10 AM | 01 Jul

Why some rugs buckle

I receive a lot of “help me” calls from rug cleaners and rug owners on rugs that are buckling. They want to know what to do.

And my answer is usually… it depends.

That’s because there are a number of reasons why a rug is buckling on someone. Some of these reasons are correctable. Others are not.

Here is the list of different causes of buckling:

Weaving Characteristics

No hand woven rug is perfectly symmetrical. There will always be a little bit of variance in the width and length, and some fluctuation in the weaving tension throughout the rug itself.

A city rug (woven in rug factories in weaving cities) will of course have more quality control than rugs woven by tribal weavers. I personally prefer the tribal rugs because they have more character and personality.

Weaver using a horizontal loom.

That said, in some tribal weaving centers, especially in areas that are war-torn like Afghanistan, the consistency can vary beyond being an interesting weaving characteristic to being seen as a weaving flaw in some extreme cases:

Tension along end of this Afghan rug causes buckling.

Buckling from weaving tension changes, or width or length variations, are not unique to Afghanistan. You see examples of this in all weaving countries. And in most cases they are seen as unique characteristics of a rug’s personality. Like a few great laugh lines on a smiling face, or dimples, they are what make the rug have character.

And as with those lines or dimples, you can’t just take a steam iron and make those go away. There is no “Rug Botox” to use.

Sometimes a weaver – especially if the loom is a nomadic one – will not know the rug has a “buckling” problem until after it is completed and cut off the loom. In some cases a rug manufacturer will apply a sizing to the rug (similar to starch) to try to make the rug stiffer than it would naturally be.

The problem with sizing is that it will wash out, and it may be difficult to have it re-applied. So if you are buying a rug, or you are getting ready to clean a rug, you want to look closely at the shape of the rug and if you see any evidence of problems on the BACK side.

Creases can be clearly seen on the back of this Afghan rug. These are causing buckling on the front.

Sometimes a rug can be stretched to help it lay flatter, but this is a strenuous process that may damage the rug.

Stretching an Afghan rug to help it lay flatter.

In these cases you need to think about weaving variations as no different than one of your feet being a bit larger than the other. Think of what you would need to do to try to make them perfectly equal, and then apply that though to a rug, on the work that would be needed to make a side that may be an inch longer than the opposite one even.

It is often impossible to do. So your expectations need to be realistic, and if the variations are too much, then pass on purchasing the rug.

Material Backings

With embroidery, needlepoint, and hooked rugs, the buckling is often due to the construction especially if that construction includes a heavy material backing.

Embroidery needlepoint rug with a heavy cotton backing.

This type of weaving, though often very elegant, can also often not be perfectly symmetrical. And when you have two independent pieces – the hand crafted needlework and the material backing – that are loosely stitch to one another, this can create some buckling and waves.

Crewel stitch (aka chainstitch) needlepoint with material backing.

Hand crafted custom rugs using different fabrics and fibers can also lead to buckling, especially along the seams of there the pieces are put together.

Seam tape can split and buckle.

Seam tape can split under foot traffic, or with age, or from cleaning (especially if the individual piece are made of different fibers and may react differently during the cleaning process. Some fibers swell when wet, others condense. Some are stronger when wet, others are weaker. Some absorb more moisture and dry slowly, others dry quick. And these variances can split a seam if you are not careful.

Tufted Rugs (Latexed Material Backing)

Tufted rugs are the rugs you see with latex holding it together. Latex over time deteriorates and crumbles away, so often it is covered up with material to hide this kind of ugliness:

Old latex delaminating on a tufted rug.

Rugs are meant to be on a HARD floor, and not over soft wall-to-wall carpet. But, sometimes a soft floor is your only option.

While woven rugs (rugs you can see the design on the back of the rug same as the front) have some “give” to flex when over a soft floor, a tufted rug is not so forgiving.

Heavy furniture on top of a rug that is over a carpeted floor can stretch the fibers of a woven rug, and in worst cases create tears and holes. And with tufted rugs, which have a latex backing holding them together, they can create waves in the rug you won’t be able to get out.

Buckling in a tufted rug from furniture.

With these rugs, once they have been stretched from heavy furniture, and the latex backing cracks and bends, it’s damaged and will be very difficult to make flat again. It’s like when an elastic band gets over stretched, you can’t get it back to its original shape.

With woven rugs, you have a better chance of washing and reshaping a rug that has gotten buckles from furniture. And to protect BOTH types of rugs, short of putting them on top of a hard floor instead, you can seek out a stiff pad to place between the rug and the carpeted floor.

If your rug is tending to want to move and buckle even when it’s on a hard floor, then often a good rug pad will keep you from having any safety risks of people tripping on it. (Plus pads are “shock absorbers” for rugs and keep them from wearing from foot traffic as fast, and they also tend to deter bugs from wanting to find a home under your wool rugs. I personally love Durahold pad for rugs on hard floors.)

