Oriental Rug 101: The Guide To Oriental Rug Cleaning

oriental rug

Oriental rug cleaning, We’re setting aside our overall topic of oriental rug cleaning to bring you a collaboration of information from our team. Before investing in an Oriental Rug for your home or business, knowing your options is crucial to protect your purchase.

You don’t want to overpay for a machine-made rug sold as a “hand-tufted” rug, and we don’t recommend polypropylene rugs. There are essential details to consider regarding oriental rug purchases – as well as oriental rug cleaning.

Handmade Rugs often have that traditional look, with intricately drawn details with a familiar center medallion design.

Three Types of Rugs

There are only three types of rugs: Machine-made rugs, Hand-tufted rugs, and “Hand-woven” or “Hand-knotted” rugs. Machine-made rugs are often contemporary in design and color and follow common trends closely. Like most mass-produced home furnishings, machine-made rugs are not generally considered to be works of art.

Machine-Made Rugs

These rugs, even from quality brands, are still mass-produced. They can be contemporary or mimic traditional looks. They are not equally comparable to a handmade rug of any variety. Like most mass-produced home furnishings, machine-made rugs are not generally considered to be works of art.

One quick way to spot a machine-made rug is by examining the fringe. And, if it is sewn onto the rug, the rug is machine-made. This is done deliberately to make it look and appear handmade when it isn’t. That’s just like you see in a knockoff watch or handbag, which are imitations and not rugs.

Hand-Tufted Rugs

The term “hand-tufted” is a term definition that is somewhat misleading. A tufted rug is in no way a handmade rug. A mechanized “gun” is used, by hand, to shoot a rug of wool through a canvas backing. In addition, it has a pattern sketched onto it. 

A petroleum-based rubber backing is then placed over the rug’s back to keep the strands of yarn from falling out. These rugs are easy to spot when you turn them over. No handmade rug will have any backing on it, rubber or otherwise.

Hand-Woven or Hand-Knotted Rugs

The designations “hand-woven” and “hand-knotted” are reserved for rugs made entirely by hand. A set of vertical strings, or “warp,” is attached to a loom in both types of rugs. The wool is woven through warp strings or hand-knotted onto the warp strings to form the “weft” of the rug.

Machines are not used at any point in the process. One way to tell a handmade rug from machine-made pieces is to examine the fringes along the rug’s edge. For handmade rugs, the “fringe” is the warp strings. And, this is an integral part of the rug rather than applied ornamentation.

The Weaving Process

Weavers spend hundreds, or sometimes even thousands of hours on each rug, making it as close to perfect as possible. The best handmade rugs are designed and woven by adult weavers who have been practicing for generations. These men and women are considered true artists, well paid for their craft, and publicly acknowledged for their skill.

Interestingly, their identities are rarely revealed outside their own circle of friends and other rug makers. Oriental rugs are typically the product of the work of three groups:

  • The designers who fashion the patterns
  • The dyers who create the color palette.
  • The weavers who bring that design to life.

Materials Used In Oriental Rug

Oriental rugs, like most works of art, are crafted from the highest quality materials. That means the highest grade wools & silks are required. Fine quality wool should have a specific luster or sheen but not shine like polypropylene or plastic fibers. 

Today’s market is quite common to see poor quality wools blended with petroleum-based artificial materials to complicate things more. That is to be avoided if possible, as bad wools will become brittle and eventually crumble. Petroleum-based materials can sometimes take on an odd smell, especially when placed on heated floors. Another way to recognize substandard wool is to watch for shedding.

A small amount of shedding is to be expected from a natural fiber. Still, profuse amounts of shedding on a short-pile rug indicate a problem. The most common culprit in excessive shedding is the use of “dead wool.” (e.g., not shorn from live animals, but rather soaked off the hide of deceased animals using chemicals). 

Also, dead wool isn’t made up of the long strands most handmade rugs use. So, it bears none of the hallmark traits of beauty and longevity of the long-coat wool shorn from live sheep. In general, the best quality wool is also hand-spun.

