If you ever feel like your home is a battlefield of spills and stains, choosing a carpet with top of the line stain resistance will save you a great deal of stress. If you haven’t started carpet shopping yet, you will quickly find out that all carpets claim to be the world’s most stain proof carpet.
Today I’m going to help you sort through all of the fluff. Before we get started, let’s simplify things. There are many details that go into what makes a carpet durable, but for stain resistance, 90% of what matters is the carpet material. The reason all carpets say they’re amazing at stain resistance is that all of them have unique advantages—the companies market these advantages and hide the drawbacks. It’s up to you (and I’m here to help) to know which fiber’s advantages will keep the stains off of your carpet.
Wool Stain Resistance
Most carpet fibers are coated with a stain-preventing chemical; wool’s the exception. Even without any treatment, wool may be your best option for stain resistance. Here’s why:
Wool is naturally resistant to spills from Kool-Aid to ketchup and also repels oils. Many carpet fibers are good at resistant spills or resisting oils but not both. Sometimes people only need their carpet to hold up against one type of stain (liquid or oils), but for those who need protection against both, consider wool. Just know that wool’s drawback is that it isn’t cheap.
Nylon Stain Resistance
Nylon is the most popular choice for homes and a big part of this is its stain resistance. Nylon carpet with a good stain coating sets the bar for resistance against spills and other mishaps. And while it may be a slight step down from wool at repelling oils, it doesn’t attract oil like some of the other carpet materials that I’ll discuss below.
The trick with nylon is it varies carpet to carpet because its stain resistance isn’t natural like wool. The coating is what makes nylon carpets. There are many different brands with great coatings out there, but you still need to be careful which you choose. To learn more about which nylon you should choose, check out the article on branded vs unbranded nylon.
Polyester and Olefin Stain Resistance
Polyester and olefin are two different types of carpet, but they are similar enough to lump together when we’re talking about stain resistance. Both are oil-based carpet materials. Oil-based carpets do an excellent job at repelling spills, but they attract oils. So why would someone want to compromise and buy a carpet that attracts oils? Polyester and olefin are both inexpensive.
The next question is what rooms are good candidates for an olefin or polyester? Anywhere where there’s not oil, but you still want stain resistance. Oil usually either comes from the bottom of your shoes (especially if you have an asphalt driveway) or from your skin. So any room where people have their shoes off and won’t be laying around on the carpet can be a great fit for polyester and olefin—in many homes, a dining room is a great example.
Does anything else matter?
Earlier in this article, I let you in on a secret—the carpet fiber is 90% of what determines carpets stain resistance. So is there anything else you need to worry about? Not a whole lot, but here are some additional details you might want to keep in mind:
The first is that some carpet styles provide unique stain challenges. A great example is Berber carpet. Stains often don’t soak into Berber fibers but roll down to the backing of the carpet. This is great at the time of the spill, but when you have a Berber cleaned, its tight weave means it dries slowly causing some of these stains to wick up and appear at the surface when the carpet dries. It can be a professional carpet cleaner’s nightmare when the carpet looks dirtier after it was cleaned than before.
A second thing to watch for is the carpet stain warranty. Reading the article I just linked will give you the full picture on warranties, but keep this in mind: warranties are easily void and the manufacturers know this. Therefore, they may put a 10-year stain warranty on a carpet, not because they think it will last that long, but because they know that the warranty will most likely be invalid before the 10 years anyway.
The nice thing about picking out a carpet with stain resistance is you only need to focus on one thing: the carpet material. Where it gets tricky is the type of stains your carpet is most vulnerable to, and what’s your budget? Your safest bet is a brand name nylon with a good reputation, but you’ll pay for it. Much less expensive options are available in unbranded nylons, polyester, and olefin, and as long as you know their drawbacks, they can be excellent options. Also, keep in mind, stain resistance isn’t the only thing that keeps your carpet looking new.