In the rug world there are some products that I label as DWT.
“Design Without Thought.”
Paper rugs are one of these DWT rugs, because obviously not much attention was put into the practicality of paper as a floor covering.
I had heard of “paper” rugs in the past, but only as a novelty, like this rug made entirely from cigarettes:
Yes… I said cigarettes…
Now, as a novelty item, that rug is amusing. And with the price of cigarettes these days, probably also quite expensive. This one was made in South America, but to not be outdone, a Chinese “cigarette artist” made a Tiger Skin rug design out of 500,000 cigarettes.
Art is in the eye of the beholder, right?
I didn’t give “paper rugs” much thought again until after a client called us to see if we could clean her paper rug. I asked if she was sure it was paper, and she read me the label, and I did the research and discovered that yes, there is a new “Design Without Thought” rug on the market – and they are not cheap, and can end up being quite costly to those who do not know what they have on their hands. Here is a rug that is a wool and paper blend from Merida Home, which actually has a nice selection of rugs besides these paper ones:
The look is like sisal weaves up close, and it is attractive at first glance:
But is it PRACTICAL?
I mean… it is paper. So I took a look at the “care” instructions because I told the customer who called me that rugs are meant to be WASHED, and I was fairly certain that you cannot wash paper. =)
And I was right.
Here are some paper rug care comments from Coastal Style Paper rugs:
Regular vacuuming is the best method for keeping its appearance fresh. We do recommend daily, or at least weekly, vacuuming with a good quality vacuum. Clean-up of spills is dependant on the type of spill, and we recommend you follow our stain specific recommendations. The important thing is to try to clean the spill without the use of liquids. Dry spills are easiest cleaned by scraping the material with a blunt blade (such as a teaspoon or butter knife), gently scooping up the material from the edge towards the center. Liquid spills should be immediately blotted or patted dry with a clean absorbent cloth. Do not rub the spill area as this can force the liquid further into the fiber.
Would you enjoy living with a rug that requires DAILY vacuuming? And how exactly would you tackle a juice spill on your paper rug if you cannot use liquid to help clean up a spot?
Do you receive a special paper spill remover?
And if you are too aggressive, perhaps you could use some White-Out to fix it up.
Seriously though, I am sensitive to the idea of crafting rugs that are considered eco-friendly, but is this actually meeting that purpose? And more importantly, is it contributing to the better health of your indoor environment?
One of the many benefits of wool rugs, besides the fact that it is a completely renewable resource, is that it “grabs” contaminants and dust from the air like an air filter. It helps keep the air in a room naturally cleaner, and has many pockets in the fibers to hide that grit, and vacuuming every few weeks keeps it nice and clean.
No daily vacuuming needed for wool rugs.
Here are some things that bother me about the idea of this particular “Design Without Thought” area rug:
1. Paper is absorbent.
Every rug we get in for cleaning at our rug plant in San Diego has some type of spill on it. How in the world could you tackle this with a “paper” rug?
The care instructions say to clean without liquids. When was the last time you tried to clean a spill without a liquid? You might be able to pack the area with salt to help absorb away the spill element, but you will not get it all, which means there will be residue left behind.
Have you ever spilled on a page of a notebook and blotted it up right away? Can’t you still see that spot years later?
If that residue is sugary (if you have kids) this will end up being a meal for insects, and if that residue is a little smelly (if you have pets), that will be odor that you may only be able to remove with scissors.
Can you imagine a spill on this paper shag rug?
(I guess with that paper shag rug when you are done with it you can use it as packing material for any shipments you have with FedEx. But, at just under a thousand dollar for that rug in a 8×10… that would be some pricey packing material.)
One of the benefits of “rugs” in general is that they can be removed from the home to be properly and thoroughly washed, because rugs should never be cleaned in the home.
With a paper rug, you are removing the possibility of washing your rug clean. Could you imagine if for several years instead of being allowed to take a shower and wash your hair, you could only use a slightly damp microfiber cloth, or pack your skin and your hair with a dry compound to try to “clean” yourself?
How many weeks of that until you could not stand yourself anymore?
How effective would that process be on removing oil, sweat, grime, and dirt… not to mention fungus, bacteria, or other germs?
So with a floorcovering that will have countless feet, shoes, and paws on it – just how clean do you think you can keep that rug in your home?
2. Paper is a foodstuff for mold
Mold feeds on many things, paper being one of them.
With paper being absorbent, even without a direct spill, I would be wary of possible mildew issues if these rugs are in a high humidity environment, or were to have several spills over time, because it would be difficult to get the twisted fibers completely dry if they ever get wet.
3. Paper BURNS
One element that frightens me the most is having items in the home that are highly flammable, and there is no way around this one – paper burns.
Every holiday season we see items that ignite from a candle tipped over, or an electrical spark, and it only takes one drape, or a sofa, or a rug to ignite and make a small problem a horrible tragedy. This is another reason to have wool on the floor because wool does not carry a flame, it self-extinguishes. This is why airplanes have their fabric and carpet made from wool.
People do not realize how many of their blankets, cushion, furnishings, or floor-coverings are flammable until after a tragedy hits. That super great price you got might be for a reason.
4. Paper is not something you roll around on… it’s something you shred or flush
These rugs may be pretty, but are they practical?
A rug is on the floor to add to the “look” of a room, but also to feel good to walk on, or sit on. Does paper meet that need?
They give these rugs the “look” of sisal, and though sisal, jute, and hemp fibers are not the easiest to maintain and care for, they are all VERY strong. Paper is not. They add some chemicals (waxes) to try to build up the strength and moisture repellency, but you will not be able to abuse these rugs like you can sisal. And nothing outlasts a fiber like wool.
Dangers For Rug Cleaners
The big danger for cleaners here is if the label on the rug comes off and they happen to think the rug is sisal or jute or hemp, and they wash or steam clean them. You ever soak a cardboard box? Then you know where this is going.
They call these rugs “eco-friendly” when they need to be called DISPOSABLE, because owners will be replacing these every few years (or sooner if they have a major spill, or a pet accident).
What is more eco-friendly, a rug that gets sent to the landfill after a few years, or a wool rug that will last decades and can be given to family generation after generation?
In an industry where the recommended method for cleaning hand woven rugs has always been to give them a bath…
… what in the world were these designers thinking?
And that is the problem, because they weren’t. Design Without Thought.
If you are a rug shopper, there are many things that you need to consider when purchasing a new rug. I have a list of tips and recommendations on exactly this subject.
I am not saying buying a Paper Rug is the worst decision you could make, but I am saying that this will be a short term addition to your home. Do not expect it to last, to look fantastic after a “dry compound” cleaning, or to not have contaminants inside the fibers over time as the result of it not being cleanable.
If you know that, and you still like the look and idea anyway, go ahead and buy it. My goal here is only to put out the complete picture on rugs, so that rug cleaners and rug buyers know exactly what they are getting themselves into, so they can make educated decisions.
Happy Rug Cleaning!
P.S. My next online course for professional cleaners is open for enrollment right now. Details are on my Rug Care Training page. The next class will be closed once we have 50 companies signed up. And for those of you coming to the Reno Cleaning College June 27-29, I will be making a presentation on some of the best – and most affordable – rug shop systems for cleaners who do not have the resources to open a large full surface plant yet. Hope to see you there, it will be a great line-up of education, and some VERY valuable content to walk away with.