Taking Confusion Out of Carpeting

From Associated Press

Carpeting adds softness, luxury and comfort to a room, conserves heat and provides insulation from sound.

However, the many carpeting fibers, textures and patterns available make selecting the right one confusing. Here are some basics for consideration.


The five most common carpeting fibers are acrylic, nylon, olefin, polyester and wool. Of these, only wool is natural; all others are synthetic. No one fiber is completely perfect. When choosing, make your selection according to the intended use, appearance and your budget.


Acrylic is the most natural looking of the synthetics, with the appearance and feel of wool. It is moderately priced, durable and resistant to water soluble stains but not to oily stains. It is also not affected by moisture or mildew.

Nylon is the strongest of rug fibers and is available in a wide range of colors and prices. This durable fiber resists and conceals soil and water soluble stains. It is not affected by mildew, and resists shedding and pilling. It may generate annoying static unless it contains built-in static control.

Olefin is an inexpensive indoor-outdoor carpet with a limited range of colors but with excellent color fastness. The fibers are very durable and highly resistant to soil, stains, moisture, mildew and static.

Polyester is an inexpensive fiber available in a wide range of colors. It is soft, lustrous and luxurious. Moderately durable, it resists water soluble but not oily stains. Because it stains easily, it requires frequent cleaning.


Wool is the most expensive carpeting. It is available in a wide range of colors and textures, is soft and luxurious, very durable, and crush resistant. It resists soiling and, to a lesser degree, staining.


Density is one of the keys to durability in a carpet. The closer the tufts, the better the wear. Use the “grin test” to determine closeness: Bend a corner of the carpet over your finger and see how much of the backing shows. In a high-quality carpet the visible backing, or “grin,” will be minimal.

Colors and Patterns

When buying carpeting, consider the following factors:

Medium colors look better longer.

Dark colors won’t show dirt but will show lint.

Lighter shades show dirt sooner but conceal lint.


Patterned carpets don’t show dirt as quickly as plain carpets.

A carpet the same color as the walls or a lighter shade than the walls will make the room seem larger. A color that sharply contrasts with the walls will focus attention on the furniture.

To make a small room seem larger, try patterned wall-to-wall carpeting and a coordinated patterned paper on the walls and ceiling.

For stairs, choose a high quality carpet with dense pile. Avoid shags or loose piles that could be dangerous.

Do not use a strongly patterned carpet in a room with patterned wallpaper, lots of pictures on the walls, or busy shelves. Likewise, do not use carpeting with a large pattern in a small room. Instead, choose one with a small overall design.

Preserving Carpets

Protect carpets with newspaper when polishing furniture--any spills can dissolve some carpet dyes.

To keep carpet seams and edges from fraying, brush them with a liquid resin, available at fabric and craft shops.


Quickly blot spills with paper towel or a clean white towel. Scrape away any sediment, then recover with a white towel. Place a sheet of plastic or aluminum foil on the towel, then lay some books on top. Let stand overnight. If necessary, repeat the next day with fresh towels.

Repair snags and pills by holding scissors parallel to the rug’s surface and snipping them off. Pulling on fibers could damage the rug’s weave.