Fiber Facts
The type of fiber used determines the basic performance and appearance of the carpet. The fiber content is usually listed on a specification sheet on the back of the sample. Although there are dozens of different trade names, remember that products fall within one of five basic categories.

Wool is the luxury and performance benchmark. It is softer than synthetics, is exceptionally durable and offers great stain resistance. But at $50 to $100 per square yard, it's not cheap. It accounts for only 3 percent of carpet sales.
Nylon is a close second to wool in terms of durability and feel, but on average it costs a lot less ($18 to $35 per square yard). It has excellent soil resistance, colorfastness and resilience. Nylon accounts for nearly 60 percent of carpet sales. Some new offerings feature added wear and stain resistance. Others have carbon-composite nylon filaments woven into the yarn that eliminate shocks. Some of these enhanced nylons cost as much as wool.
Olefin, or polypropylene, is both durable and water- and stain-resistant, making it a good choice for berbers (low, loop-pile carpeting) and indoor/outdoor carpeting, and in commercial settings. Because it is less resilient than nylon, it is best used in low-pile carpets; otherwise, it can mat or crush. It costs $9 to $16 per square yard.
Polyester is noted for its soft hand, or texture, especially when used in a luxurious thick pile. It has good color retention and soil resistance, but it's not as resilient as nylon. It runs $11 to $19 per square yard.
Acrylic offers the look and feel of wool, at a lower price—$10 to $15 per square yard. But because the fiber tends to fuzz and pill, it's not typically found in room-size carpets. This moisture- and mildew-resistant fiber is usually found in bathroom rugs.

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