This blog post gives you the “skinny” on wool carpet. Because we sell all types of carpet and don’t carry inventory, we can give you an unbiased assessment and description of wool carpet.
The basics: wool carpets are of course made from wool shorn from sheep. Traditionally, the best wool is from New Zealand, although other areas have begun producing quality wool in recent years.
These carpets are generally considered luxury products and are near the top of the pricing spectrum. However, even though they are highly priced, there are real, practical reasons to choose wool over other fibers such as nylon or polyester.
Interestingly, Europeans are more attuned than Americans to the advantages and desirability of wool carpets. In Europe, 20 percent of the carpet market is in wool; in America, only 3 percent. What this means, really, is that when Europeans want the best carpet, they buy wool. When Americans want the best carpet, they typically go for high-end nylon.
I believe the reason for this difference in popularity is, well, ignorance.
New Zealand has done a much better job of educating Europeans about wool carpet. This is perhaps natural given how closely New Zealand and Europe are related historically, especially New Zealand and Great Britain.
For whatever reason, wool carpet is virtually invisible in this country. We’ve had wool carpet available in our studio for the past three or four years, but never paid attention to it. Recently, though, our franchise became an authorized distributor of Godfrey Hirst wool carpets. So we’ve been learning a lot about this natural fiber.
Also, we have a client who is replacing their 30-year-old wool carpet throughout their home. They insisted on wool, and they wanted exactly what they had before, but that particular style is discontinued. However, we were able to find them something very close, and we are now in the process of replacing the wool carpet throughout their home.
And that’s something we’ve heard repeatedly since we’ve entered the wool space: people who’ve had wool in their homes only want wool when it comes time to replace it.
Wool is a fantastic fiber because it comes from a living being that has evolved over the millennia. And, more recently, as in the past couple of hundred years or so, shepherds have been carefully breeding their sheep to create the best wool. Here are some of the advantages of wool.
Long-lasting and Durable
I’ve already spoken about our client and their 30-year-old wool carpet. One carpet rep I know said that typically homeowners buying new wool carpet were replacing carpet that was still in good shape; they’d had it so long that they were tired of the style or the style had become old-fashioned.
When we install wool carpet, we don’t use the same carpet pad, rebond pad, that is often used for polyester or even for nylon. Why? Because the pad would wear out before the carpet did!
At our recent annual convention, a Godfrey Hirst rep at their display was pointing to various wool carpet styles and giving a brief description of each. “And if you buy that one,” he said, pointing to one of the styles, “put it in your will because it’s going to last longer than you are.”
Dirt- and Stain-resistant
The best way for a sheep to not get dirty is to have a coat that repels dirt. Wool does that. I know a carpet rep who, when she goes to a trade show, takes two of her wool area rugs from home for the floor of the booth. During the trade show, the carpet gets filthy. She takes the rugs home, vacuums them, and they are good as new.
In the same way, wool resists stains.
Regulates Humidity and Cleans the Air
A wool carpet in a home is actually a huge air filter. The best way for a sheep to not get wet is to have a coat that in damp weather absorbs moisture and then releases it when the air is drier. Wool does that. In the home, wool absorbs moisture out of the air when the air is humid. When it does that, it actually pulls airborne particles out of the air. When the humidity level drops, the wool releases the moisture back into the air, but the particles stay behind in the carpet, to be vacuumed up later.
Some wool carpet reps claim that wool is actually good for people with asthma because it cleans the air. And, because wool is dirt resistant, the homeowner can easily vacuum the dirt up; the wool won’t hold onto it. In the same way, pet hairs are easily vacuumed up as well.
Drawbacks to Wool
There are a couple of drawbacks, of course. For one thing, it’s expensive. High-end nylon sells for about $40 per square yard (about $4.44 per square foot). Wool sells from $60 per square yard and up ( $6.67 per square foot and up).
And wool is rather tight; that is, it’s not fluffy and soft like a nylon plush style. It’s softer than a Berber, but not as soft as a plush. Some clients otherwise unfamiliar with wool feel it and have trouble figuring out why they would pay so much money when it’s not soft and cuddly. One thing they fail to take into account is that when installed, the special carpet pad that is used underneath will make the carpet nice and soft.
One excellent place to use wool is on stairs. It’s durability and dirt- and stain-resistance make it ideal for the heavy traffic on stairs. And it you use a pattern, the stair carpet doesn’t have to match the other carpet nearby; it just needs to compliment the other carpet.
Nylon and polyester are petroleum products. Wool is of course a natural, renewable product.
How to Find Good Wool Carpet
The easiest and most effective way to find a quality wool carpet is to go to the Wools of New Zealand Web site and look at Our Brand Partners. The brand of wool we offer, Godfrey Hirst, is on the Brand Partners list.
According to its Web site, “Wools of New Zealand is a sales and marketing company owned by New Zealand sheep farmers who care.”
If you would like to know more about wool carpets, here’s an excellent Godfrey Hirst brochure.
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I hope this blog post is helpful to you and has cleared up some questions about wool carpet. If you live in the Cincinnati metro area and are looking for expert, unbiased help in choosing what type of flooring is best for you, please call our 24-hour appointment desk at 513-729-7499.
Written by Jim Fitzgerald, secretary/treasurer of Floor Coverings International, Cincinnati East, located in Blue Ash, a Cincinnati, Ohio, suburb.