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Are You Calling Me YELLOW?!?


I just made a trip to Ontario Canada to teach a little rug cleaning clinic. It was just outside of Niagara Falls, which was BEAUTIFUL. Windy, cold, but beautiful. Here I am – shivering! 🙂

Me and the falls

Me and the Falls

One of the many rugs we handled in the clinic was a rug that they asked me how to make it “white” again – here it is:

Handwoven rug from India

Hand woven wool rug from India

The question is – is this rug WHITE to begin with?

A White towel shows us the yellow on this rug

A white towel shows us the yellow of this rug.

One of the dangers of seeking out white and ivory rugs is that they do have a tendency to YELLOW over time.

If you look at a sheep, none are truly that Colgate-white-teeth white. So the wool when sheared, tends to be heavily bleached to create that “white” look. So the end result is not quite natural (just like those smiles make you wonder what the heck they painted on those teeth… they don’t look natural.)

Now, sometimes, improper cleaning (i.e. using the wrong cleaning solutions) can yellow a rug. If it is a result of the CLEANING then it would have the problem only on the front side of the rug because that is the side being cleaned.

If the yellowing is from the environment (i.e. foot traffic and sunlight exposure), then again, this yellowing would be on the front side only because the back has not been walked on or placed in those UV rays.

Let’s take a look at the back side compared to the front:

Comparing the back and the front of the rug.

Comparing the back and the front of the rug.

In this case, the back side IS yellowing the same as the front, so this is simply the effect of age to the wool used in this rug. Again, BRIGHT white is not a natural color of wool, so this process to make it more appealing for the buyer has the negative effect of turning yellow.

Be sure to rotate the rug in the setting, as it can look more white from one direction versus the other. And just realize when you are shopping for rugs, that the white state can only be temporary with wool. It’s just the way it was made, and there is nothing wrong with the rug itself… and though professional cleaners may be able to lighten the look a touch with some oxidizers or reducing bleaches, these solutions (just like the original treatment) are chemical treatments that DO cause damage to those fibers. Some cleaners may refuse to do the work for fear of creating structural problems for the rug.

One solution may be to simply buy a blue rug instead. 🙂

– Lisa