Not all carpeting is created equal. Some might look great in the small square of a carpet sample, but after just a few weeks of muddy paws, dirty sneakers and darting around, it suddenly looks as if it has lived several lifetimes. You don't need carpet suited for high-traffic use in every room of your house. But in areas that see a lot of foot traffic and activity, such as stairs, entryways and family rooms, it can be important to make sure you have a carpet that won't lose its color, softness and shape in a short amount of time. There are several factors to consider when choosing the best carpeting for the busiest areas of your home.
Most carpets in the U.S. are made from one of six pile fibers: nylon, cotton, polyester, polypropylene, acrylic or wool. All are appealing for different reasons, but if you're looking for durability, the only two in the race are nylon and wool.
Nylon is used in more than half of the carpets made in the U.S. because of its resilient nature. It doesn't feel quite as soft or luxurious as fibers like polyester or acrylic, but what it lacks in plushness it makes up for in durability.
Wool has a rich history for good reason. It makes a soft and incredibly durable carpet. Still, many wool blends require more care than nylon, making nylon a better choice for anyone who doesn't have the time to clean their wool carpet at least once a year.
A yarn's twist level refers to how many times a yarn is twisted per one inch. A tighter twist indicates a strong blend that will resist falling apart even after being stomped on constantly. The higher the twist level, the more resilient the carpet.
A frieze is a variety of curl known for its high twist level. Its long fibers curl at the surface of the carpet, creating a flattened yet textured look that's great at concealing dirt, footprints and vacuum skids. Some frieze curls have a twist level as high as eight.
Color doesn't make a difference in the actual durability of carpet, but it does go a long way in preserving appearance. Light carpeting shows the wear and tear of dirt and spills more than darker alternatives. But dark isn't the best option, either. It can make light crumbs more visible and can require frequent care to keep it free of lint and debris. For that reason, marbled carpets are best in high-traffic areas. The multicolored appearance means dirt, stains and crumbs can all blend in well with the carpeting, giving it a clean, sleek look with minimal maintenance.
Deep Cleaning Revival
Deep cleaning can be a great way to breathe new life into old carpeting, but it can't be relied on to revive every type of material. A carpet deep clean blasts a shampoo mix into the carpeting in order to force out grime. It's a safe and effective way to clean most durable carpet blends, including nylon, but wool requires extra care. A deep clean might not root out all the tiny pieces of gunk stashed deep in wool fibers. Or, too much shampoo or steam could cause long-term damage to a more delicate wool blend.
Best All-Around Performer
While wool and nylon can both perform well in high-traffic areas, nylon in a frieze twist gets the gold medal in durability. Plush polyesters or one-of-a-kind wools will look gorgeous in the quieter areas of your house. But wool can be too difficult to keep healthy and clean for years, and other fibers won't stand a chance against a busy family. A nylon frieze carpeting is your best bet for the areas of the home where all the living happens.
Rachelle Dragani is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn with extensive experience covering the lifestyle space. Her work on topics including smart home technology, pest control, living green, budget home repair and helpful household tips have appeared in publications including Bob Vila, Esquire, Popular Mechanics, Gizmodo and Yahoo.