Edge Finishes (By Machine or By Hand)

Sometimes the ends or sides of a rug are finished a bit too tightly, or overdone, and this can create curling of a rug.

Heavy side cord wrap by hand on this dhurrie rug makes the corners curl up.

Machine serging of edges created curling of this rug.

The curling may be immediate, or only evident when the rug gets wet or damp. The level of buckling depends on how the fibers react to water. Some fibers get tighter when wet, and loosen when dry. This is especially evident on oriental rugs that are tightly woven, and the cotton foundation fibers tighten up when wet. (Think about your clothes when you take them out of the washer. Your cotton items are smaller and tighter, and your wool items are looser and stretchy. Most woven rugs are wool face fibers twisted around cotton foundation warps and wefts, so “wet” they can create some buckling that will go away when dry.)

Side curls on this damp Sarouk rug that is drying face down.

Leather or vinyl strips are sometimes sewn along the sides to help keep them flat on the floor.

If a hand woven wool rug is perfectly flat when dry, but curls when it is wet, then it will regain it’s proper shape when dry. Don’t panic.

An exception is Navajo and other American Indian weavings. Often the outside wrapping threads are not pre-washed before being used in the final weaving, and these strands may shrink a bit during cleaning, which can give the illusion that the overall rug has shrunk, when it is in reality just the outside cords.

Navajo rug from a flood, the outside cords have shrunk creating a buckling of the rug.

On the very first cleaning of a Navajo rug, the outside cord will need to be adjusted to make up for the shrinking of the cords, and future washes will not be a problem as far as buckling. (There are other concerns when handling American Indian textiles, from potential dye migration to wool fuzzing, that require an expert’s touch when cleaning. These rugs can be quite valuable, so always seek out someone with expertise in handling these pieces, as well as any investment textile or rug.)

Floods and Extraction Equipment

When rugs are exposed to flood water for extended periods of time, buckling can result from the absorption of the water in the cotton foundation fibers. In most cases, this buckling will be correctable. Though you need to follow the right steps to make sure you thoroughly clean and decontaminate any rugs exposed to flood waters.  Click here => for tips on handling rugs from floods.

Heavy extraction equipment (Rover and Xtreme Extractor) though excellent at pulling out the water, can sometimes create some buckling on looser woven rugs that may or may not be correctable. Whether it’s this type of equipment, or other extracting wands, it is better on the rug to extract from the BACK of the rug to try to avoid any marks or buckles from equipment. When using a wand it can help to have someone stand on the edge you are extracting to help hold the rug flat while doing the work.

Most rug cleaning facilities have roller or spinner wringers to remove water, which removes the buckling risk. Especially with the rollers, which tend to flatten out the rug smoothly for the drying process. But if extraction is your water removal method, you just want to make sure you are not too aggressive in this step.

Buckling in field of a rug from extracting.

Hanging Rugs To Dry

There are a couple negatives to hanging rugs up to dry if you do not have a professional climate controlled drying tower like the large rug washing plants have.

Hanging up a rather wet rug can bleed the dyes into the fringe. It can also create browning and discoloring of the fringe.

It can also, from the weight of the water, create a creasing of the rug that is difficult to remove, especially if the rug is tufted.

Some ways to lessen the risks are to try to get as much water out of the rug before hanging. If you do not have large water removal equipment, you can use a Water Claw in addition to your portable or truck mount wand to boost your extracting. The Rover, with its teflon head is excellent at removing water from heftier rugs without leaving any marks (even if you have to extract from the front side). Just make sure the rug is not too fragile.

Instead of hanging rugs on narrow planks, you can place a PVC pipe around the planks so that you can have it curved enough to help prevent creasing. You can also hang the rugs at at angle so there will not be a clean line of where the rug was bent to hang, like this:

Hang rugs at an angel to lessen potential creasing.

We dry our rugs out flat to avoid these risks, but most rug cleaning companies do not have the space to do this. So this helps if you have a mini-rack system that you are using.

These are the most common reasons behind rug buckling, and the situations where something can be done about it… or can’t.

Happy rug cleaning!


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  • Shorty

    Hi Lisa, great article.

    I’ve taken the liberty of using your mail forward section and sent the article of to Raja & Frank Devine of Devine Rug Care, Dee Why, NSW, Australia.

    Take care,


    ↶Reply July 1, 2011 4:38 pm
    • admin

      Thank you Shorty! =)

      ↶Reply July 1, 2011 7:26 pm
  • Ron Lippold

    Great article Lisa I relly thank you for all your tips.

