03 AM | 14 Jun

Attack of the MACHINES!

Now more than ever, you are seeing MACHINE made rugs coming through your doors.

It used to be that these were still WOOL rugs, but today a number of olefin, polyester, and other synthetic fibers come your way. And they have “traditional” hand woven rug designs, so to an untrained eye and hand, you can easily mistake them for a “real” oriental rug.

(By the way – when I use the term “oriental rug” I am referring to a rug that has been hand WOVEN. I use the term “area rug” to refer to tufted, custom, and machine woven rugs.)

Q. Do you need to know if a rug is machine made or hand made to clean it?

A. NO.

Q. What do you need to know to clean a rug?

A. Fiber type. Dye stability. Construction type. Pre-existing conditions.

(People who claim you must know where a rug is from to clean it are being silly. 98% of the rugs that have come through our rug plant have all been washed with the same process, just differences in solutions, time-frame, and technique NOT because of where it’s from, but because of fiber, dye, or construction concerns.)

That said – it IS cool to be able to know when a rug is machine made or hand made – and it impresses your clients.

Here’s two quick shots of machine woven rugs. The first an easy one, the next not so easy.

Belgian Machine Woven Wool

First thing you notice is you see WAY MORE foundation thread peeking out at you than a handwoven rug. And the fringe sewing stitches, and the stitching on the side overcast wrapping – it looks machine made.

How about this one?

Karastan Machine Woven Wool

There is still some machine thread stitching along the base of the fringe, and along the side, but this is a VERY well woven wool rug… done in the good ol’ USA by machine.  Karastan rugs are good quality, and can often be mistaken by their owners as “real” oriental rugs from overseas.

This also shows you the easiest way to identify a rug… which is to flip over the corner and read the TAG! 🙂

With these two rugs in particular, you can easily discern that one is of a higher quality than the other from just these simple pictures. If a manufacturer is going to take the care to create a tightly woven rug by machine, they are likely not going to be cutting corners on the other factors – the dyes and the fibers.

Conversely, if someone does cut a corner on the construction side by making it a mediocre quality weave by machine, you’d expect that they would not be investing in top quality fibers or dyes either. Usually if you see a corner cut in one area, there will be some “cuts” in other areas as well.

In fact, with these rugs, it is the “lesser” quality Belgian rug that has the dye stability issue (it will bleed if left wet too long) while the Karastan in question has very strong dye stability. I’ve also seen Karastans from the forties still with full wool pile, so the quality of the wool also can be very high.

I don’t prefer machine woven rugs to hand woven (I love hand crafted rugs, they are a piece of someone’s life and their spirit) … but for certain situations, for example, needing a rug in a high traffic entryway or in the room with pets – I’d grab a machine woven rug over a rug I want to keep to pass on after I’m gone. And if I chose a machine woven rug, I’d choose a Karastan.

But, if your budget dictates a cheaper option, there are plenty of alternatives today.

And, if you are a CLEANER, those cheaper options are the rugs you need to keep a sharp eye out for. Test the fibers, the dyes, the construction quality, and catch those pre-existing conditions BEFORE you clean.

– Lisa Wagner

04 PM | 06 Jun

Oriental Rug Freckles.

Okay, the technical term is not “rug freckles” but that’s what I call them. (My blog, my vocab!)

They are white knots.

Sometimes a handful, like this:

White knots (a handful)

White knots (a handful)

Sometimes HUNDREDS like this one :

White knots (a truckload)

White knots (a truckload)

These exist with ALL hand woven rugs. Here’s what happens.

Remember that rug loom I showed you a few posts back? Notice on the loom how the warps are strung vertically on it (these are the white cotton strands running bottom to top of the loom).

The wool knots are tied (actually twisted) from side to side, one row at a time, around those warp strands, and with a new cotton weft thread(s) inserted in between the rows of knots to hold them in place.

