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Materials Matter

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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:

Wool fiber has characteristics that make it ideal for rug construction. Wool contains lanolin, making it inherently moisture and water repellent. These natural properties of wool make it stain resistant, thus easy to clean and maintain. Many types of wool are used in rug construction, the main difference between them is the strength of the fiber. Sheep that are raised at higher altitudes withstand severe weather conditions, making them grow a stronger, more resilient wool. Himalayan wool for example icomes from sheep raised in the extreme conditions found in the Himalayan Mountains and produce fibers used in most Tibetan rugs. This wool is extremely dense, strong and soft. Ghazni wool, used in the Afghanistan - Pakistan region, creates a silk-like softness and sheen which is characteristic of rugs produced in these regions. New Zealand wool may be the most widely used and considered by some to be the most effective for area rugs.
  • 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:

Cotton is a natural fiber of great durability and strength. Each fiber is made up of twenty to thirty layers of cellulose coiled in a neat series of natural springs. When the cotton boll, or seed case is opened the fibers dry into flat, twisted, ribbon like shapes and become kinked together and interlocked. This interlocked form is ideal for spinning into fine yarn.
  • 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.

 

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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

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                Viscose

                Viscose: 

                Bamboo Silk has much of the same look and feel as silk, but is a more sustainable and lower cost alternative. These fibers are often used as accents in wool rugs giving them added texture and shine. A synthetic fiber made from wood cellulose, the base material is processed into a paste which is then combined with other ingredients, extruded and dried to produce the the fibers. Bamboo Silk is not easily cleaned as any liquid including water can stain it, it is best to use a professional cleaner.
                • 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
                • For more information about cleaning viscose visit the Kalaty Rug Care Guide.

                 

                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.

                Dyeing with Madder Root. Photo courtesy Azerbaijan Rugs

                Vegetable (or "Natural") Dye Wool: 

                Natural or vegetal dyed wool yarn has been used by rug makers in the Middle East and Asia for thousands of years. Colors produced in this time honored tradition are saturated without being edgy or harsh, are chamingly variegated especially when done in conjunction with hand spinning.  The effect of the irregularity of color is a rug that is vibrant and unique, with it's own individual character. Natural dye colors tend to mellow and acquire a patina over time, an older "faded" rug becomes more attractive over time, rather than less. To learn more about natural dyes and their sources please visit Azerbaijan Rugs.