Created on traditional looms from wool and silk, hand-knotted rugs are the gold standard of rug quality and artisanship. Guided only by a simple sketch, rug makers create complex designs by hand, spending months and sometimes years on a single rug. The density of knots, quality of wool or silk, and intricacy of design combine to influence the value of a hand-knotted rug; no two rugs are alike. Originating in ancient Persia, handmade rugs have been produced in the Middle East and India for centuries. These durable works of art can last a lifetime.
Hand-tufted rugs are made using a tufting tool to punch the wool yarn into a backing, instead of tying a knot. The tufts are trimmed to a uniform pile height, and the rug is backed with canvas and glue to anchor the pile for a durable finish. The thick pile may be more likely to shed, but it’s soft and sturdy at a reasonable price. Many tufted rugs also have designs hand-carved into the surface, adding dimension and texture.
Flat-woven area rugs are handmade on a loom, typically of wool or cotton. Skilled artisans use warp and weft construction, similar to weaving fabric, that creates a flat rug surface without knots. Kilim and dhurrie rugs are examples of flat-weave rugs. Geometric designs are common and they’re reversible, with a similar pattern on both sides. Tightly woven threads make these affordable rugs both durable and practical.
Using modern, efficient power looms, rugs can be produced in almost any pattern quickly and cheaply. Machine-made rugs are available in high-quality wool, natural fibers, or synthetics such as nylon or PET fiber. Their durable construction and large variety of sizes and shapes makes them a popular choice for today’s home. You’ll find an endless variety of designs including traditional Oriental rugs, modern or abstract patterns, diamonds, stripes, animal prints, and florals. If a hand-knotted carpet is beyond your budget, you’ll find machine-knotted versions of many patterns at much lower price points.
UNPACKING and PLACEMENT
Unwrap your rug immediately, unroll it, and allow it to air out. Some rugs may have temporary creases. To remove them, re-roll your rug opposite to the way it was packed, and leave it for a couple of days so the creases will relax.
Use a rug pad that’s an inch smaller than the size of your rug. Rug pads protect your rug’s structural fibers from wear.
If possible, avoid placing your rug in direct sunlight, which will fade the colors in your area rug over time. To avoid water stains, never put potted plants on your rug.
CARE AND CLEANING
Wool rugs may shed, especially when new. To help diminish shedding, vacuum your rug an extra couple of times a week at first.
Prolong the life and appearance of your area rug with regular vacuuming – weekly cleaning removes dirt and grit which will break down the fibers. When vacuuming a rug:
- Turn off or raise the beater-bars on your vaccuum.
- Do not vacuum rug fringe – use a broom to sweep it clean.
- A carpet sweeper or lint roller will pick up any pet hair left behind.
- High-traffic areas should be vacuumed more often.
- If practical, vacuum the back of your rug a few times a year.
Spills and pet accidents should be blotted up immediately with a towel – never scrub. Place a large bowl under the area and rinse it through with cool water (add a splash of vinegar for a pet stain).
Professional cleaning every year or two is recommended to remove set-in soil in high traffic areas. Tell your rug cleaning professional about the construction of your rug and its fiber content. Save your rug’s label, or take a photo of it for your records.
Rotate your rug 2-3 times a year, to even out wear and fading, and give any marks from furniture a chance to recover. This is especially important if your room has a lot of sunlight, or a busy traffic area.
Lustrous silk fibers can be dyed vibrant colors and woven into tiny knots to produce complex designs. Silk rugs are more expensive and less durable, but they’re prized for their elegant sheen – some collectors hang them on the wall, rather than walking on them. Silk fibers are often added to luxury wool rugs to accent the design; sometimes silk is blended with wool to create a more durable rug.
Durable, sustainable, and naturally stain-resistant, wool rugs may have soft and thick pile or be thin and flat-woven. The most expensive wool carpets and rugs are hand-knotted, and have the wool carded (or combed) an extra time to remove any short fibers, so the rug doesn’t shed.
Wool area rugs might be hand-knotted, hand-tufted, or machine-woven on a loom. Less-expensive rugs are sometimes backed with canvas for durability; they may also shed fibers at first. A traditional choice for high-traffic areas, wool rugs come in nearly unlimited patterns and colors. They clean easily and can last a lifetime.
Viscose is a silky thread made from plant fibers that has a lustrous sheen. It’s far less expensive than silk, and is often mixed with other fibers to add a silky accent to a rug design. It will crush under heavily furniture and can easily absorb stains and spills, so it’s best for low traffic areas. Add the look of silk to a bedroom or hallway with a beautiful viscose rug.
More affordable than natural fibers such as wool and silk, synthetic materials such as polyester, PET, and polypropylene are durable and soft under foot. They’re easy to clean with great color retention and make an excellent choice for family areas. Synthetic fibers can be woven and printed to resemble high-end wool or silk, or made into soft and fluffy shag rugs. Nylon is a high-end fiber that’s often used in hotels and commercial spaces for its stain-resistance. PET fiber is an eco-friendly choice, made from recycled plastic bottles. Synthetic rugs are an affordable, practical choice for homes with pets.
Natural fiber rugs are environmentally friendly and affordable. Seagrass is the most durable and least absorbent, so it’s a good choice for living areas. Sisal and coir are durable and come in beautiful patterns, but they do absorb spills easily. Inexpensive jute is colorful, but it’s the least durable natural fiber. Natural fiber rugs can be sealed to protect them from liquid spills, but they may not be the best choice for homes with toddlers and pets.
Cotton is a natural fiber, but unless it’s organic, it’s not an eco-friendly one. More affordable than wool or silk, cotton rugs are long-wearing and fairly easy to clean. Small rugs can be washed, while room-sized cotton rugs should be professionally cleaned. Cotton can be dyed any color and is often made into flat-weave dhurrie rugs or rag rugs. Casual and soft underfoot, cotton rugs are inexpensive and very practical.