(I say white cotton here because the majority of rugs you will see come through your cleaning facility will be woven on a cotton foundation. The foundation threads – the “skeleton” of the rug – can be wool or silk, but these are in the minority as foundation fibers.)

So… the weaver is twisting the wool knots around the white cotton warp threads, back and forth, and then back and forth, and in between is using a metal/wood comb (or other device) to POUND down the knots evenly in place, and then SNAP!!! a strand breaks!

It’s impossible at that point to replace the warp strand – rugs can take months and sometimes years to weave by hand, so there are no “do overs.” You have to work with what you have.  And in this case, that means taking the two broken ends, and tying them together into a knot. Just like you’d do with a broken shoelace if you had no other option but to fix it and keep running.

These white knots then end up as part of the resulting rug. After the rug is completed, the weavers usually trim down the tied ends so that they are hidden underneath the fuzzy wool fibers. But as rugs are used, and face fibers are worn down with age and foot traffic, these knots can reemerge.

When the rug is dirty, you may not see them because they are grayed out.  But if you are cleaning the rug WATCH OUT – you may have a very clean rug full of freckles that shocks the rug’s owner because she didn’t remember them being there.

Unfortunately, the better you are at cleaning, the whiter these freckles can become.

If you can identify these BEFORE the cleaning, and explain why they are there to the rug’s owner, you can avoid an unhappy client.

When you point things out BEFORE cleaning is it EDUCATON … when you point it out AFTER the cleaning it is an EXCUSE.

ALL hand woven rugs have white knots, the question is to what extent. A handful or a truckload?

You can see them on the front and the back. So make finding them part of your pre-inspection routine. Freckles aren’t bad – they are what they are.  Characteristics. Something that makes the rug unique.

Most rug owners don’t mind them at all, while others always seem to want their rug freckles removed. They can’t be removed, but you can – with some patience and some good dyes – blend them away so they are less noticeable.  Rug makeup!  🙂

Just make sure you don’t put it on too heavy, or the neighbors will make fun of you.

07 PM | 31 May

Why Rugs Have Stripes.

Rug loom

Rug loom

With hand woven rugs, the knots are tied (actually they are wrapped) around the foundation threads from side to side.

Search google images for RUG LOOM – and you will find photos of looms – like this one of a Tibetan rug.

The face fibers (in this case wool) are wrapped around the warp threads to create the “fuzzy” side of the rug.  And here’s where the “stripes” come from. The color of the wool has natural variations in its original condition.  Take a good look at the next herd of sheep you see, and you will see that though they all look the same, actually they vary from one another a bit. Some a little more gray, or yellow, or ivory.

The wool is affected by genetics, by diet, by environment, by age. And when it is dyed a particular color, it carries with it those same variations into the end product.  As one batch of wool is used, then runs out, and another is grabbed, these variations create a side to side striping in the rug that is referred to as “abrash.”

Abrash is a natural dye variation in a hand woven rug. It is not viewed as a flaw, but rather as a characteristic of a hand woven rug. Every rug has this, though some to a greater degree than others.

Here’s the danger with abrash. If you do not point it out BEFORE the cleaning, a client may believe that you have caused damage to the rug.  When it was covered up in soil they just knew the rug to be red. But when clean, they may see the striping in the field – that they don’t remember – and mistakenly think that you have damaged their rug.

How to counteract this? Take a look at the BACK of the rug.  If the discoloration can be seen on the back side – the side that has not been exposed to light, foot traffic, or the cleaning solutions – then you know you are dealing with changes in the wool itself – dye lot changes – and not anything related to your cleaning process.

Here is a great comparison of the front and back of an old Feraghan Sarouk rug to show you a fabulous example of abrash in action:

Abrash (front of rug)

Abrash (front of rug)

Abrash (back of rug)

Abrash (back of rug)

Always include a mention of abrash in EVERY pre-inspection process you have with clients, so there are no surprises. Just like people have different variations in how they look, so do rugs.  It’s part of their unique rug “personality.”

