carpet Captain

      Glad it helped! Nylon is going to hold up a lot better on the stairs. PET doesn’t do well with constant foot traffic, but if you did go with it, I’d stick with the 65oz to give it extra fibers per footstep.

  8. What do you think of Dream Weaver, BCF Polyester. Warranties,lifetime stain, fade and pet stains. 25 yr. on soil resistance, abrasive resistance, texture resistance and mfg.defects. Would this be as good as nylon?

    1. I get asked about Dreamweaver frequently, but nylon is a much better fiber for durability than polyester. I ran across one polyester recently (can’t think of the name) where the company was performing some type of chemistry to alter the polyester bonds of their carpet, which they claim changed the properties (increased the durability) of the polyester all together. I don’t know of Dreamweaver doing anything similar, and if they were, I don’t have proof that it truly works.

  9. What is your impression of the new product by Mohawk, called air.o. It has a built in carpet pad. Thanks,

    1. Carpet Captain

      I think it could be a really cool product my verdicts still out. My favorite part is its low VOC and recycled materials, both I think will be important features of modern flooring and Mohawk’s taking a big step in that direction. It also comes with a completely unique installation system and the built-in pad you addressed, so my only reservation is I have no clue how durable it will be. I’ve just seen their marketing materials, but don’t know user experience yet. It will be interesting to see as time goes on. It will likely be either a game-changer or a flop (I know that doesn’t help much… but basically it comes down to if you want to be an early adopter or not).

  10. I’ve looked at some reviews on Mohawk’s SmartStrand and some people say it gets a “matted down” look to it when walked on. And, some stains just don’t come out leaving it looking “dirty” very quickly. Some even said within a year, it looked awful!

    I’m looking for a carpet for a low traffic area.The “matted down” thing does worry me and it not wearing well. It’s all so confusing!

    1. Smartstrand’s stain resistance is excellent. Its ability to resist matting down is controversial, but it’s probably better than polyester but worse than nylon. Overall, it’s a good quality carpet fiber, but like any carpet, you’ll see people praising it and people putting it down. This likely has to do with other factors of the carpet durability. You can learn more about those here. Padding also comes into play (learn more about pad here).

      1. the guy at the carpet store I usually use ( I won several properties) told me he has had complaints already with smart strand matting.

  11. My husband is in a motorized wheelchair and we’re looking for new carpeting in the bedroom. The current contractor grade carpet is junk and shows up the tracks of the repeated patterns from the wheelchair movement. What should we pay attention to when shopping? Best product and padding for this type of situation? Thanks

  12. Hi, we have 2 dogs 80 and 60 pounds. We want to replace old carpet but with what we don’t know. It’s high traffic area and with the dogs we want something that will hold up, cleanable, and looks good. What is your suggestion. Thank you

  13. Hi,

    I cannot find an axminster carpet 80/20 with very subtle pattern, however the onlyt one I like is unfortunately 100 per cent wool. Its called Axminster Princetown, design no 148/14013. NAME; moorland gem. Colour: Autum Glow. I am really struggling to find exactly the colour and pattern, but at the same time something that will not shrink when cleaned in the future. Do I need to ask for stain resistant. Is there such thing or do you pay extra to have this treatment added onto your carpet before it leaves the fctory. Plain carpets are just too plain and boring. One that may be a possibility is Bell twist, woven wilton by Brintons 80/20Coffee colour and it has litttle specks on it. .
    I am torn between this one and the wool one described above.
    Any advice please.

    1. You can buy pure wool untreated but it will be susceptible to stains. It does a pretty good job resisting oil stains naturally but spills could be a problem. I’d check to make sure the carpet is pre-treated.

    1. I’d consider one of the cheaper fibers that area somewhat water resistance: polyester being a good example. The water resistance helps if it’s humid or you bring in moisture, and the cheap is good because no matter the carpet you choose, you’re probably going to want to replace it more frequently. For this same reason, I’d go on the lower end of face weight and other durability features.

  14. I didn’t know carpet shopping could be so confusing! What’s your opinion on Dream Weaver nylon vs polyester with an 8# moisture blocking pad vs Shaw PET bellera with moistureproof backing and regular pad? I’m a one person homeowner with a dog. I also like stainmazter but found many carpets with that label. Carpeting 3 bedrooms, one carpeting over tile. Any type better to put over tile?

