Each type of fiber used to create furniture and area rugs has different characteristics.
There are six general types of fiber:
Wool: Wool is soft and extremely resilient. Wool provides strength, versatility, and variety and is available in many colors.
Cotton: Cotton is available in many colors, provides softness and good performance.
Nylon: Nylon is manufactured in an unlimited variety of colors, resists soil and is easily cleaned. The resilient nature of nylon withstands the weight of furniture and heavy traffic.
Olefin (Polypropylene): Olefin is the predominant machine-woven synthetic fiber. Olefin has a soft wool-like feel, but resists wear and stains while being colorfast, strong and affordable.
Polyester: Polyester provides softness when constructed into thick, cut pile textures for area rugs and durability in furniture fabrics.
Acrylic: Acrylic can be blended with other fibers to provide the look of wool at a lower cost.
Blends: Any of the above natural and synthetic fibers may be blended.Synthetic fibers such as olefin and nylon are petroleum products, while rayon - a man-made alternative to silk - is synthesized from cellulose found in trees. Animal-derived natural fibers include wool spun from sheep, goats, llama and alpaca. Plants produce natural fibers such as sea grass, jute, flax and cotton.
Wool is a versatile fiber that dyes easily to create a limitless range of colors. Because of the natural scales on a wool fiber surface, light is diffused and provides a soft appearance with less shine. The protein core of wool fibers are reactive, therefore they absorb dyes beautifully and hold the color well.
Wool has an elastic property that enables it to retain a dense pile through the weight of furniture, traffic and other uses for area rugs.
Wool is extremely durable and maintains a good appearance for longer periods. Wool fiber is naturally flexible and coiled, which means it is more likely to stretch rather than break
The scales on a wool fiber naturally repel water and other liquids. Although wool will absorb moisture, if liquid is spilled on a wool area rug or other wool fabric it may take time to penetrate.
Wool is naturally fire resistant and will not melt when burned. This is not only a safety benefit, but also cosmetically beneficial. While wool will catch fire, it will not support a flame, which may make it a good choice for an area rug close to a hearth.
While area rugs of any material provide acoustic benefits, wool provides excellent insulation against sound and reduces noise levels. In addition, wool naturally resists static electricity by absorbing air moisture.
Wool stays cleaner longer and resists dirt. The same qualities of wool that prevent static electricity also protect against lint and dust attraction.
Polypropylene is highly resistant to moisture, strong, colorfast, mildew and abrasion resistant and quick drying.
Polypropylene fibers have a low density; therefore polypropylene area rugs are lightweight and inexpensive but not very resilient to wear in high traffic areas.
Polypropylene can be heat-set, which not only increases durability but also lowers the sheen of the fiber for a more affordable wool-like appearance.
Rayon is naturally derived from wood, but is a man-made material that resembles silk.
While similar to silk in look and feel, rayon will melt if exposed to open flame.
Nylon was first commercially produced in 1939 by Du Pont® (then known as du Pont de Nemours) from water, air, petroleum and natural gas.
Nylon is very strong, abrasion resistant, and elastic. While nylon can simulate the look and feel of wool, its lustrous quality will create a relatively shiny appearance in area rugs.