Nylon is the most common carpet fiber on the market today, accounting for about 65 percent of U.S. carpet sales [source: FastFloors.com]. Nylon was invented by DuPont in the 1930s as a substitute for silk. Now it has become a generic name for this versatile synthetic material.
Two types of nylon are used in carpet fibers. Type 6,6 has always been considered the premium form, with greater strength and durability. Type 6 is slightly less strong. It has been improved in recent years, making the difference between the two types minimal, put the best nylon carpets are usually made from type 6,6 [source: Olefin Carpet].
Nylon is most noted for its durability. Because it's the hardest of all the synthetic carpet fibers, it resists wear and abrasion. A nylon carpet will usually last longer than one made from another type of fiber. The fiber also has good resilience -- it bounces back after being bent or crushed. It has excellent yarn "memory," meaning that it holds its twist well. Nylon carpets are less likely than many others to show indentations after furniture has rested on it. It looks new longer than most fibers.
In general, nylon is easy to clean. It hides soil well. It can be vulnerable to stains from food and will also be discolored by bleach or strong acids like those in toilet bowl cleaner. Many nylon fiber carpets today are treated to make them more stain resistant. Nylon is not affected by moisture; it resists mildew and mold well. Most nylon is solution-dyed and comes in brilliant, long-lasting colors.
One drawback of nylon is that it tends to build up a static charge, which is transferred to a person walking across the carpet. You can accumulate as much as 12,000 volts, enough to sting your fingers when you touch a doorknob [source: FacilitiesNet]. The charge can also harm electronic gear like computers. Most nylon is now treated with an antistatic coating and may include carbon fibers to help dissipate charge. But you might want to avoid nylon carpet in your computer room.
Nylon comes in branded and unbranded varieties. You need to look carefully at the qualities of branded varieties like Stainmaster and Wear-Dated. Their greater expense may be offset by higher quality and added protection against stains and static.
Nylon is good for almost any part of the home, including high-traffic areas. It's easily the most versatile carpet fiber. You'll pay a bit more for nylon, but it's popular for a reason.
On the next page, you'll learn about another adaptable and well-liked carpet fiber.