  15. Hi- I am carpet shopping and have found an 80 oz plush solution dyed polyester made by Lonesome Oak Trading Co that is appealing to me. I had not even considered a poly but was told due to it’s density it should do very well for my husband and I. We aren’t sure how long we will stay in this house (2-5 yr?) so don’t want to overspend. It’s only the 2 of us in the house. It would come with a #8, 7/16″ rebond moisture barrier pad. Totals about $4 sf , labor included. Your thoughts on it’s durability?

    1. Carpet Captain

      Polyester has some good qualities like softness and stain resistance. Combined with the #8 pad, I like your choice. Only 2 of you and not needing too many years out of it, I think it will make a good carpet. It’s not going to be as durable as a nylon even with the face weight, but you shouldn’t need it to be.

    1. Carpet Captain

      Nylon in most cases. You also may want to consider a commercial Berber or at least a low pile carpet.

  16. On the Report Card, there is a section titled “Mold and Mildew”. My child is chemically sensitive, so we were considering wool to avoid the off-gassing from the synthetics. However, mold allergies are also an issue. What conditions are used to determine the Mold and Mildew rating? I’m wondering how controllable the conditions might be if I did install wool (example: use only dry cleaning products). Any insight would be greatly appreciated! Thank you.

    1. Carpet Captain

      The grade is a general feel for how susceptible a fiber is to mold/mildew. Wool can be susceptible if it’s damp for an extended period of time, where some carpet fibers aren’t. Unless it’s in a basement or area that floods, it shouldn’t be a factor for most people. Even carpet cleaning should be okay if it’s an experienced carpet cleaner (let them know it’s wool and you have moisture concerns); they can use less water/extra suction/and dryers. Like you said, dry cleaning is also an option.

  17. I ‘m considering Shaw Platinum Texture Accents 100% Anso BCF nylon carpeting for my entire home. Has anyone had any good or bad experience with this carpet choice? Thanks for any input.

    1. Carpet Captain

      I haven’t personally had the Shaw Anso, but I’d expect it to be a very good fiber. Nylon is one of my favorites for durability, and I believe the Anso comes with a long stain protection warranty (some nylons are weak in stain resistance). Also, make sure to check out the other factors that make a carpet durable: or just the carpet buying guide ( Good luck

  18. We’re shopping now and have been given the sales pitch on Smartstrand, but as we are looking for more price competitive products we were being shown carpets with a blend of smartstrand and poly. Some only have 15% and others 25%. These are typically in the $4 – 4.5 sq.ft range, where as the 100% Smartstrand was $5 – 7. it doesn’t seem to make sense to to have a product that is partially Smartstrand since the majority will be the other material that they was telling us wasn’t as good? Is there any benefit to those products?

    1. Good question – what is the point of paying a premium for Smartsrand when 80% of the carpet isn’t a great material? My rule of thumb is simple: whatever % you have of each carpet is the % of its features you’ll get. Meaning a poly/Smarstrand mixture would have great stain resistance but lack in overall durability to traffic. Sometimes this doesn’t hold true and the “worst” features of one of the blends can overshadow the carpet. I wrote an article on this here:

  19. We had Mohawk Nylon carpet installed in July 2017. We were very unhappy with the appearance of the carpet in that it was matting quite noticeably were are feet rested while sitting. Mohawk has agreed to replace at no cost through the local carpet company we purchased it through. I chose nylon because of all the reviews. Now I don’t know what to replace it with??? Smartstrand Rustic Revival is what I am looking at. Thoughts?

    1. Sorry Tracy – overlooked your comment or would have responded sooner. Hard to say what went wrong, but I’d consider nylon the most durable fiber (Smartstrand is durable as well… can read more on my current opinion about it here: ) and Mohawk a very reputable company (nice to see they’re replacing it). You might check out this article: for other important durability factors they could have been lacking. Hope the new carpet turns out better

      1. Thanks for the response and added information. We went with Karastan Rustic Revival. Fingers crossed we’re happy and it wears better.

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