Area Rug Cleaning

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How to Identify Handmade Area Rugs

There are a few basics you should know about rugs. Once you understand how to identify what makes a rug valuable, you’ll have a greater chance at purchasing a better rug.

Rug fibers usually consist of wool in most mid to upper end rugs. High-end rugs may also have silk. Synthetic fibers such as acrylic, polyester, nylon, and olefin (polypropylene) can be found in more economical rugs. Cotton, sea grass, and sisal rugs are often moderate rugs. Your most stain resistant rugs will contain synthetic fibers but won’t feel as soft and luxurious. All other natural fiber rugs are susceptible to staining if spots aren’t cleaned immediately.

What do you look for in a rug? Quality of wool, type of dye, and knots. Simply because a rug is expensive, doesn’t mean it has good dyes or is constructed well. Make sure you know what it is and shop around first. Above all, be extra cautious about purchasing a rug outside the United States.

The quality of a wool fiber depends largely on the type of dye used. Fine wool is vegetable dyed with fruits, roots, and plants. Cheaper wools and nylons can be dyed with synthetic dyes. A rug should always be tested for colorfastness by taking a damp white cloth and gently rubbing it into the fiber. If any color transfers on the cloth, the dyes are unstable. Also look closely at the fiber to check the integrity. Make sure it isn’t unraveling. Very fine wool fibers can often look as soft as silk even to an experienced rug professional.

The construction of a rug is also a key factor. To determine if the rug is handmade, turn it upside down and look at the back. If you cannot see the pattern as clearly as on the face, the rug is not handmade. If the rug passes this first test, look at the fringe. The fringe should be an extension of the yarn inside the rug and should not look like it was sewed on separately. Many rugs that claim to be hand stitched are stitched by hand with a machine. You can expect to pay at least $500 for a small 3×4 handmade rug.

BEWARE of rugs with cloth backings. These rugs often have something to hide. The cloth is either covering flaws in a handmade rug or even worse, glue that is holding the backing together. Glued backings have a tendency to get torn when the rug is moved or cleaned.

If you are looking for an alternative to a handmade rug, you might look at a Karastan. These wool rugs closely resemble handmade rugs, are cheaper in price, and rarely have the problems associated with cheaper wool rugs. If you aren’t ready to invest several thousand dollars in a rug, these will be your best bet.

Ask the right questions. Educate yourself. Good luck in finding your perfect rug.

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