That is easily detected in flat-weave rugs due to a “knobby” texture in the weaving. But it is harder to recognize in hand-knotted rugs. Machine-spun wools are also perfectly acceptable; they are just not as highly prized. Therefore, a rug made with machine-spun wools should be less expensive than one rendered in hand-spun materials. And therefore, it would not have the quality and durability of the best quality wool. 

Types of Dye 

There are three main categories of wool in the rug industry: Chemically-dyed, Vegetable-dyed, and Natural (or no-dye) wool. Natural or vegetable-dyed yarns are much more preferable than wools dyed with chemical substances. Less than 20% of the rugs made in the world today were constructed using vegetable dyes. oriental rug cleaning

Why is this? Because plant-based dyes require a skill level that takes many years to master. Thus, vegetable dye pieces are far more costly than their chemically dyed counterparts. Some dealers will state all their rugs are vegetable-dyed to justify inflated prices. Still, the reality is that very few rugs are actually crafted using vegetable dyes. oriental rug cleaning

As described before in another blog entry, we absolutely insist on one thing when it comes to oriental rug cleaningThose rugs constructed with either natural or vegetable dyes are not cleaned using steam cleaners or abrasive chemicals. And, this is because those colors will potentially bleed or fade over time.

Knot Count

The easiest to spot (yet most deceptive) of all rug quality indicators is the KPI, or “knots per square inch.” KPI is calculated by multiplying horizontal knots’ count times the vertical knots’ count in a one-inch area of the rug. Rugs are often classified according to knot count as ranging from “coarse” to “superfine.” 

That is a helpful measurement in evaluating the work that went into creating the pile on a rug. However, please be aware that this is but one of many criteria that are used to “grade” a rug. And, therefore KPI must be used with due caution. 

It is easy to get so caught up in counting the number of knots on the back of the rug. Or, even with terms like “superfine,” one fails to consider the front of the rug properly. Many knots are not a catch-all signifier of quality, similar to grading bedsheets by thread count only.

Symmetry In an Oriental Rug

Even some of the most skilled Oriental Rug makers in the world aren’t perfect about symmetry. However, the closer they are to perfect, the more valuable the rug. oriental rug cleaning

Symmetry In Size

Is the rug symmetrical? Or is one side markedly longer than the other? While slight deviations in symmetry are to be expected, large variations in size indicate the work of a novice weaver.

Symmetry In Image

Compare the back of the rug to the front. Does it look the same, or are the colors or the patterns difficult to discern from the back? A good weaver’s “picture” will remain the same. In the work of a genuinely gifted weaver, there will be a little different. And, you could even flip the rug over, and hardly anybody would notice.

Symmetry In Knot Construction

Does the back of the rug feel smooth to the touch? Or, can you feel small bumps when you rub your hand over it? Are the fringe ends of the rug smooth, or do they pucker? Is the surface visually smooth, or can you see numerous visible breaks in the base structure of the rug? 

A good weaver’s knots will be smooth with very few bumps or bulges. Does the edge of the rug generally lie flat when placed on the ground, or do the edges roll under or up? Good quality weaving should lay flat without rolling or curling along the edges.

Oriental Rug Cleaning & Maintenance

Our passion for premium quality Oriental Rugs is infectious. We always notice a remarkable engagement from people eager to learn about the rug(s) they want or already own. That’s why when we clean rugs, we do so with the utmost care and concern.

When we pick up your rug(s) for cleaning, we carefully move furniture, vacuum over, around, and under your rug. So we don’t spread surface dust all over your home. Then, we place the newly-cleaned rug exactly where we found it. That’s what care, commitment, and overall excellent service look like. And we hope you get the full advantages of all our services first-hand.

We’re here to help in any way we can. With five generations of experience, we are THE Rug Experts!

For questions regarding oriental rug cleaning, repair/restoration, or your next purchase, give us a call or send us a message on FaceBook today!

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