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How Do I Choose the Right Carpet?

Chair in corner of living room with diamond-patterned, natural fiber rug
Theo & Co. used this natural fiber carpet to add pattern, texture, and depth to the space.

When it comes to buying carpet and rugs for your home it can be a bit overwhelming. When you hear a salesperson talk about cut and loop pile, polyester (PET) and Frize it can cause your eyes to glaze over. In today’s Theo Blog I’m going to share some information to help you make the right choice for you and your family.

How to choose a carpet that lasts

Let’s jump in with some basic carpet facts. Two important characteristics of carpet are the pile (the pile is the surface layer of the carpet that you see and feel) and the type of fiber used.

The three main styles of carpet are cut pile, looped pile and a combination of the two: cut-loop pile.

From left to right, three rugs: cut pile, looped pile, cut-looped pile
Cut pile Looped pile Cut-loop pile

During the carpet weaving the carpet fibers are looped back and forth through the backing. If the fibers are cut, they result in an upright pile with the ends of the carpet exposed. This is called a cut pile. There are five basic types of cut pile carpets: velvet, saxony, frieze, shag and cable -- each with a different look and texture that all look and feel plush.

Cut pile carpets are very popular as they tend to be soft and comfortable, and are usually durable. The soft look and feel makes it a good choice for rooms like bedrooms and family rooms. Know that some cut pile carpets may show footprints and vacuum lines.

All white nursery with dresser, ottoman, and plush cut pile rug
Plush cut pile carpet is seen in this beautiful nursery by Halfway Wholeistic.

A loop carpet is made when the fibers are looped through the backing and left uncut. The loop has strength and soil hiding abilities so loop carpets are good options for high traffic areas like hallways and stairs. They are known to be fairly easy to clean and rarely show footprints or vacuum marks. Examples of looped carpets are berber and sisal. Two features to keep in mind are that the looped fibers can be snagged (think of pets here) and, while durable, they are not always soft or plush.

Bedroom with twin beds, wallpaper, salmon throw pillows, and a loop rug
A loop carpet makes for a cozy bedroom by Brooke Wagner Design.

A cut-loop pile is a combination of fibers that have been cut along with some that are uncut resulting in high-cut tufts and lower loops. Cut-loops have become popular because they often have a pattern in them. While they are fairly dense and durable, again, they’re not always soft and plush.

Cozy monochromatic workspace with desk, chair, cut-loop rug, fresh greenery, and accessories.
A cut-loop rug completes this inviting workspace by Sandra Caballo of Old Silver Shed.

What is the best material/fiber for a carpet?

Both natural and synthetic materials are used in carpets and area rugs. The most common are nylon, polyester (PET), polypropylene (all synthetic) and wool, jute, sisal and cotton (all natural).

Synthetic Options

Nylon is one of the most popular carpet fibers, due to its strength and durability. It resists fading, mildew, staining and crushing. It is the most durable and stain resistant (when treated with stain protection). It can be quite soft, and usually has long-lasting color. This makes it a good option for families with children and pets. However, these features can come with a higher cost than some other options.

Polyester (PET) is made from recycled materials like plastic water bottles. It often has a luxurious look and feel. It’s very stain and fade resistant, comes in many colors and is environmentally friendly. Keep in mind that it doesn't always hold fiber height under traffic and may flatten down a bit.

Polypropylene is another synthetic material that has good stain and moisture resistance. The color is actually built into the fiber so it doesn’t fade, and it’s also water resistant. It may attract and absorb oils which can leave it looking a bit dingy.

Serena & Lily white living room with rattan coffee table, modern art and natural colored performance rug.
The Shasta rug by Serena & Lily is hand-woven of 100% polyester fibers, making it durable and easy to clean.

Natural options

Wool is a natural material that is durable and as a result wool carpets will look good for a long time. They can be quite soft, and are good at hiding dirt. While they have some natural soil resistance qualities, they aren't stain resistant. They are often expensive and more difficult to clean than synthetics.

Cotton rugs are easy to clean -- a small rug can even be thrown into the washing machine! They are not durable like a wool or polypropylene rug and are best used in smaller sizes.

Jute, sisal and seagrass rugs offer natural beauty to a space. Made from dried plant fibers, they are durable. However, some of these fibers are quite absorbent, so aren't good choices for moist environments like a bathroom as it could result in mold and mildew. Because of this they cannot be steam cleaned, and rug cleaners may leave stains. Clients often report that these natural fiber rugs are scratchy and rough to walk on.

Reading corner with day bed, stack of books, fiddle leaf fig plant, and natural fiber rug.
A natural fiber rug brings texture and warmth to this space Melanie Turner Interiors.

What types of carpets are best for kids and pets?

Due to their durability, stain resistance and softness, synthetic carpets are great choices for families with children and/or pets. Families with pets may want to stay away from looped carpets as pet nails can snag the loop and damage it. A cut loop pile would be a good choice in this situation. While natural fibers are durable, they are prone to stains, especially with liquids, and can be difficult to clean. They also tend to be more expensive. Families with children and pets will want to avoid these options.

Another factor to consider is VOC (volatile organic compounds). These are human made chemicals found in paints, cleaning supplies, furniture and flooring that can have adverse health effects and aggravate allergies. With young children and pets it's important to look for a low-voc carpet or rug.

What carpets are trending for 2021?

Before looking at trends, think about the intended use of the space. How much traffic will the space get? Who will be using the space? What kind of look and feel are you interested in?

Grays and taupes -- neutrals -- are always versatile and serve to highlight other things in a room. You may want to choose bolder statements for hallways and stairs, always keeping function and durability in mind.

White foyer with patterned carpet, gold chandelier, and natural elements.
A neutral colored, patterned carpet makes a statement by Public 311 Design.

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