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Synthetic carpet and rugs

Synthetic materials have become the main component in all but a small fraction of rugs - and especially carpets - on the market. Among them, nylon is used most often, followed by olefin (polypropylene), polyester and acrylic. Each of these synthetic fibers has good and not-so-good sides, that one needs to know in order to determine which synthetic carpet, or rug, best fits its intended role.

Nylon is durable, resilient and wear resistant fiber with good color retention. It has low moisture absorption, resulting in good mildew/fungi resistance. Usually, its stain resistance is also good, but it requires anti-soil treatment. Leading fiber producers have created brands of nylon with specific properties and quality level, such as Stainmaster brands from Invista (former DuPont). Buying branded nylon is a safe bet in that respect. Non-branded nylons may be about as good, but there is always a chance that they are of lower quality: easer to soil, having poorer chemical resistance to acidic contaminants (most foods), or being static prone. In general, nylon tends to fade when exposed to prolonged sunshine. While superior to other synthetic fibers, quality nylon is also more expensive.

Olefin (or polypropylene) is the most used synthetic rug/carpet face fiber. It has better stain and chemical resistance than nylon. It doesn't get affected under prolonged sunshine, and also has better color retention. It has lower moisture absorption than nylon (0.01% vs. ~4%), which makes it extremely resistant to mildew and moisture-related damage and contaminants. On the other hand, it has no resilience, which makes it easy to crush and mat. Also, it attracts oily soil and wicks more than nylon. Its wear resistance is not as good, and its flame resistance is also lower than that of nylon. Unless treated for added resilience, it quickly loses in appearance under even moderate foot traffic.

Polyester is similar to olefin, with somewhat more resilience but not as good color retention. Prolonged sunshine can cause degradation. It also attracts oily soil, and may have "synthetic" look.

Acrylic is a soft, wool-like fiber, with very poor resilience and wear-resistance. It is also very flammable: it is used for smaller rugs, unless treated with flame retardant. For these reasons, its use as rug or carpet face fiber is very limited. 

Carpet and rugs terminology - This sounds like a school class - but this is the one you don't want to miss. An educated buying decision translates into a buying success, and that is your goal. Certainly, understanding carpet and rug terminology is something you need for enjoyable, successful shopping.  And it is not as simple as it may seem at first...

Construction - Simply put, rug or carpet construction is a particular way of putting it together. Whether produced by hand, or by machine, they are made in a certain way. This includes all that is done to come up with a finished product: from tufting or weaving the yarn to dyeing and applying chemical or other treatments...

Materials - Nearly all of materials used for rug and carpet construction are in their face-fiber and backing. It is usually the face-fiber material that gets most of attention and consideration. This is because the rug/carpet fiber forming its face is most exposed, both, visually and physically. Hence it is the main determinant of appearance quality and retention...

Environmental effect - Most materials, natural or synthetic, have some environmental impact, and those used for carpets and rugs are no exception. Health hazard comes mainly from rug and carpet being outgassing potentially toxic fumes, as well as from rug and carpet mold (mildew) infestation...

Label and warranty - Rug/carpet label and its warranty can give important information and indications in regard to its quality level. Getting familiar with their contents is time well spent. Here's what you should look for...

Area rug size and shape - In somewhat different ways, area rug size and shape have both, functional and aesthetic aspect. At first, one would say that area rug's size is pretty much determined by dimensions of the space it is intended to. In reality, the decision on how large area rug will be, and whether it is to be square, round or of some other shape, should come after careful consideration of not only room's size and geometry, but also typical traffic patterns, form and arrangement of other objects and decor elements present, as well as the intended use of the room, or space...

Colors and Patterns - Color of your rug, or carpet, creates certain visual effect, emotion, and an atmosphere. Individual perceptions vary, but most of us will be affected similarly. Here's a brief overview of what are out typical responses to colors and patterns. It may help you decide what rug color and pattern type is best for your room...

Design style - Possible variations in the visual characteristics of the rug/carpet face - its design - are literally countless. They come from visual rug/carpet attributes created by both, fiber coloration, and its dimensional appearance. Luckily, all this immense variety is being channeled, fairly efficiently, into a few main classifications...

Carpet and rug buying checklist - The two main aspects of every rug or carpet are (1) its aesthetics and (2) practicality. Once you find the one that has the right looks, the next step is to check out how appropriate are its materials and construction type to its intended use. In other words, what is its quality level. The following checklist will help you figure that out...

Rug and carpet care tips - From the moment a new rug or carpet enters your home, certain steps and procedures should be followed to ensure its functionality and appearance retention. They are related to placement and installation, as well as carpet or rug care and maintenance. Here are the main pointers.

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