    ↶Reply July 1, 2011 5:01 pm
    • admin

      Thank you Ron for taking the time to post your thanks, I really appreciate it. I can SEE how many people read the threads… but only a few take the time to let me know if they liked it, so it’s great to hear from you. =)

      ↶Reply July 1, 2011 7:27 pm
  • Jamshid Rowshan

    Hi Lisa

    Thanks for all the great information. Maybe you can ad also fine tabriz 50 raj or 70 raj made with a very white warp that is a blend of cotton and sinthetic fibers(plastic!) white fringes that are easy to clean with no problem of yellowing or browning.

    The problem appears when these rugs are at homes with under floor heating system and the heat makes the fine tabriz rug buckle. few years ago I stretched one of them taken back to the rug shop by the customer. And today I washed another one with the same problem. Do you want to see the photos?


    jamshid Madrid

    ↶Reply July 2, 2011 4:10 pm
    • admin

      Hi Jamshid,

      I’ve seen some Afghan rugs with a cotton and flax thread mix, which makes the ends buckle badly – it may be similar to what you are seeing on the Tabriz rugs. I’m curious why they would use this. I’d love to see some photos – please send me anything you want to share at rugchick@gmail.com and thank you for reading and posting comments. I appreciate you taking the time. Thank you! – Lisa

      ↶Reply July 2, 2011 4:50 pm
  • D. Higgins

    I cleand a rug a week ago I seem to hve caused it to brown and buckle, this is the first time ths has happend. The rug tag said it was from Egypt, it is bergundy & tan in color, can you give many any advice on how to correct my problem.

    Thanks Lisa.

    ↶Reply July 2, 2011 4:40 pm
    • admin

      Please send me a couple photos of the rug, and EXACTLY how you cleaned it. I need some photos of the full front view, and then a shot of the corner folded over so I can see the BACK of the rug compared to the front, and how the ends and side are finished. Then photos of the buckling areas. You can send them to rugchick@gmail.com and put RUGS in the subject line. I’ll see if I have any suggestions for you.

      ↶Reply July 2, 2011 4:45 pm
  • Jim

    Always learn something new from your articles.
    Thanks Lisa.

    ↶Reply July 5, 2011 7:43 am
  • bill pope

    Thank you for some great info on area rugs. It is extremely helpful to those of us that are trying to grab our share of this great market. See you soon.

    Bill Pope

    ↶Reply July 5, 2011 8:29 am
  • Scott Warrington

    Excellent information. I had seen several of those reasons for curling or ripples but your article added some great new information as well. Thanks.

    ↶Reply July 5, 2011 10:36 am
  • rick

    I’am so glad to have found your website and the excellent articles you write.


    ↶Reply July 9, 2011 8:23 am
  • admin

    Hey – THANK YOU everyone for your posts. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and actually comment. =)


    ↶Reply July 9, 2011 9:49 am
  • Bonnie Schnepel

    We recently cleaned a tufted rug that after cleaning has a slight buckled ridge on the middle of one side only. The owner puts a heavy marble table on it in her home. It laid completely flat before we immersion cleaned it. We are in the process of trying to weight this ridge down by using some boards with a heavy fan on top. I got this idea from your rug secrets book. Do you have any other suggestions?

    ↶Reply September 17, 2011 6:00 pm
  • John Harvey

    Hi Lisa,

    We want a hand made Persian rug for our hall runner and have seen that some are wool backed, wool is not as rigid as cotton is it? So am I right in worrying that a wool backed runner may buckle up all the time? If this concern is justified could it be rectified by using a rug gripper mat?

    Aren’t these old rugs fantastic, I love ’em :-)

    Appreciate any advice,

    ↶Reply February 11, 2013 2:27 pm
    • Lisa

      Hello John, Thank you for posting your questions. Usually the “buckling” in wool on wool rugs (wool pile wrapped around wool warps and wefts) is inherent in that construction. When wool pile is knotted around cotton, it will keep more square, and lay flatter – this is because cotton can be spun evenly and will keep its shape. Wool has a more uneven spin, so this is harder to keep flat unless it is an exceptionally finely woven wool on wool rug.

      Yes, a pad can help some times, if the buckling is slight. However, if it is edge or field buckling that is sometimes seen in rugs from Afghanistan, that cannot be helped with a pad, because this is often flaws in the weaving process magnified with being wool on wool. On a runner with frequent traffic, I would look for wool face fibers, but cotton fringe. I hope that helps.


      ↶Reply February 12, 2013 9:51 pm
  • Adell

    I have a small (6 foot) round rug, when I got it home it buckled a little. I was told to wet a little and put on a flat surface in the sun to dry. I think this made it a little worse. Is there a solution for this problem. Rug machine made. Thank you

    ↶Reply August 23, 2013 12:46 pm
    • Lisa

      If the rug is machine made it is likely synthetic with a jute interior fiber – and jute along the edges – as well as latex incorporated in the backing materials. I would try laying it out face side down (fuzzy side down) and putting something on the rug to press it flat, either additional rugs or a wooden board. Machine made rugs can get a “memory” of being rolled that lends them to being curled. You need to create a new memory. If this does not work, email me a photo so I can understand what the rug is made from better. Thank you.

