Since they first appeared in the early 1950s, man-made fibres have ebbed and flowed in popularity. However, they are definitely on an upswing again in carpet manufacturing as, thanks to vastly improved technology, man made carpets have shed their image as the second-best option and become the floor covering of choice for an increasing number of householders. Easy to clean and maintain, synthetic carpets are increasingly the practical solution, with enhanced aesthetics and a better and more natural feel along with a high level of performance and durability. Here’s a carpet buying guide designed to show you why a man made carpet might well be right for you. Synthetic (or man-made) fibres are produced by synthesising the by-products of the oil and coal industries. The carpets made from such fibres are tough and durable, non-allergenic, relatively non-absorbent, capable of drying quickly and completely resistant to moths and mildew. They also no longer build up the kind of charges of static electricity that formerly gave them a bad name. There are four main types of man-made fibre that are typically used in the manufacture of carpets. These are polyamide (generally known as nylon), polypropylene, polyester and acrylic.

Nylon

This is perhaps the best-known man-made fibre. Made by extruding melted polymer chips, nylon is noted for its strength and durability, as well as the ease with which it can be cleaned. This means that nylon carpets have gained a well-deserved reputation for being hard-wearing, and it is why nylon is the most commonly used material in carpet manufacturing. Nylon carpets now have stain resistance built into the manufacturing process. Thanks to fluorochemicals and acid dye blocker, they can now shrug off a wide range of staining and soiling substances. Also, whereas nylon carpets used to be notorious for becoming easily flattened down with use, ply effects and heatset treatments nowadays allow them to retain their springiness, making them resistant to flattening. These are known in the trade as “bouncebackability” and “bouncebackfibres”. Finally, the new super-fine fibres used in modern nylon carpet manufacturing techniques means that they feel very soft indeed. In fact, these carpets often feel softer than wool.

Polypropylene

Polypropylene carpets are also highly stain-resistant, as the excellent guarantees given by manufacturers will attest. In fact, you can actually apply bleach directly to a polypropylene carpet surface in complete confidence. If you are looking for cheap carpets, then polypropylene is the least expensive carpet fibre. These carpets are not quite as soft as nylon yet, but they are certainly getting there. Just to show how tough they are, bear in mind that outdoor grass carpets are often made from polypropylene.

Polyester

Known for its capability to present bold and vibrant colours, polyester has much to offer. It’s a soft and naturally stain-resistant fibre, due to its being hydrophobic, and is extremely fade-resistant as the colour is infused in a molten state – a process called solution dyeing. Polyester is, however, most often found in combination with other fibres. Acrylic is not as hard-wearing as nylon, but the carpets made from it are competitively priced and have great bulk and pile resilience. For a final argument in favour of man made carpets, we should mention a new product recently launched by Associated Weavers, one of the largest and most respected carpet manufacturers in Europe. Their Sensualite is a new brand of soft carpet which, at the same time, is resilient and very strong. The yarn is made of a unique and super-soft polyamide which makes for a superbly soft and comfortable surface underfoot.