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The Blog

Materials Matter

Choosing the right color and design for a rug to fit your home is difficult enough, add in the complication of choosing what the rug should be made of and most people get overwhelmed.

Not to worry! We can help. We'll briefly go over some of the most common materials rugs are made from and discuss their pluses, minuses and how best to clean them.

Wool

Wool:

  • High quality natural animal-based fiber (from sheep or goats)
  • Durable
  • Naturally stain resistant
  • Naturally fire retardant
  • Great for most locations in the house, NOT for outdoor use
  • More costly than cotton or sisal
  • For spills: Spot clean with cool water and a clean white cloth. Blot - do NOT rub - rubbing will change the texture of wool. If stain does not lift out with just water - use 1/2 teaspoon of clear dish soap in 1 pint of warm water. Be sure to thoroughly rinse after using soap - soap left on the fibers will attract dirt and make the spot look dirty.
  • For more extensive issues have professionally cleaned

 

Cotton:

  • Natural plant based fiber
  • Relatively inexpensive - readily renewable
  • Light weight and soft
  • Absorbent - can soil easily
  • Ideal for low traffic & "no-shoe" areas (bedrooms/bathrooms), NOT for outdoor use
  • Spot clean with water, a clean white cloth and small amount of clear dish soap
  • Small cotton flat weaves can be washed in the washing machine (although this is not recommended)

 

Sisal:

- Natural plant fiber

- Relatively inexpensive - readily renewable

- Environmentally friendly

- Absorbant - soils easily (liquids, including water can cause stains)

- Offers beautiful texture

- Can be rough or prickly - will soften with wear

- Ideal for areas with low spill potential - NOT for outdoor use

- Clean spills with a damp white cloth, blot do NOT rub (rubbing can cause changes in texture). Can use "Host" dry extraction powder.

 

Jute:

  • Natural grass fiber
  • Fairly inexpensive - readily renewable
  • Absorbent - soils easily - liquids (including water) can create stains
  • Softest of the grass fibers
  • Offers a beautiful texture
  • Ideal for areas with low spill potential - NOT for outdoor use
  • Clean spills with a damp white cloth, blot do NOT rub (rubbing can cause changes in texture). Can use "Host" dry extraction powder.

 

Seagrass: 

  • Made from a hardy tropical reed
  • Has a pleasant hay-like aroma that will mostly dissipate over time
  • Fairly inexpensive - readily renewable
  • Less absorptive than other grass fibers - but will still absorb liquids
  • Ideal for low spill areas - NOT for outdoor use
  • Clean spills with a damp white cloth, blot do NOT rub (rubbing can cause changes in texture). Can use "Host" dry extraction powder

 

Silk:

 

  • A natural fiber produced by certain insect larvae to form cocoons
  • One of the strongest natural fibers - loses up to 20% of it's strength when wet
  • Absorbant - can soil easily
  • Is extremely soft and lustrous
  • Ideal for "barefoot areas" with low spill potential - NOT for outdoor use
  • When soiled it is best to use a professional cleaner. However there are times when a quick response is needed - in that case gently blot soiled area using a clean white cloth or paper towel to absorb liquid from spills - Air dry (avoid heat drying) - Do NOT scrub

 

 

- A natural material made from flax

- Known to be the strongest natural material - is stronger when wet

- Readily renewable material

- Absorbent - dries quickly - soils easily

- Spot clean spills with a damp white cloth use 1/2 teaspoon of clear dish soap in 1 pint of warm water. Thoroughly rinse out soap - soap residue will attract dirt and make the spot look dirty.

- Known to be tolerable for those with allergies and/or skin conditions

- NOT for outdoor use

Viscose

Viscose: 

  • A synthetic fiber made from wood cellulose - Bamboo silk is a specific type of viscose made exclusively from bamboo cellulose (also called synthetic silk or art silk)
  • Some resources say the performance of bamboo silk is greater than that of typical viscose
  • Absorbant - soils easily
  • Both soft and lustrous like real silk
  • Less expensive than real silk but with similar qualities
  • Ideal for "barefoot areas" with low spill potential - NOT for outdoor use
  • When soiled it is best to use a professional cleaner. However there are times when a quick response is needed - in that case gently blot soiled area using a clean white cloth or paper towel to absorb liquid from spills - Air dry (avoid heat drying) - Do NOT scrub

 

Nylon

 

Nylon:

  • A generic designation for a family of synthetic polymers
  • Durable
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to clean -spot clean with water and a clean white cloth or use household carpet cleaner (spot test first)

Polypropylene:

  • Commonly referred to as olefin
  • A synthetic fiber made from a thermoplastic polymer
  • Non-absorbant - water proof
  • Easy to clean - resistant to many chemical solvents - use household carpet cleaner (spot test first)
  • Fairly durable
  • Inexpensive
  • Ideal for outdoor use - although UV sun rays degrade fibers over time

PET (polyethylene terephthalate):

  • A synthetic fiber in the polyester family made from a thermoplastic polymer
  • Recycled #1 plastic - rugs can be made with up to 100% recycled post-consumer PET
  • More expensive then poly or nylon but as post-consumer waste becomes more abundant PET becomes less expensive
  • Can be considered environmentally friendly
  • Non-absorbant
  • Ok for use outdoors - best on covered porches etc.

Sprouts!

Do you get little tufts of wool that 'sprout' up out of your hand knotted rug? Don't worry, those are a normal part of owning a hand knotted wool rug. Some rugs are prone to sprout more than others, but regardless of how many sprouts your rug gets you want to treat them all in the same way. Do NOT pull on your sprouts, that could cause you to loose material potentially creating a small hole. Just take a pair of scissors and trim the top off the sprout, making it even with the surrounding surface. Watch the video below to see the very simple process of trimming your sprouts. 

 

Sometimes people worry that they are going to damage their rug if they trim their sprouts, or that they are going to make their rug 'thread-bare' by trimming them. But neither will be the case. To understand what causes the sprouts it's helpful to know a little about yarn.

When we say rugs are made with hand spun yarn, some people may immediately think of making yarn with a spinning wheel, but most rug yarns were, and still are, made with a drop spindle. A drop spindle uses nothing but gravity and a hand twisting motion to spin yarn (see photo below).

 

With such a basic spinning method, the amount of variation in hand spun yarn is much greater than that of yarn spun on a spinning wheel and even greater still than that spun with a machine. Those variations are the exact thing that give hand crafted rugs their character and uniqueness. Below is an image of hand spun yarn from Knox Fiber Farm. This yarn was spun to intentionally have a large amount of variation as an artistic element, hand spun rug yarns are typically made with less variation - but this photo is an excellent (although slightly exaggerated) illustration of how certain portions of a strand of yarn can be more twisted than others.

As those over-spun sections of yarn begin to relax over time they elongate - think of it sort of like a "Slinky" (that great spiral toy that 'slinks' down the stairs on it's own), when completely compressed the Slinky is short but if you stretch those spirals that Slinky can extend an enormous distance (another exaggerated but effective example). Those yarns that are relaxing and elongating are the very yarns that are creating your sprouts. Trimming the extra bit off the top does not remove any integral part of the rug.

Hopefully, now that you have a better understanding of what is happening when your rug gets sprouts you will feel empowered to trim them away. Of course there are those of us that don't mind the sprouts and appreciate them for the character they provide. Just remember that if you don't trim your sprouts you are leaving a place for your vacuum to catch (especially if you use your power-head - which we do not recommend). This could lead to pulling more of the yarn out and thus could lead to problems down the road. In general it is a good idea to trim your sprouts occasionally.

As always - if you have any questions feel free to CONTACT US or leave a comment.