The Ultimate Guide for Choosing New Textiles
We have put together an in-depth guide to help your decision making process and educate you on the variety of materials out there today.
Before you go out shopping for new floor coverings or furniture there are a few things you should consider. With so many new products out there it can become quickly confusing as to what will stand the test of time while remaining in your budget and still being aesthetically pleasing to the look you’re after. We have put together this super handy guide that should help you in your decision-making process and educate you on the variety of materials out there today.
Carpet Buying Guide
A lot has changed in the world of carpet fibers over the past 30 years and not exactly for the good. We regularly clean 30-50 year old carpet that honestly still cleans up better than many carpets which are only 10 years old or less today. How could that be? We would stop short of calling it a conspiracy by the manufacturers but do know that a lot of the newer synthetic carpeting which may look and feel so nice on the sample boards does not hold up over time. Unfortunately many carpet retailers only have experience with brand new carpet and don’t see the issues with aged carpeting like us cleaners do. In many ways that puts carpet cleaners as the real go-to source for good information on which type of carpets perform the best. Let’s look at the major fiber types and list the pros and cons of each.
Let’s cut straight to the chase. Even if you read no further we want you to know that Nylon carpet is still the most durable man made fiber in production today. After cleaning millions of square feet of carpet since the beginning of our company, we all agree that Nylon is our first choice in carpet fibers. The only real drawback to Nylon is that it can be much more expensive than other synthetic carpets but for good reason.
Nylon is very durable and springs back to life with each cleaning. When they manufacture Nylon carpet the yarns are given a heat memory twist which cannot be done to the other synthetics.
So why is Nylon our favorite fiber?
- Most resilient of all fiber types because of it’s heat memory twist which can’t be done to other fiber types
- Resists stains better than many fibers due to the acid dye blockers in newer generations of Nylon
- Cleans well and bounces back better than other fibers
- Holds up better to foot traffic
- Can be color-dyed in case of bleach spills or permanent stains can be bleached out and then color-dyed again
- Comes in virtually all style and colors
- Static Free
The downside of Nylon
- Can be more expensive than other fibers
- Made primarily from Petroleum
- Color can be bleached out if it comes in contact with bleaching agents
The newest carpet fiber that is being mass produced is called Sorona® but is commonly reffered to as Triexta or PTT which was developed by DuPont™. Mohawk™ has a line of carpet styles which uses the Sorona fiber and is branded under the well known name of Smartstrand®. Sorry we know that it’s all a bit confusing having so many names for a single carpet fiber. We will just refer to it as Smartstrand for our purposes.
We are cleaning more and more Smartstrand everyday in the past five years. It’s an extremely soft fiber and has some neat characteristics that will be appealing to a lot of shoppers. It is made from corn instead of just petroleum. The color is built into the fiber so it cannot be bleached out. It’s very resistant to staining and cleans up well. Unfortunately we think the cons outweigh most of the benefits and do not agree with how much the retailers are pushing this new “miracle” fiber on the consumer.
The reasons that Sorona is NOT our first choice in carpeting:
- It shows signs of wear more quickly
- Not a good option in high traffic areas
- Susceptible to oily spots and spills
- Has a list of vacuums that can only be used on it
- Half the lifespan as Nylon
Polyester is a very popular carpet fiber and for good reason. Even in some of it’s plusher styles the price can seem very reasonable. Many Polyester carpets may contain a mix of recycled plastic bottles which in theory makes it attractive because it can be considered a “green” fiber. When you feel it on the sample boards at the store it has a soft luxurious feel to it and there’s a wonderful selection of bright colors and styles. Unfortunately a lot of these showroom characteristics won’t last long. In most cases Polyester wears and crushes much sooner than a good Nylon carpet. While Polyester may seem to check all your boxes when shopping in the store just be aware that in many instances it will not have the longevity that most consumers want and cancels out it’s “green” factor.
The pros of Polyester include:
- Feels very soft, plush, and luxurious when relatively new
- Much less expensive than other fibers
- Can be considered a “green” fiber since it’s made partially from recycled plastic bottles
The cons of Polyester include:
- Not a resilient fiber
- Constantly crushing and matting down from day one
- Warranties do not cover matting or crushing
- Very susceptible to oily spots such as dog coat oils or grease spots
- Lifespan is half of Nylon which negates it’s “green” factor
Olefin can be a fairly good carpet fiber. It’s used often to make Berber carpets, most commercial carpeting, and outdoor synthetic grass carpet. The Olefin fiber can wear well and is typically pretty stain resistant. Olefin Berber carpets are notorious for having spot wicking issues so you always want to attend to spills quickly and thoroughly blot up as much moisture as possible. We see a lot of Olefin Berber carpets in basement levels which seems to work nicely in those areas that don’t have a lot of daily foot traffic.
