Wool Carpet Pros and Cons
“We are finally replacing wool carpeting installed in 1941.”
This is a snippet from an email I received March 29, 2012. That means she had her wool carpet for 71 years! That’s in my record book of longest I’ve heard of a carpet lasting.
On the other end of the spectrum, I received an email from a person who’s wool carpet looked damaged in one year!
So how did the same wool carpet fiber perform so differently?
I can’t say for sure, but I have a few ideas. It comes down to the advantages and disadvantages. Wool does great in some situations, and can be vulnerable in others.
Let’s dive into the strengths and weaknesses of wool, and you’ll know if it’s right for you:
The common theme with wool carpet is all of its advantages are natural. As you’ll read below, many of wool’s advantages are seen in nylon but wool’s advantages come straight off the sheep’s back, rather than from a factory coating.
Captain’s warning! Be on the lookout for wool blends. Some carpets will say wool in the name, but have other materials mixed in. This will be disclosed on the carpet information under ‘material.’ Also, you can check out my article on blended carpet materials if you’re considering one of these carpets.
Pros of wool carpet
Wool is the only carpet material I would classify as a luxury. Let’s look at some of its advantages:
Have you ever seen a sheep with a bad hair day? I haven’t (although to be fair, I haven’t been around too many sheep).
Wool is highly resilient, meaning it keeps it shape. Most carpets wear down and matt down over time. This can be one of the first things that makes a carpet look like it needs to be replaced.
This may be the secret reason that my reader’s carpet was able to last over 7 decades.
Wool carpet’s ability to resist stains goes a step beyond other fibers. When properly treated, all fibers have a degree of stain resistance. Wool fiber naturally does a good job of repelling stains (treated nylon and Smartstrand carpets probably resist liquid stains better). In addition, wool does a good job of hiding soil stains and repelling oil stains, whereas the other fibers tend to attract oils. Oils are commonly tracked in from asphalt, garages, cooking agents (some even become airborne with heat or spray bottles), and they are even on our skin. Wool repels these oils, helping it maintain its clean appearance.
Captain’s warning! Wool’s natural stain resistance is excellent against oils. However, it’s not so excellent against spills. Just like wool carpet can be dyed to give it color (think of a wool rug), spilled juice can also dye it. If you want to protect against these kind of stains, make sure your wool carpet comes with stain protection applied at the factory.
Wool and polyester carpet are the go-to carpets when comfort is the highest priority. Wool is unique because it combines softness with springiness. Where many soft carpets crush easily, wool carpet maintains its comfort for years.
Wool carpet comes off the sheep’s back and can be manufactured without any dyes or synthetic chemicals. This makes it hypoallergenic (for those not allergic to wool) and great for parents who are concerned about exposing their kids to chemicals.
One-way wool carpet might justify its cost is by reducing your heating and air conditioning bills. Wool is a great insulator, so it will limit the transfer of heat (or cool air) from the outside world into your home.
Wool doesn’t melt. It has a natural fire resistance. While this is a cool benefit, its practicality may be of little benefit. One “benefit” is it will not melt if you drop a cigarette on the carpet like other fibers will. The flaw in this is that if you invest in wool carpet, you’ll probably make sure people aren’t dropping their cigarettes on it. Also, while it may not burn up in a fire, it will surely be damaged by smoke and debris.
A “talking piece” in your room
If you have wool carpet, you’re in rare company. So when people come over to your house and comment on how soft your floor feels, you can let them know it came straight off a sheeps back (which is eco-friendly!), and all the other benefits of wool.
Cons of wool carpet
While wool is one of the highest-end carpet fibers, it still has disadvantages. It helps to know these to 1. decide if you still want to buy it and 2. decide the best rooms and environment for your new carpet:
Cost: the elephant in the room
If you want wool, it’s an investment. It costs 2-5x most other carpet fibers. You can checkout my carpet cost calculator for more details. Just know this, if you like wool, it’s a luxury. If you want to get by on a budget, you’ll want to look for another carpet.
Fades in sun
The color of your wool carpet can fade with time if it’s constantly exposed to sunlight. This usually isn’t a problem, and definitely doesn’t mean you have to avoid any rooms with windows. However, if you have a room that is constantly exposed to direct UV rays, you’ll either want curtains to block the midday sun, or consider another carpet material.
Absorbs water which can lead to mildew
Wool can acts like a sponge. So if you have water damage, it’s not as easy as the synethic (man-made) carpet materials to absorb all the water.
In most settings, this doesn’t matter much. However, if you have a moisture problem at all (looking at you basements), wool may be a carpet to avoid.
Moths and other insects
Apparently, insects like to eat sheep’s wool coat. That’s why you occassionally hear of people getting holes in wool sweaters due to moths.
To combat this, wool carpet manufacturers usually apply a mild insecticide to the wool carpets. And I personally don’t know anyone that’s had an issue with insects and their wool carpet.
That said, I would avoid wool carpet if you have a known moth problem. Want a simple test? Buy a wool sweater at goodwill and leave it out for a while. Any holes?
There are two basic ways to manfufature carpets, and wool is what is called a staple carpet. This means it sheds. Part of the normal lifecycle of the carpet is it will release fibers, especially when it’s new and you vacuum.
This can be alarming and maybe a little annoying at first, but it shouldn’t affect how the carpet looks long-term. You won’t (unless it’s defective) notice your carpet thinning.
Captain’s tips on what to do next:
Have a good idea if wool is the right carpet for you?
An important takeaway is the carpet fiber is only one part of the durability equation. You can have a great wool carpet, but if it’s made poorly, it won’t perform up to your expectations.
Here’s what I suggest you do next:
- If you want to learn about other carpet materials, check out my page on carpet materials comparison.
- If you want to learn the most important specifications that determine how well your carpet holds up, start with my article on carpet durability.
- If you want to tips on how to buy carpet start to finish, checkout my unbiased carpet buying guide.
- If you want help finding a pre-qualified installer in your area, click here to get free estimates from 3 installers (note: I make a small commisison if you do this that helps support the site)
Still have questions on the pros and cons of wool carpet? Let me know in the comments below.