05 AM | 29 May

Tough To Dry Tuft!

Basically you have two major groups of rugs – woven and tufted. The easiest way to identify one from the other is that on woven (whether by hand or by machine) you can see the design on the back side. Tufted you don’t.

Okay – that’s not an absolute truth, but pretty close. When I get a frantic “save my butt” call from a cleaner across the US asking me to help them with a rug that’s gone bad on them, and I can’t see it, I need to know first – is it woven or tufted?

It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s from Turkey, China, Morocco, or Toledo – most times they can’t tell me that anyway – but it does matter to me what kind of CONSTRUCTION the rug is. Especially with tufted, because this is a rug where the face fibers are glued in place. Actually, latex adhesive is used. That’s why the back looks like this – mesh with latex.

Typical Tufted Rug

Quite a number of times you will see a material covering the back of these rugs. This is for several reasons – 1) because the latex looks ugly; 2) because some latex is poorer quality than others and can crumble and make a mess; and 3) because the latex can cause problems (yellowing) to items underneath it (like the living room carpeting you are putting the rug on top of).

There may be other reasons for this… but that’s my list, and this is my blog. 🙂

A big problem with some of the heavier tufted rugs after you’ve given them a bath is – DRY time. If you do not have a climate-controlled drying room, or a wringer to remove the excess water before the dry time even begins, then you are looking at a long dry time. Days in fact, especially in humid conditions.

But one tool we tested recently in our rug plant helped dry time ENORMOUSLY – the Dri-eaz Airpath.

Side by side testing, same construction types, one rug took just under two days (regular air movers used) and the other rug took under half a day.  If you have a small operation, and are looking to boost your productivity, but cannot afford a drying room or wringer – then I would highly recommend you grab several of these.  In fact, if you are a Piranha Member you can get the best purchasing deal in the industry through our Buyers Group (just log onto Piranha Central for details).

Dri-eaz Airpath: Rug Chick tested! Rug Chick approved! (My team LOVES this air mover.)

Studebaker Airpath by Dri-Eaz

Studebaker Airpath by Dri-Eaz

09 PM | 24 May

Don’t Dye On Me Now…

Problem rug?

Problem rug?

A cleaner posted this rug asking for step by step help in cleaning. In looking at it, even though it is a photo (which cannot tell me much) – I know, those dyes are a problem.

My first suggestion – a Dye Test!

Couple ways to do this. Some in the industry say to do what is called a “24-hour dye test” – you get a damp towel, heat it up in the microwave, you press it alongside the rug on the top (weighted with something) – and in 24 hours look to see whether anything has wicked.

Hmmmm. I do not know anyone in an actual rug plant that does this. It takes too long. It could potentially create a migration problem on the front (if it’s too damp). It’s just plain silly.

Here’s a quicker way to test (by the way, I like to test the front AND back side, just in case there are foundation threads – warps or wefts – that might bleed on you).

Heat up some water. (I use my electric tea kettle.) Bend the rug so the fibers spread out, and use an eye dropper to get one small area wet (careful, too much and you may create a problem … if it’s a rug that makes you nervous, test first on the back – if it bleeds, no need to test the front.)

Where was I? Oh yeah… here: 1) Heat water up. 2) Eyedropper of water into folded and opened fibers on front. 3) Press white cotton towel hard to affected area for 20 seconds. 4) No color? Good. Move ahead to test other areas. 5) Some color? Okay. This is about one of every four you test, so be sure you use a dye stabilizing agent during cleaning (I like vinegar aka acetic acid). 6) LOTS of color? Stop, drop, and roll. Actually, test it with a dry towel and see if the rug dry crocks onto the towel – if it does – you need to consider NOT washing this rug.

That it the quick overview. I have a video on dye testing that I’m going to figure out how to post so you can see what I’m writing about.

This is the one step I see most cleaners skip over … and it ends up being the main reason why many of them have become “rug owners” of some bled rugs.

Happy cleaning! Lisa