A majority of commercial carpeting is made from Olefin. You can cover huge areas in commercial buildings at a very reasonable price. We have clients tell us often that they have a commercial carpet and while it may be Olefin that does not mean that it is superior to a residential Nylon carpet. Olefin presents its own issues with crushing of the loops in a Berber style and it holds onto oily soils.
- Wears Well
- Has good stain resistance
- Can be a good choice for Berber style carpeting
- Very economical in commercial buildings
- Olefin Berber loops permanently crush over time leaving a visibly worn pattern
- Olefin is very attracted to oily soils
- Olefin has a low melting point so friction from dragging furniture over it can damage the fibers
- Olefin Berber loops can pull and “run” like a sweater
Wool is natural fiber made and in a completely different category than synthetic man-made fibers. In many carpets wool is blended with Nylon which gives it some of the desirable characteristics Nylon offers such as better resiliency to wear and staining.
Wool can be an excellent choice for carpeting in that it wears very well and can last as long or even longer than Nylon. Wool can be very soft. It increases the R value in room because it’s a natural insulator. Wool self extinguishes in a fire which is why fire blankets were primarily made from wool. Since wool is derived from a renewable source it can be considered one of the more “green” fibers out there.
There are two main factors why someone might want to avoid wool, the first being cost. Wool is the most expensive out of all the fibers used in carpet. The second major downside to wool is that it can easily be damaged by pet urine, improper cleaning agents, aggressive rubbing, and many common spills that would otherwise rinse right out of synthetic carpeting. Because of these factors you should really think twice before investing in this high end carpeting.
- Very resilient to wear
- Great insulator that increases a rooms R value
- Self extinguishes in a fire
- Is a “green” fiber
- Very expensive
- Not as stain resistant as synthetics
- Easily damaged by pet accidents
Upholstery Buying Guide
Buying new furniture for your home can be a fun way to completely change the look of a room. It can also be a huge investment so it’s very important to do a little research before spending hundreds or more likely thousands of dollars.
Before we even get to the fabrics the first things you want to consider is how much use will the upholstered pieces get. Is this going to be the most heavily used furniture for a family room or is this for a formal living room that will only occasionally be sat on. If it’s going to be used often you want to make sure the interior framing is well constructed to withstand hard daily use. Check to see if the cushions are flippable. Some manufacturers make pieces that only have the upholstered material on one side. There are also seat cushions that are an L shape which can’t be flipped in the case of a bad permanent stain.
People are more intimate with their furniture than ever before. Your grandmother would probably be upset if you stretched out and put your feet on her davenport but nowadays we have no issue with using our huge sectional sofas as a pseudo bed! It may feel awkward but when shopping for furniture be sure to flop down and kick your feet up to get a good sense of how comfy it might be when it’s yours.
If you have pets another consideration is the fabrics construction. Cats especially like to stretch their claws in woven materials as opposed to a flat material like Microfiber. Also with pets comes the oils on their coats. Absorbent fabrics will pick up these oils and can be difficult to fully remove from fabrics like velvets, silks, and tweeds.
There are two main categories for upholstery fabrics which are natural and synthetic. Let’s take a look at the most common materials with a little background on each of them.
Natural Fiber Upholstery Fabrics
- Cotton: This natural fiber is one of the most common materials but is declining in popularity due to advancements in many synthetic materials which can be just as soft but with more stain resistance than cotton provides. Cotton can wear very well and be a great choice for furniture that only gets occasional use. From a cleaning standpoint while lightly soiled cotton will typically clean up well, heavily soiled cotton can be very difficult to revive. For that reason cotton will need frequent care through vacuuming and yearly professional cleaning. You must be very careful doing and spotting yourself with cotton as it can be easily damaged from rubbing or using improper spotting solutions.
- Wool: Very durable fabric that is often blended with synthetics to make it easier to clean and reduce felting of the material. Since wool is a very good insulating fiber it will feel nice and cool in the summer and warm in the winter unlike leather.
- Leather: There are some really nice advantages to leather furniture. Leather is a very tough yet comfortable material for upholstery. It should be well maintained through vacuuming and by using a leather cleaner and conditioner periodically. Some drawbacks to leather is that it usually feels extra cold in the winter months and hot during the summer. Leather can also be easily scratched by pet claws and some leathers will absorb their coat oils better than you’d want.
