"Green" Carpet Fibers

About 1.8 million tons of rugs and carpets are sent to landfills each year [source: National Park Service]. To reduce the impact, consumers can choose carpets that contain recycled materials. Polyester fibers can be made from recycled soft drink bottles. Nylon carpets can use 100-percent recycled material for the backing.

Carpet tiles can be a good choice because they let you replace smaller sections of carpet as they wear (so that you don't have to discard the whole thing). For commercial applications carpet leasing is an option. The lessor is responsible for replacing the carpet when it wears out, and is more likely to reuse or recycle the material.

Choosing Carpet Fiber: Polyester

Polyester is another popular synthetic fiber used in carpets. Less expensive than nylon, it once had a reputation for being of poor quality. In recent years, polyester fiber has been improved considerably. It has its advantages and can represent an excellent value for certain applications.

Polyester carpets present a beautiful appearance when new. The fiber has a very luxurious "hand" (the feel of the fibers). Polyester also comes in some of the richest colors of any fiber. Because it is process-dyed, it has excellent fade resistance. Polyester's relatively soft fibers give it a rich feel, with high "perceived" quality -- that is, the quality you see in the showroom [source: Cooper].

The downside is that polyester is the least resilient carpet fiber. It does not stand up as well to traffic and will not last as long. Polyester carpets are susceptible to wear, matting and traffic patterns. When matted, the carpet is difficult to restore.

That doesn't mean you should reject polyester entirely. Polyester is a very economical fiber. It's good for allergy sufferers. It sheds moisture and resists moths and mildew. It won't shrink.

Polyester is fairly easy to clean. Like olefin, it resists almost all water-based stains but is susceptible to oil stains. Once oil gets into the fibers, it's difficult to remove. Polyester fiber carpets can shed individual fibers. They may also be susceptible to pilling, in which loose fibers become entangled with each other and form little particles on the surface.

You might choose polyester carpet when you're looking for a short-term carpet. Maybe you plan to replace it when you remodel or after the kids are out of the house. You should choose a high-density carpet. Make sure the pile or loops are not too long -- high-pile carpet may look good in the showroom, but it will mat quickly. Polyester carpet should have a high twist level to the tufts. In low-twist carpets, also known as blown fiber, the tufts tend to untwist, leading to rapid wear. Loop-style carpets, like Berber, can be good if you're going with polyester.

In the next section, you'll read about the most luxurious of all carpet fibers.