Two of today’s most-used carpet fiber materials are nylon and polyester, and the similarities and differences between these two are the focus of this carpet fiber guide. So, let’s look at both sides of the nylon vs polyester carpet debate and come to conclusions you can use when deciding which is the better choice given where it will be installed.
Nylon and Polyester Carpet Fiber Characteristics
While these two fibers are quite different in feel and performance, they do share some commonalities that are worth pointing out as we get started. Both, for example, are petroleum-based synthetics.
DuPont chemists invented nylon in the 1930s as a silk substitute. It is a long-chain polymer which makes it quite hard, so it never took much market share from silk. Today’s generation of material is known as Nylon 6 (Antron) or Nylon 6,6 (Stainmaster).
The type of polyester used in carpeting and rugs is more formally known as Polyethylene Terephthalate, a name often shortened to P.E.T. It was developed as an alternative to wool.
There are additional similarities between the two. Choose polyester or nylon carpet for:
- Excellent color and style options
- Easy cleaning and maintenance
- Flooring that can be recycled after use
Polyester vs Nylon Carpet: The Differences
There are differences between polyester and nylon you should be aware of before choosing carpet for your home or business.
Production: While both are petroleum derivatives, how they’re produced provides insight into their relative cost and environmental friendliness.
Nylon is an engineered fiber made in a factory from petroleum. About 65% of carpet produced today is nylon, and the vast majority of the nylon is new. There are a few nylon carpets appearing that are made from recycled nylon. You’ll have to shop around to find them.
Polyester used for carpet fiber is made from recycled P.E.T. products such as plastic soda bottles.
Price: If cost is the major factor for you in the nylon vs polyester carpet debate, then polyester is the clear winner. The main reason for this is that it is made from recycled materials. You’ll pay 35% to 50% less for polyester carpet than for nylon.
- Nylon carpet prices: $3.25 to $7.50 per square foot
- Polyester carpet prices: $0.85 to $5.50 per square foot
Learn more about carpet prices in our in-depth guide.
Durability: This is a category in which nylon has the upper hand.
Nylon is very hard. That’s why it’s a poor substitute for silk but a very durable material for carpet and rugs. When dirt gets into carpet, the sharp edges of the particles cut into the carpet fibers, eventually destroying them. The hardness of nylon slows this process remarkably. Nylon also has better bounce-back than polyester. Walk on it, and you might even feel its resistance. The fibers more readily return to an upright position. Within the industry, this is known as “texture retention.” This is a plus when you move furniture that has been sitting in the same spot for some time. The marks left behind are easier to get rid of in nylon.
Polyester carpet isn’t nearly as durable as nylon carpet. Dirt makes a more immediate negative impact, and wear shows much more quickly. Polyester isn’t as resilient either, so the fibers tend to lay down when walked on. It has poor texture retention.
Softness: What makes nylon durable and resilient lowers its marks in this category. If you’re looking for a soft carpet to sink your toes into, P.E.T. polyester has the definite advantage.
Stain Resistance: It’s close to a toss-up here, so choose either nylon or polyester carpet based on the other criteria. Both of these materials are very resistant to stains. However, because nylon is more absorbent and liquids are harder to get out of it, polyester is a slightly better choice.
Nylon Versus Polyester Carpet: Conclusions
Here are some bottom-line conclusions to assist you in deciding the polyester vs nylon carpet conundrum as it relates to your situation.
- If you are putting carpet in a high-traffic area of your home or if it is a commercial application, nylon is the better choice. Expect longevity of 10-15 years.
- For those who enjoy changing their flooring more often to stay current with styles and colors, and want to do it affordably, polyester is your material. Expect it to look good for 5-10 years depending on its quality and the use it receives.
- Pet owners will do a bit better with polyester for two reasons: It is slightly more resistant to stains, and if the pets or their odors do destroy it, polyester is cheaper to replace.
- If your home is dry, then beware of nylon. Static electricity builds up in it more quickly than in polyester, though P.E.T. polyester might lead to shocks too
- If going green in your home is important to you, then choose a polyester carpet that is made from recycled plastic drink bottles. ClearTouch from Shaw and Continuum from Mohawk are just two to consider.
Helpful Nylon vs Polyester Carpet Resources:
- Shawfloors.com – Compare the most popular carpet fibers
- Fabrica.com – Beautiful collection of nylon carpets
- Scientific American – Is P.E.T. polyester carpet good for you?