If you work with carpets for a living, as a carpet cleaner does, knowing the difference between a low-quality material and a good one is simple. However, for most other people not in the carpet industry, shopping for new carpet can be a difficult task. Unless you know what details to consider, its almost impossible to judge the quality of a carpet just by looking at it. You can’t judge a carpet by its appearance, texture and feel alone.
As it turns out, several different factors come into play to make a carpet a high, medium, or low-quality one. Knowing what these factors are will help you figure out whether the brand new carpet you’re about to buy is worth the investment. You also want to be sure that the carpet you’ve chosen will last for years, and still look good. Here are some of the more critical factors that determine the quality of most modern carpets:
The Backing and Cushioning
The backing and cushioning are the most important factors in your carpet’s durability. A carpet’s fibers directly absorb the impact of foot traffic. Cushion backing helps the carpet absorb more of the impact. This absorption helps to reduce the overall wear of the fibers in the carpet. In addition, cushion backing is what makes carpets feel soft and comfortable underfoot. Without cushioning, the fibers take the full brunt of the force from foot traffic, and this will lead to faster degradation and fraying.
You can choose from open cell or closed cell cushioning. Closed cell cushioning is not as expensive, but tends to break down faster and lose its cushioning power as the closed cells will rupture over time. Open cell cushioning is more expensive, but open cells can ‘re-inflate’ themselves after impact. This helps the cushioning last longer, which will protect the carpet fibers more effectively. Open cell cushioning is also easier to clean for a carpet cleaner. Water gets trapped in closed cell cushioning, whereas open cell cushioning allows water to escape into the air more efficiently.
Fiber Construction and Type
To keep a carpet lasting as long as possible, your carpet cleaner would also consider the type of fibers used in manufacture. The type of fiber used to make the carpet makes a huge difference in its quality. Manufacturers create carpets using many different types of fibers, from both synthetic and natural sources. The most common man-made carpet fibers include polyester, olefin, triexta, and nylon. Natural carpet fibers such as sisal and wool are used less often, but still play a role in the industry. Each fiber has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, nylon is the most durable synthetic fiber, whereas polyester is the champion of stain resistance, and olefin is the queen of colorfastness. Wool is recognized by carpet cleaners for its ease of cleaning, and is also renowned for its luxurious softness.
Staple Versus BCF Fibers
In addition, carpet fibers come as standard ‘staple’, or Bulked Continuous Filament (BCF) fibers. What’s the difference? BCF fibers will shed less often than a standard ‘staple’ fiber. The extra fiber shedding from ‘staple’ fibers does not affect the carpet itself. However, the extra shedding caused by this type can cause issues with those who suffer from allergies. Your carpet cleaner would suggest those who are especially sensitive to consider BCF carpet fibers. Otherwise, you can just make sure to vacuum more often with 'staple' fiber carpet until the initial carpet fiber shedding subsides.
Understanding the Carpet Face Weight
A carpet’s face weight is one of the most misunderstood figures in the world of carpets. In essence, a carpet’s face weight is exactly how it sounds- the number of ounces a square yard of carpet pile weighs. It does not include the backing underneath, which the total carpet weight includes. The general consensus is that the greater the face weight, the greater the carpet’s durability. Although many retailers tout the importance of face weight, it does not show the whole picture of a carpet’s quality. There are other factors that carpet cleaners look at in addition to face weight to determine a carpet’s quality. Two carpets of the same quality can have significantly different weights simply due to how they’re made. Carpets with higher pile sizes (carpet fiber length) tend to weigh more than lower pile sizes.
Calculating the Carpet Density
The density of a carpet is also a factor carpet cleaners will check to make sure the carpet they buy is of good quality. The carpet density has to do with the degree and amount of fibers stitched into the backing of the carpet. The closer the stitching and fibers, the greater the density. Generally speaking, the higher the density, the longer your carpet will last. To calculate the carpet density, you can use the formula of ‘face weight x 36 / pile height’. In other words, take the face weight of the carpet (in ounces), multiply it by 36, then divide it by the height of the carpet fiber (measured in fractions of an inch). A density rating of 3,600 or more is typical for most homes, but of course, more is always better.
Treating Carpets for Soil and Stain Protection
Finally, for most carpet fibers, manufacturers treat them with additional chemicals and processing. They do this to add further stain and soil protection to carpets, giving them extra resilience to dirt and damage. Techniques such as heat setting the fibers, and twisting the fibers themselves into a more resilient shape add considerably to a carpet’s durability, compared to unprocessed fibers. This extra resilience makes it easier for a carpet cleaner to do their job of making your carpet look great, and keeps it lasting longer.
Keeping Your Carpets Cleaner Helps Them Last Longer
To extend the life of your carpet, maintenance is the most important thing you can do. Cleaning requirements will vary depending on the carpet you choose, the weather in your area, and the amount of foot traffic it receives. However, any maintenance program must include regular vacuuming and cleaning to maximize the lifespan of your carpet. In addition, regular visits by your professional carpet cleaner will ensure that your carpet not only looks and smells fresh but will last as long as possible, saving you money in the long run.