- Linen: Linens are very popular right now since they compliment the rustic-modern look. While we do also love the look of linen you should know that it’s not a very practical material. It should only be professionally cleaned and spotted as it’s an easy fabric do quickly damage yourself. Aggressive rubbing of linen or using an alkaline spotter will do much harm. We really recommend avoiding linens for these reasons.
- Silk: This is another very delicate fabric which should only be considered for formal use areas since it’s not an everyday fabric. Much like linens, silk should only be professionally cleaned as it can easily be damaged. The look and feel of silk is very luxurious but from a practical standpoint we highly recommend avoiding silk if you have children or pets.
Synthetic Upholstery Fabrics
- Nylon: Usually blended with other fibers to make it very strong and and durable. Nylon can be very resilient to soiling and can be safely spot cleaned by the consumer. Nylon fabrics do have a tendency to fade from direct sunlight and pill.
- Polyester: Another material which is usually blended with other fibers for added durability. Polyester is more fade resistant than nylon and is also a material that doesn’t wrinkle easily. Polyester doesn’t hold odors such as other fabrics do so it can be a good choice for homes with pets.
- Microfiber: Made from polyester, Microfiber is the most popular upholstery fabric in use today. It has a velvet -like feel which is very soft. Microfiber is very stain resistant but since it’s a really absorbent material it will pick up oils more quickly from hands, heads, and pets. Since Microfiber is such a durable fabric it can be well maintained by the consumer with frequent vacuuming and spotting using a mild detergent and a towel. There is such thing as a low and higher quality Microfiber so you should expect that furniture that is priced on the low end to have a lower grade Microfiber. As long as it is cared for well, we highly recommend Microfiber as one of the top considerations when shopping for upholstery.
- Crypton: This is one of the newest fabrics to hit the market. Crypton is considered a “Performance Fabric” meaning it is an engineered textile that is water, stain, and bacteria resistant. It is made ultra durable through it’s weaving design. During it’s crystallizing process during manufacturing it can be made using cotton, polyester, and rayon which gives a wide variety of styles for your home. Since Crypton is such a new fabric we have only had the pleasure of cleaning it on a handful of occasions. From what we have seen it is an excellent material to choose. While it is a fairly expensive upholstery fabric, it should last you over twenty years easily if it’s well cared for. With time this cost should come down and we will see Crypton used more frequently by many furniture manufacturers.
- Olefin: This is a great choice for upholstery that will be used heavily. Olefin is very resistant to stains, sunlight, and abrasion which means it often used for outdoor settings as well. While it is a very durable fabric it’s not always the softest material so you may want to look at other fabrics when comfort is key.
- Rayon: Was developed to be used as an alternative to silk, cotton, and linen. Rayon has been used a lot on dining chairs but since it has a tendency to stretch and wrinkle it has lost it’s favor with many manufacturers. Recent developments in the manufacturing process have produced a new generation of high quality rayons that can be very family room friendly so don’t count rayon out just yet.
Tile Buying Guide
Tile has become a huge component of newer construction in homes around our area. In prior years you just did not see tile being used in as many rooms in Midwest homes. Tile has now made it’s way out of the bathroom and is frequently used in kitchens, foyers, hallways, and even family rooms now more than ever. Tile is a very durable flooring option which can outlast other flooring for years to come.
With all of it’s great qualities there also comes some drawbacks like every flooring. Tile can be very expensive. While in many cases ceramic tiles can be very affordable, natural stone and the installation of either will also add a large expense. In our Midwestern climate tile can feel very cold in the winters so you should also consider that adding area rugs over the tile is another expense in itself. Another expensive option for combating the coldness of tile is having radiant heat installed below.
Don’t let these few drawbacks scare you off. A well installed tile should last the an entire lifetime making it a fairly economical choice in the long run.
As with all the other flooring and upholstery textiles, there are two main categories which are natural and synthetic.
- Natural Stone: Tiles made from natural stone are quite beautiful. The texture and patterns that Mother Nature has created are just stunning. It’s so much fun seeing all the varieties of natural stones like marble, quartz, granite, slate, travertine, and onyx. Each of these natural stones are their own advantages for different applications. You will really want to consult with a tile expert if you plan on using natural stone. While natural stone does offer an amazing look to any home it’s initial cost and associated maintenance should be well understood before investing in any of these tiles to be used on floors or in showers.
