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Love/Hate Relationship With Fringe


What is it about fringe?

Some rug owners LOVE it… most rug cleaners HATE it. Why all the drama?

Well, it starts with the fact that when the rug is brand new, it tends to have the bright white, immaculate cotton fringe. It just looks so… NEW.

When rug owners send their rugs off for a professional cleaning, the fringe tassels are usually gray and dirty, and they want them that brand new white again.

But that white is just not natural. And it never was. Just like those Hollywood smiles you see (despite their daily coffee intake) – those pearly whites just don’t happen naturally. They are enhanced, with hydrogen peroxide and other bleaching agents.

That fantastic white fringe is also “enhanced” – and as you know when you repeatedly use chlorine bleach on cotton t-shirts, it will yellow, and it will tear and become brittle. And with fringe this means, the tassels simply begin to break and tear off from foot traffic or your vacuum cleaner – like this:

Rug with bleached fringes falling off

Repeatedly bleached fringe will begin to tear off.

The use of bleaching agents, or hydrogen peroxide, is a common mistake made by both unskilled cleaners and rug owners to try to “clean up” the look of fringe.

Unfortunately bleach is not a cleaning agent. You need to use actual cleaning solutions and some good old elbow grease to remove soil from fringe. Most don’t have the patience to do it correctly, so they are looking for the quick fix – which is why they grab the bleach.

But think about it… if you had heavily soiled shoelaces (also cotton), and you threw it in your washing machine with hot water and a lot of bleach – how would they turn out?

I’ll give you a hint… TERRIBLE.

To get them clean you need to soak them, scrub them, use some detergent to get them looking decent. And getting them to look like brand new again, when they have been beat up for years? That’s a tough job for anyone.

That is the state that many rugs left without a cleaning for longer than a few years gets to, with VERY dirty fringe. And the owners expect a miracle. This is why many rug cleaners hate fringe. And for the less experienced of them, they may grab that bleach to try to create a shortcut to a great look.

However, many do not realize that the bleaching of the fringe done before the rug was even sold, by the manufacturer, can sometimes create deterioration of those cotton fringes that can quickly worsen with future attempts to “whiten” them.

One country notorious for aggressive whitening of fringe is China – you may recognize their distinctive fringe type here (every country finishes their fringe off in a particular way):


Yellowed and weak fringes

Chinese rugs tend to develop yellowed and weak fringe tassels over time.

I personally am not very fond of fringe, especially long fringe tassels. Sometimes I think it would be nice to just get some scissors and cut those strands clean off… but then I have to stop myself.

You see the fringe tassels are actually the warp foundation fibers of a hand-woven rug. This means cutting them off is a huge NO-NO, because the rug will unravel.

Fringe tassels are the foundation fibers of a woven rug.

Fringe tassels are the foundation fibers of a woven rug.

The better option is to hide the fringe behind the rug. To either use masking tape to hold it underneath the rug (masking leave little adhesive on the cotton), or to use a strip of material to hold the tassels under the rug and cover them up so they stay in good shape.

Hiding the fringe also means they do not have to be continually bleached to make WHITE again, and then they don’t break off and risk the rug knots pulling away and letting the rug unravel.

Hand-woven rugs made well should last several lifetimes. They should outlive us, and our kids, and our grandkids.

Let’s help make that happen by keeping the bleach away from them. 🙂

– Lisa