One of the most important factors in picking out a carpet is the fiber material you choose; the fiber has a tremendous impact on the performance of the carpet. This is why our website covers each of the major carpet fibers with a to-the-point grading system, as well as an in-depth explanation. But what about the carpet blends—the carpets that aren’t 100% nylon or 100% wool? Where do these fit in in terms of performance?
These are questions we receive frequently, and fortunately, the answer is usually very straightforward. You just “weight” the carpet appropriately. In other words, an 80% wool, 20% nylon blend will act 80% like wool and 20% like nylon. This is a good general rule of thumb, but can sometimes be hard to visualize. Below I’ll break down some common blends to give you examples of how this works.
Wool Blend Carpets
Wool is the most luxurious carpet fiber, and it is a very durable fiber if taken care of. Let’s see how some common wool blends make wool’s performance different:
You will usually find this blend in 80% wool 20% nylon. While wool is very durable, nylon’s durability is slightly better due to nylon’s ability to resist abrasion. Therefore, throwing a little nylon into the mix will result in a carpet that performs pretty much the same as a 100% wool carpet. The benefit of this blend is it can bring the luxurious price of wool down a notch—probably not a lot, but nylon is generally cheaper than wool. So if you’re not set on 100% natural carpet, a wool-nylon blend carpet is a good way to get a wool-like carpet at a slightly reduced cost.
Wool-Polyesterand Wool-Polypropylene (olefin) Blend
I lump polyester and polypropylene (aka olefin) wool blends in the same category because their performance is very similar. Think of these extra fibers as cheap filler. They are used to drop the price of the carpet but still have wool in the name. The problem is polyester and polypropylene are not durable. Even in only a 80%/20% blend, the poor durability of these fibers will likely reduce the life of the wool carpet. 50% or more blends are not worth buying—you won’t have any of the positive traits of wool carpet.
Wool Acrylic Blend
Acrylic is a rarely used fiber anymore, which is why we don’t cover it in the ‘fibers’ section of the website. Acrylic is a man-made fiber that has a similar feel to wool and is cheaper. So why isn’t it used more? Acrylic isn’t durable; it doesn’t hold up well in high traffic areas. Expect wool-acrylic blend carpets to feel similar to wool but have poor performance.
Nylon Blend Carpets
Nylon is generally considered the most durable carpet fiber. It doesn’t come with as high of a price as wool, but you still pay a good amount for it. For this reason, nylon is blended with other fibers are an attempt to lower the price. Here are a couple of the common examples:
Nylon Polyester Blend
This is probably the most common carpet blend on the market. Polyester blends in well with nylon because it’s a soft/ comfortable fiber and also is very stain resistant. However, polyester is not durable; it won’t matter how well the fibers blend if the carpet looks trashed in five years. If you really want a nylon polyester blend, a well-constructed 80% nylon 20% polyester will probably serve you well. Be aware, anything close to 50% polyester is unlikely to last long in trafficked areas.
Nylon Polypropylene/Olefin Blend
Polypropylene blended with nylon is generally not a good idea. Polypropylene’s only beneficial characteristic is its spill/stain resistance. Other than that, polypropylene will usually appear dirty much more rapidly the nylon, is not as comfortable and has a tendency to crush. I’d avoid any nylon propylene blend unless you’re in love with the carpet—even then, you should try hard to find something else.
Captain’s parting words!
Here’s a simple way to understand carpet blends: educate yourself on the two fibers that are being blended and assume the carpet will take on the worst characteristics of each. The exception is if the “worse” fiber is 20% or less—the 20% fiber will have an impact on the carpet, but it should take on more of the 80% fiber’s characteristics. Wool-nylon blended carpets are a great combination, and nylon-polyester can be an acceptable blend. Most of the other blends are not worth buying. If you love a particular carpet but are worried about the durability of the blend, just make sure that the density, twists, and other factors affecting carpet durability are top notch.