Nylon vs Polyester

Nylon vs Polyester Carpet

You’ll have at least 15 decisions when buying carpet. One of the most important will be what fiber type you choose.

Why is the material important?

Because it’s the foundation of the carpet. Just like if you comparedwood versuss metal baseball bats or granite versus vinyl countertops, the material directly impacts performance.

So where should you start?

This article is a good place. Not just because you’re here and I wrote it, but because nylon and polyester are #1 and #2 in popularity for carpet. If popularity doesn’t persuade you, they are also two completely different carpet fibers. This makes it easy to choose which is best for your flooring project.

I’ll compare the pros and cons of nylon and polyester in categories that impact many homeowners. By the end, you should have a clear choice on which is the winner for your home.

Captain’s clarification! When I refer to polyester in this article, I’m talking about traditional polyester. Newer generations of polyester, such as Smartstrand, are a completely different animal. Luckily, most of these new polyesters aren’t ever called polyester. They are referred to by their brand name (eg. Smartstrand), so you don’t confuse the two.

Comparison of cost

I’m going to cut to the chase here:

Polyester is about half the cost of nylon.

Many factors play into the cost of carpet, so this is by no means an exact rule. In some cases, a well-made polyester will cost more than a poorly-made nylon. But on average, polyester will cost about $2 sqft. and nylon will cost $4 sqft.

“You get what you pay for,” right?

For the most part, yes. Nylon is superior, but polyester still wins the battle in a couple more categories. Keep reading to see if those categories are important to you.

Which is more durable?

When it comes to carpet performance, durability ranks on the top of most homeowners’ lists. After all, it’s tough to like a carpet that doesn’t last. When buying carpet, you’ll have to look at multiple carpet specifications to determine the carpet’s durability, but none are more important than the material you choose.

So which is the winner of this prized category? Nylon by a long-shot. Nylon is considered the most durable carpet material (although some say Smartstrand gives it a run for its money).

Polyester leaves something to be desired in the durability department. It tends to crush and show wear after a few years in high-traffic areas.

Which has better stain resistance?

When I talked about durability, I’m talking about how well the carpet fiber holds up.

But there’s another side to durability and that’s how stained a carpet is.

It doesn’t matter how long your light gray carpet holds up if it has red and yellow stains all over it.

Here’s the good news:

You don’t have to cry over spilt milk with either carpet material. Nylon and polyester are forgiving when it comes to stains. But a couple of warnings here:

First warning is that “forgiving” on stains doesn’t mean it won’t stain. You’re best cleaning up spills ASAP.

Second warning is that some nylon carpets resist stains better than other nylon carpets. With polyester, the stain protection is a natural part of the fiber. Nylon needs to be treated. If you’re interested, learn more at the Captain’s article on the pros and cons of nylon carpet.

For this reason, polyester gets the slight edge on stain resistance.

Which has better styles and appearance?

The carpet material won’t affect the appearance (if you’re interested in appearance, check out the page on carpet styles).

I take that back—it can impact it a little. Specifically, polyester is easier to dye. That means it comes in the boldest of colors. This used to be a bigger advantage than it is today because nylon’s come in a rainbow of colors, too.

Which is softer?

Softness is another win for polyester, but just like colors, the gap between polyester and nylon is closing with technology.

Traditionally, nylon is a rougher material than polyester. But today’s nylons can be manufactured in thin fibers that make them silk-soft. But I’d still say if softness is key, go with polyester.

Which is better for the environment?

Full disclosure: I got this one wrong when I first started writing about carpet.

Polyester is marketed as a “recycled carpet.” This isn’t a lie. Polyester carpets are partially made with bottle caps and other recycled materials.

So polyester is the environmental winner, right?

That’s what I thought.

But it turns out it’s not that easy. While polyester is made of recycled materials, it is difficult to recycle once you remove it. On the other hand, nylon is the by far the easiest carpet fiber to recycle.

Captain’s green secret! Did you know your old carpet can be recycled? If not, don’t feel bad. I surveyed my readers and only 22% know recycling carpet is an option. It’s said because carpet is the #2 product in landfills. Learn more about these statistics and how to recycle carpet here.

So you have one carpet that is made of recyclable materials but can’t be recycled itself. And you have another carpet that can be recycled but isn’t made of recycled materials.

If you really want to be green, nylon is your winner.

Which is better in a basement or room with a moisture problem?

Both nylon and polyester are synthetic fibers that resist moisture. The bigger problem you’ll have with basement moisture is the padding, backing, and moisture trapping beneath the pad and subfloor. So don’t worry if you choose nylon or polyester for the basement, but check out our article on moisture barrier padding if it’s a concern.

Which is better for allergies?

Nylon and polyester tie in the allergy department. Allergy suffered face two challenges when it comes to carpet: make sure no mold/mildew develops and make sure the carpet is not a dust mite trap.

For the mold problem, both nylon and polyester are synthetic and resist mold. This doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. You may still get mold that has nothing to do with the carpet fiber (see above).

For dust mites and other allergens getting trapped in carpet, the carpet material won’t make a difference. You can go with nylon or polyester.  But on that notes, some people argue that carpet is better for allergies because it does trap the dust that otherwise would float into your air and into your lungs. Basically, the carpet acts as a giant filter.

They key is to vacuum the carpet frequently enough to remove the mites and particles. Check out my favorite vacuums and tips to make your carpet last as long as possible at the Captain’s vacuum buying guide.

 

Captain’s parting words!

Which is the better carpet nylon or polyester?

The better question is, which is the better carpet for you. And maybe even more specifically, which is the better carpet for each of your rooms.

Polyester is the less expensive option. And it gets slight wins in most cases for bold colors, softness, and stain resistance. I like polyester for infrequently used dining rooms, bedrooms, and family rooms. Also, consider for the whole house in rentals or other situations where you’ll replace the carpet in less than five years.

Nylon gets a blowout win the most important category to many people: durability. The recycling industry also likes nylon a little more. I like nylon for any room that gets foot traffic: living rooms and hallways are the best examples. It’s also worth going with nylon if you know you’ll be in your home for 10+ years.

Now that you’re an expert over the two most common carpet materials, I’d breeze through the Captain’s guide to carpet fibers to make sure none of the less popular options are for you.

Any questions on whether you should go with nylon or polyester? Let me know in the comments below.

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Tannie Girard

You don’t mention toxins. I’m concerned about what chemicals they are using in these products.

Dee

I’m thinking of putting a 5×7 area rug under a kitchen table we eat at daily. One is nylon the other polyester! Neither are expensive rugs from Kohl’s and Target in mostly gray w/ a white design on the gray! My delemia is ther will be dropped foods and spills, even if grown children now sit there! And I’m thinking of friction on the carpet with shoes rubbing on carpet under the table! What would you do!

SALLIE

I have severe allergies to fumes from some carpets. Does Nylon have less fumes