- Ceramic Tile: The tiles made from ceramic come in any color, shape, texture, or size you can think of. Ceramic tile can be very durable and an excellent choice for all flooring areas as well as walls and showers. They have a very strong finish that protects against soil and scratching while being very easy to clean. After you’ve selected your tile the next consideration is the grout. You will want to pick a grout that compliments the color of your tile so it will either blend in subtly or pop to give a highly visible grid depending on the look you are after. Keep in mind that on ceramic tile it’s the grout lines which are porous and absorb dirt. That’s why it’s important to have your grout sealed after it’s installation. When we come to clean your tile and grout it’s mainly the grout that is in need of a good cleaning. After it’s been cleaned it’s always a good idea to have the grout lines sealed again for further protection against staining.
- Porcelain Tile: Just like ceramic, porcelain is another good man-made material that is very durable. Often time porcelain tile is made to mimic a marble tile. Unlike marble, porcelain does not need very expensive polishing to maintain it and it isn’t susceptible to etching from acids. Because of these characteristics if you’re looking for a tile with that natural look but at a much cheaper price porcelain is a very good tile material to use.
Have you looked at all of the new synthetic flooring there is these days? It’s not just that old ugly linoleum like your grandmas kitchen. There are some really great new materials out there which are very practical and affordable.
- Laminate: This is made to look like natural wood and was all the rage starting in the 90’s. While laminate flooring is still in production it has dwindled so much in popularity we wouldn’t expect to see it around much longer. It’s look is so one dimensional and it does not have the water proofing at the joints like most newer synthetic floorings making it a bit outdated by todays standards.
- LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank): is the extremely durable, affordable, waterproof, and amazing alternative to real hardwood flooring. LVP mimics the look, texture, and warmth of real wood. Many manufacturers in fact have made it look so natural that most of us could not tell it was a synthetic material without a thorough inspection. You would have to try fairly hard to damage the surface of LVP. In comparison, natural wood floors scratch easily and are much more expensive to maintain over their lifetime. The way that LVP flooring locks together makes them very waterproof which is a huge step for all synthetic flooring. If you have pets and especially dogs, the finish on LVP can stand up to claws, water bowl spills, and the occasional accidents which pets can provide. We highly recommend taking a look at the latest LVP flooring even if you are one that has always loved real hardwood floors.
In much of the newly constructed homes you would be lucky to find any carpet outside of a family room these days. Even though carpet cleaning is our most requested service we have to agree that the trend of tearing out carpet through most common areas does make good sense. We’ve always thought you should be able to come in your home with a handful of groceries and be able to quickly make it to the kitchen and a bathroom without worrying about carpet if your shoes were a bit dirty.
Even with all the advancements in LVP flooring there is still something to be said about natural hardwood floors. They have a unique beauty that can’t be denied. Unlike LVP there is never a repeat in the pattern. Each plank is an original much like a fingerprint. For some of us there’s just no substitute for the real thing.
We advise you talk with a hardwood specialist before making the big investment in any wood flooring but here are a few things to think about before you start your search.
- Solid Hardwood vs. Engineered Hardwood: One of the first decisions you will likely have to make is choosing between a solid hardwood or an engineered hardwood. A solid hardwood has planks that are made from a single piece of wood while engineered hardwood is a plank with a thin veneer of real hardwood that is glued to crisscrossed layers of pressure treated plywood.Solid hardwoods can be sanded and refinished several times making it a product that can last for many generations. Engineered hardwoods can only be sanded and refinished once or twice depending on the veneers thickness. Due to how engineered hardwoods are manufactured they can be installed in basements while solid hardwoods cannot because of changes in humidity.If you choose solid hardwood flooring you will then have to choose which species of wood you like. The harder the wood the better which is why oak, maple, and cherry flooring are all great choices. There are also more species like walnut, ash, mahogany, and bamboo which is actually a grass. If you get into the exotic species such as teak, mesquite, and jarrah expect to pay a premium since they are not as readily available.A very popular option right now is reclaimed hardwood flooring. Most of the time it is wood that was taken from old houses, barns, and buildings. The planks will have a weathered look with lots of character. Although it may seem that this used wood flooring would be cheaper since it’s being recycled, in reality it’s going to be much more expensive mainly because of all the work put into reclaiming it.Whichever wood flooring you are leaning towards be sure to do plenty of research so you have a basic foundation of knowledge before you start talking with any flooring source. It can save you a lot of time and money!