      ↶Reply August 31, 2013 11:25 am
  • Vincent Attardo

    Merry Christmas Lisa, I have a little spare time and I was looking for more info on cleaning this large needle point rug, more specifically the drying or tacking out of the rug. I enjoyed your information above however I need to know more about building the wood tack out floor. So far I am experiencing the Marine Plywood to be very expensive and since I do not do a large volume of rugs I was look for a less expensive alternative to building one. I thought about regular plywood and having syn comm. carpet over it. Your Thoughts?

    ↶Reply December 26, 2013 10:12 am
  • Vincent Attardo

    Merry Christmas Lisa, I have a little spare time and I was looking for more info on cleaning this large needle point rug, more specifically the drying or tacking out of the rug. I enjoyed your information above however I need to know more about building the wood tack out floor. So far I am experiencing the Marine Plywood to be very expensive and since I do not do a large volume of rugs I was look for a less expensive alternative to building one. I thought about regular plywood and having syn comm. carpet over it. Your Thoughts on this?

    ↶Reply December 26, 2013 10:30 am
  • Vincent Attardo

    Sorry for the duplicate, The fist one said error reading the CAPTCHA Code and then it said I already said that already so I added a couple of words to make it different.

    ↶Reply December 26, 2013 10:33 am
  • Suzi Cusimano

    Hello! Recently sent my 3 year old woven wool carpet (bought at Sears) for cleaning. The company says these rugs must be washed which they did, then it was hung to dry in their facility. They are a reputable company so I was very disappointed to see a horizontal buckle appear in approximately the middle of the rug. They took it back and tried “weighting” it but it recurs. The backing is a firm canvas type and is not loosened although I notice a strange snaky vein running intermittently. I have had a coffee table on this rug (no weight on this area whatsoever) since I bought it and never had any buckle until it was cleaned. I wonder if the glue deteriorates in that area due to the cleaning process or if the rug was BENT while being transported to and fro on the shoulders of the drivers. The rug is not flimsy but certainly capable of bending if not rolled tightly. Your advice greatly appreciated!

    ↶Reply May 3, 2014 7:02 am
    • Lisa

      Suzi, thank you for the photos you sent. One of the weaknesses of tufted rugs versus woven rugs is that latex construction, and you are right that hanging a tufted rug will create a line across it. This is not delamination, it is simply a new “memory” of the shape. When rugs are drying, and warm, that latex gets very malleable and will change shape, so the weight of a hanging rug can leave that lump that is tough to get out. This is why many cleaners dry these rugs flat instead of hanging. That said, the rug can be steam pressed from the back side to warm that latex up again, a weight placed evenly across the back (usually a plank of wood or a stack of clean rugs) overnight to flatten the rug again. This is what I would suggest the cleaning company do for you. I emailed you more specific instructions to share with them. Good luck! (P.S. With that material backing it often is NOT possible to have a tight roll of a tufted rug without strain on the sewn edges of the material, so they likely had it loose to keep the edges secure.)

      ↶Reply May 3, 2014 8:48 pm
  • Suzi

    Thanks for the AMAZING advice! Will definitely consult your site before buying any rugs in future.

    ↶Reply May 4, 2014 8:33 am
  • iap

    I’ve read every example you offer, but our situation is different. We purchased a new rug and the proper rug pad. It looked great. But every time the humidity rises it develops two buckles lengthwise dividing the rug approximately in thirds. Our previous house had air conditioning and we didn’t notice. Now we have a two thousand dollar rug that looks awful in summer and is a tripping hazard. When the weather changes, it lies flat again. Have you encountered this kind of buckling problem? Can anything be done?

    ↶Reply June 5, 2014 10:52 am
    • Lisa

      This would have something to do with the foundation warps swelling in higher humidity, and creating those buckles. Can you send me photos of the rug, front and back? I need to see how it is constructed to see if there are any options. Thank you.

      ↶Reply June 25, 2014 1:09 pm
  • Clay

    I have a rug that was cleaned using a basic carpet cleaning machine. There were no buckles prior to cleaning but now the rug has warped or buckled in several places. It seems to be completely dry wit h no change. The rug I’d made of polypropylene pile, jute and polyester but I can’t determine the type of backing. Any idea what would cause this or how to fix it? Please help.. Thank you!

    ↶Reply March 31, 2015 5:28 am
    • Lisa

      Hello Clay, I need to see a photo of what is happening. It could be stretching of fibers from the vacuum/wand. Please email me a photo of the problem. Thank you.

      ↶Reply May 24, 2015 8:51 pm