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Is Berber Carpet a Good Choice?

How to select the right carpet style and grade for your home.


Avoiding common consumer carpet buying mistakes.

Q. How well does Berber withstand high traffic areas? Is it easy to keep clean and what kind of padding is best? I am going crazy trying to decide if I want a plush or Berber. I have a newborn and know I will soon have lots of messes to clean up!


Alan's Response:

Don't spend a lot on new carpet if you have small children! Children are very hard on carpets, they spill everything imaginable and parents are often too tired to clean up messes quickly enough to keep up with the demand. Looped Berbers made from the Olefin Fiber are hard to keep clean, they snag easily and are not recommended for folks with active children or pets. 


For folks without active children or pets: Berber may be a good choice. Most Berber styles are made with loops. Some Berbers are called "cut and loop" having both loops and cut loops, Some Berbers have patterns and some do not, and still other Berber styles have no loops at all and are called "Cut-Berbers" (also known as a California Berber) 


Berber carpets are often made from Nylon or Olefin, and of the two, Nylon would be the better choice for homes without kids and pets. Nylon Berbers costs more but lasts much longer, and cleans much easier than Berbers made from Olefin.



Berber Carpet Complaints


Why do Olefin Berber carpets attract dirt and are so hard to keep clean? 

While Berber styles are elegant and beautiful when new, there is a common complaint from homeowners with Berber carpets made with the Olefin fiber. Consumers often report that within a week or two after a professional cleaning, previous spots and stains tend to reappear as if they were never cleaned at all. This is because the Olefin fiber is inherently oily and often makes Olefin hard to clean and prone to attracting dirt like a magnet. Old stains tend to reappear again and again regardless of how many times you have the spots cleaned. 



Why do Olefin fibers attract dirt?

Here's why... During the manufacturing process the Olefin fiber is naturally oily. Fiber makers use a special process to clean the Olefin fibers to try to remove these oils, but often cut corners in order to reduce costs. Some manufacturers put their Olefin fibers through a "three-phase" cleaning process to try to remove most of the oils. 


To make a better product, the fiber maker will use a "five-phase" cleaning process which removes much more of these oils from the fiber. This makes a significantly less-oily fiber that cleans much easier and doesn't attract dirt nearly as much. 


Using the five-phase process to removing excess oils from Olefin is a more time consuming and costly procedure, manufacturers must charge more for these premium fibers and therefore you will pay more for a carpet made from these premium olefin fibers. Unfortunately consumers have no way of knowing which Olefin fibers have been cleaned with the "five-phase" process and those that have only had the three-phase cleaning. 


Rule of thumb: I think it would be reasonable to assume that most Berbers priced under $13.50 per yard ($1.50 sf) would be made using the "three-phase" process. You might have to spend $18 per yard or more to get the better grade of olefin fiber. 


Most carpet salespeople have no knowledge about this manufacturing process and asking them questions about it might be futile. However, perhaps you could ask them to call the carpet manufacturer and see if they can tell you which cleaning process was used in the Berber carpet you are considering. Good luck with that. 



Fact: Less-expensive looped Berber carpets tend to snag easily and wear out more quickly. It's the fiber and the size of the loops that matters most.

Inexpensive Berbers snag easily. Often priced at less than $10 per yard, don't fall for those cheap Berber prices and assume that this low-quality carpet will last more than a few years for you. If you have active kids or pets you need to buy something more durable. 


Berber styles the feature Large loops tend to fall over quickly and look worn out and matted down within a short period of time, often within a year or two. 


Smaller looped Berbers tend to resist matting and crushing and retain a like-new appearance longer and are more durable overall. Berbers made of Nylon last longest and resist matting and crushing of the pile longer than any other synthetic fiber. 


If a Berber carpet is priced under $15 per yard, then it is likely a cheaply made carpet only designed to last a couple of years at best. You'll be plagued with lots of snags, runs and stains that will not be easily cleanable. Berber is a bad choice for folks with kids or pets. 


A good quality Nylon Berber would clean easier, wear better, and retain its new appearance much longer than would an Olefin Berber. 


If you decide buy a Berber carpet and want it to last, be sure to select one with smaller loops, as the bigger loops tend fall over quickly and look worn out sooner. As far as pad goes, an 8-pound minimum density, and a 1/4" to 3/8" thickness is required for all Berber styles. Some Berbers are made from wool, which is an excellent natural fiber, but are very costly. For this reason, I do not recommend wool Berber carpets for folks with children or pets.



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