In a nutshell:
get a solution dyed nylon carpet.
If you want the softest feel under your feet, and you can afford the
additional cost, buy a Saxony. If you're looking for long term
durability, buy a level loop carpet.
Carpeting is made of three synthetic fibers (Olefin, Polyester and
Nylon) one natural fiber (Wool). The strongest of all these fibers is
nylon, and so nylon makes for the longest wearing carpets. Over 80
percent of all the commercial carpet made in North America is level loop
carpet made from nylon fiber. But, most of that commercial level loop
carpet is not solution dyed. Get the solution dyed stuff, and most of
the rest of this post will explain why.
Why solution dyed?
In conventionally dyed carpet, the fiber itself is run through a
liquid dye, and so the dye molecules bind to the exterior of the carpet
fibers. In solution dyed carpets, the carpet fiber get it's colour from
tiny solid coloured particles (called "pigments") which are added to the
liquid plastic before it's drawn into a fiber. So, solution dyed carpet
fiber gets it's colour from tiny coloured particles that are suspended
inside the fiber very much like the raisins in raisin bread.
Nylon is a polyamide and amide groups are polar. Water molecules
are also polar. Water based dyes dissolve in water because they are
attracted to polar water molecules, and they're also attracted to the
amide groups on the surface of nylon carpet fiber. In fact, whenever a
carpet gets stained, it's usually a water based food stain and it stains
the carpet because the staining molecules are sticking to the polar
sites on the surface of the carpet fiber that aren't occupied by dye
So, after solution dyed nylon carpet fiber is made, it is dyed a
second time with a CLEAR water based dye so that those clear molecules
occupy all those polar sites on the surface of the nylon, thereby making
the carpet much more stain resistant by denying the staining molecules a
place where they'd stick well to the surface of the carpet fiber. But,
through wear, some of those clear dye molecules will be worn off as the
carpet gets older, and so the carpet will become more prone to staining
in the traffic areas as it gets worn out. Exactly the same thing
happens to conventionally dyed nylon carpets as they get older.
But, the most important thing to remember here is that because the
colour of solution dyed nylon comes from the coloured pigments INSIDE
the nylon carpet fibers, you can use bleach straight out of the jug to
remove otherwise impossible stains on that carpet WITHOUT harming the
carpet. That's because the bleach never actually comes into contact
with the pigments that give the carpet fiber it's colour because they're
encased in nylon plastic. Bleaching a stain out of a solution dyed
nylon carpet will probably destroy all the clear dye molecules on the
surface of the fiber contacted by the bleach, making the carpet
susceptible to staining in the bleached area, but you can also use
bleach a second, third, fourth and N'th time to remove stains from those
same areas without affecting the colour of the carpet in those areas.
That is, by using bleach to remove a stain on a solution dyed nylon
carpet, you remove both the stain and the stain resistance in the area
contacted by bleach, but you can keep removing stains from the carpet
indefinitely using bleach. And you'll never harm the carpet with
bleach. So, the prudent thing to do is to wipe up liquid spills ASAP,
try to remove stains without using bleach, and use the bleach when all
else fails. That will ensure you have the best looking, most stain
resistant carpet for the longest possible time.
And, I have no doubt that it would have occured to you by now that you
can check to see that everything I'm saying is true by dropping in to
any carpet store and buying one of those $2 door mat size samples of
discontinued carpet and torturing it with bleach. Just make sure that
the carpet you buy is SOLUTION dyed nylon. And, if you can use bleach
on the carpet without harming it, you can also use bleach on any pet
accidents to kill any germs left behind in the carpet at those
locations. That way, you can keep your solution dyed nylon carpet
smelling fresh as an Irish meadow in springtime.
Olefin fiber CANNOT by dyed by conventional means, and so ALL 100%
Olefin carpets are solution dyed. Chemically, Olefin fiber is very
similar to polypropylene, which is one of the most water resistant
plastics there is, so Olefin carpets are naturally resistant to water
based food stains. Sounds great so far. The problem with Olefin is
that it's a weaker plastic than polyester or nylon, and so Olefin
carpets (which is what the big box stores mostly sell) wear out faster
than nylon or polyester carpets. The big box stores sell Olefin carpets
because Olefin carpets are generally less expensive per square yard than
polyester or nylon and people shopping for carpet at a home center are
mostly looking at price. But, before I started buying solution dyed
nylon carpets for my apartments, I was buying 100% Olefin carpets for
them. The only reason I switched was because I wasn't happy with how
long the Olefin carpets were lasting before they started showing signs
If you want a carpet that's going to be soft on your feet and feel
luxurious, you want a "cut pile" carpet, which means that that the tops
of the tufts have been cut off so that each carpet fiber in each tuft
can move independantly of it's neighbors. Such a carpet is called a
"Plush" carpet. Since the individual carpet fibers can move
independantly of each other in a plush carpet, when you vaccum a plush
carpet, the rotating brush will leave the carpet fibers leaning one way
or the other depending on which way the brush was going when it passed
over the carpet fibers. Some people like that, some people don't. If
you don't like that, don't buy a plush carpet.
A saxony carpet is very similar to a plush carpet except that the
yarns are more tightly twisted, and the manufacturer packs more of those
tightly twisted yarns into each square inch of carpet to make a Saxony,
so you get more carpet fiber with a Saxony than with a Plush. So
Saxonies are more expensive cuz they use more carpet fiber so they cost
more to make.
If you want the carpet to last the longest, or you're concerned
about someone in a wheel chair being able to roll over the carpet
easily, get a level loop carpet. Most people would consider a Berber to
be a kind of level loop carpet. There's a natural resilience to a loop
that results in level loop carpet standing up better to high traffic
than cut pile carpets. To my knowledge, ALL commercial carpet is level
loop carpet cuz commercial carpet has to be long lasting.
And, the best way to get the longest life out of a carpet is to
vaccuum it regularily with a good quality vaccuum cleaner. There's a
popular misconception that shampooing a carpet will get it cleaner than
vaccuuming, but that's not true. That's because as soon as you get the
carpet fiber wet, you create something called "surface tension" on the
surface of the carpet fibers that keeps dirt stuck to the carpet fibers.
Next time you're at the beach, try cleaning sand off of wet feet and
dry feet and see which one works better. Really, a vaccuum cleaner is
meant for cleaning SOLID soils out of carpets, and a carpet shampoo'er
is meant for cleaning liquids and dried up liquid spills out of carpets.
They're different tools meant for different jobs. If you intend to
shampoo your carpet, you'd do well to vaccuum it thoroughly first to
remove the solid soils, and then shampoo to remove the dried up liquid
spills. Vaccuuming after you shampoo is a waste of time.
There, now you know more about solution dyed nylon carpet than most
people. And, most people would buy solution dyed nylon carpet if they
knew what they were paying extra for. They don't, so often they go to
big box stores to buy Olefin carpet at half the price. And, truth be
told, if I couldn't buy solution dyed nylon carpet from my local carpet
store, I'd buy Olefin carpet from a home center and just replace it more
often. (I install my own carpets.)
Now, about paint...