Olefin Carpet and Rug Fiber Characteristics and Properties

Severe matting is one of the properties of olefin berber carpet

What are the Properties of Olefin Carpet Fiber and How does it Compare to other Carpet Fibers?

Physical and Chemical Properties of Olefin (Polypropylene) Fiber in Carpet and Rugs:

  • Market: 30%
  • “Hand”: Poor
  • I.D. Method: Floats in water. Burns to a round hard tan bead.
  • Moisture Absorption: 0.01%
  • Specific Gravity: 0.90
  • Resilience: None
  • Abrasion Resistance: Very Good
  • Effects of Acids, Alkalis, and Solvents: Chemically inert
  • Dye Methods: Solution dyed
  • Resistance to Mildew, Aging, Sunlight: Good resistance to all three
  • Color Retention: Excellent
  • Stain Resistance: Excellent
  • Stains/Soils Attracted to Fiber: Oil based
  • Melt Point: 320º F
  • Cigarette Burn Resistance: None
  • Chemical Name: Polypropylene

Polypropylene (olefin), a by-product of gasoline refining, continues to gain market share for two reasons: it costs significantly less than nylon and it is inherently stain resistant. Its inherent stain resistance arises from its lack of dye sites, the fact that it absorbs nearly zero water and the fact that it is chemically inert. In fact, chlorine bleach and even battery acid have no effect on it. It is inherently mold resistant. It is also resistant to fading from sunlight and is, therefore, the fiber of choice for outdoor use. Olefin’s biggest drawbacks are its lack of resilience (ability of the fiber tuft to bounce back after traffic), its strong attraction for oily soils, and its propensity to wick stains more than nylon resulting in more frequent complaints of “reappearing spots”, streaking, yellowing and resoiling. Also, because it has a much lower melting point than nylon, friction from moving furniture or casters can permanently damage the fibers. Additionally, a broken vacuum cleaner belt will seriously and permanently damage an olefin rug or carpet, melting the rubber into the fiber. Fortunately, because it is so resistant to most chemicals, more aggressive cleaning agents can be used on olefin.

Olefin is used in most Berber carpets or for use where a less expensive product is required and life expectancy and long-term appearance are unimportant. Olefin should NEVER be used where the primary soil is oil; for example, olefin should never be used in a car showroom.

To reduce wicking on olefin carpets and rugs, it is best to prevacuum, make extra drying passes and use air movers to speed up drying. Advanced Teflon® or Bane-Guard™ is recommended for olefin. Olefin should never be treated with a solvent-based protector. The mill can apply protector to olefin, by essentially fusing it into the fiber.


  • Lower price (cost) than nylon.
  • Extremely stain resistant.
  • Chemically inert.
  • Unaffected by bleach, alkali and acid.
  • Can be cleaned by nearly anything.
  • Mold resistant.
  • Resistant to sun fading.


  • Virtually no resilience (ability to “spring back” from traffic) - mats (flattens) severely with traffic.
  • Easily, permanently damaged by moving furniture.
  • Attracts oily soils.
  • Hard to clean.
  • Yellows easily.
  • Exhibits propensity for wicking and reappearing spots and stains after cleaning.

Related Carpet Manufacture and Fiber Chemistry Information:

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Published by: Bane-Clene® Corp.
Copyright: Bane-Clene Corp.

Date Modified: September 1, 2020

Date Originally Published: July 10, 2013

VIDEO: Chemistry of Carpet Fibers by Bane-Clene’s Chemist

The starting point of carpet is the fiber.

VIDEO: How to Test for Olefin Carpet Fiber

Olefin is the ONLY carpet fiber that FLOATS in water! Nylon sinks. Just be sure to squeeze out all the air first. Adding a few drops of detergent to the water makes the test more effective.