Shedding Rugs. What You Need To Know.
Shedding rug fibers. These pull easily free because the rug is cheaply made.
Rugs may shed for a variety of reasons. The shedding may be due to bad fiber quality, bad construction quality, or bad homeowner care.
I receive emails weekly asking about what to do about a shedding rug. Here is an overview of common rug shedding scenarios, and whether there are any tips to help.
WOOL & SILK WOVEN RUGS
With hand knotted rugs, these are often sheared after the weaving process in order to create the ideal pile height for the style. The shearing process itself can leave small fibers that can be seen as “shedding” when the rug is new. The best quality production houses will wash their rugs after they are created in order to wash away this residue, but even with this attention to detail, some small cut pieces can be missed.
With the best quality rugs, the shedding will stop very shortly after the sale because any loose cut threads will be vacuumed up.
The problem with rug shedding happens when the shedding does not stop. This is often the result of poor quality fibers or poor-quality construction.
A good quality standard pile height hand knotted wool or real silk rug should not shed.
It takes a certain strength in wool and silk yarn to twist and hand knot a rug. This means traditional hand knotted rugs will not shed unless there has been some type of serious damage to the rug (i.e. very heavy traffic, water damage, or moth damage).
Sometimes in a rug with good quality wool, the shearing process is not high quality, and the makers miss some strands in the process. These missed strands can pop up with general use and vacuuming, and these areas look as if a cat has clawed at the rug.
Poor shearing on a good quality wool rug leads to sprouting strands in the field. These can be cut with scissors.
To know the difference between the rug made of bad brittle wool, or just a bad haircut by the shearing tool, tug at these fiber pulls/sprouts. If it is bad wool it will pull apart and pull free. If it is bad construction, the entire knot will pull out. However, if it will not easily pull free, then it is just a missed strand that needed to be cut. Take your scissors and give the strand a cut.
When you can easily pull a knot completely out of a rug, it is poorly made.
SHAGGY & CHUNKY WOOL SHEDDING
People who buy shaggy wool or large chunky wool rugs come to believe that all wool rugs shed.
Wool begins as short staple fibers that are spun, twisted, and plied together into yarn. However, at the core wool is short strands blended into these longer strand creations. This means the longer and bigger the wool construction, the more likely the owner is going to have short strands pull loose.
The quality of the wool in these rugs may be very good, or may be very poor. The very good quality rugs will stop shedding after several months, as all “loose” short strands pull free and away with use. The very poor-quality rugs will shed for their lifetime and will wear down thinner in high use areas because they break with use.
Chunky wool sheds due to its length. Good quality wool, the shedding will stop. Bad quality wool, it will shed for its lifetime.
One tip for shaggier wool rugs is to use a horse hair brush to groom and pull away the loose strands as vacuuming can be a problem. A beater bar brush vacuum is never a good choice for these rugs, any vacuuming is usually by hand tool.
Another shag and chunky wool rug tip is to take the rug outside when the landscapers are around, and have them use their leaf blower to fluff up and blast away the dust and “stuff” in those fibers (works much better than a vacuum on these rugs).
TUFTED RUG SHEDDING
Tufted rugs are rugs that held together with a latex glue backing. These rugs have a material covering up the back side.
Tufted wool rugs from India will shed if the wool quality is poor.
In India, the wool that is not strong enough to use in hand knotted rugs is used in lower quality production wool rugs such as “hand loomed” rugs and “tufted” rugs. These are the rugs being sold through online rug stores for hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars.
With these rugs, if you take your thumbnail and strongly scratch the front wool fibers, you can break them apart, and the texture of the wool is scratchy instead of soft to the touch.
Whenever I receive an email from a consumer complaining about a new rug heavily shedding, or having odor issues, I know that the rug is 9 times out of 10 from India. (The 10th one is from Morocco.)
There are extremely high quality wool and silk tufted rugs produced by companies such as V’Soske, Edward Fields, Custom Looms, and other high dollar custom tufted rug creators. When these rugs have fibers which are pulling away it is due to heavy traffic, aggressive beater bar vacuum damage, or moths.
High quality V’Soske tufted rug which has breaking loops in a high traffic area. All hooked/looped rugs can break with regular foot traffic.
Some tufted rugs are constructed with a hooked style, and loops in areas with heavy foot traffic can break and pop up. Poor quality fibers obviously break more frequently with less friction, but even the best quality fibers can break with constant friction. It is extremely important to not use beater bar brush vacuums on hooked style rugs, or any rugs where poor quality fibers have been used.
PLANT FIBERS (JUTE, SISAL, NETTLE)
These fibers do not have the longevity of wool, cotton, or real silk. These fibers also do not have the flexibility and durability, so they will break and shed in higher traffic areas.
These fibers splinter and fray in the process of creating braids, basket weaves, or large knots used in the typical styles for these rugs. The fibers have a texture of straw and they snap and break easily in traffic areas.
Use a horse hair brush to loosen up small pieces and then follow up with a hand vacuum tool to help pick up the tiny broken pieces. Using an upright beater bar vacuum can sometimes cause too much damage to these rugs.
These are rugs that will shed and wear down consistently if under regular heavy foot traffic. It is important to rotate them to even out the wear and shedding.
ARTIFICIAL SILK (VISCOSE, BAMBOO SILK, BANANA SILK)
Viscose and all of its fake silk derivatives are the weakest fibers in the rug world today. They are chemically processed wood pulp and cotton waste by-products, so they are essentially pressed high gloss paper. This means that of all of the fibers out there, these are the most likely to shed and have fiber pulls. These rugs usually in the higher traffic areas look like they have cat pulls as the fibers break. You can easily pull these strands apart because they have no strength.
Another negative of these fibers is that when wet from a spill, just like paper they easily stain and can turn to “mush” if not cleaned up immediately. Plain water spills can sometimes permanently damage the texture and shine on these rugs.
Viscose/rayon rugs are the most problematic in terms of shedding. They are considered “disposable” rugs due to how poorly they perform under normal use.
These rugs will shed continually, and are considered “disposable” decorative rugs because of these problems. One tip to help protect these rugs is to have fiber protector applied to them when brand new to help try to boost repellency of any spills and prevent you from having to buy another rug when the first spill happens. Protector will not bulletproof the rug but it will help lessen the extent of the damage.
These rugs are also easily damaged by most durable vacuum cleaners. A better choice is a light weight cordless vacuum to help pick up and remove surface dirt and grit without tearing apart the rug fibers. Artificial silk fibers have no ability to hide soil so they dirty quickly and show it, so vacuuming should happen as often as the counters and floors need to be wiped off and swept up.
For more information about Viscose rugs, and all other regenerated cellulose rugs (rayon, bamboo silk, banana silk, and Tencel), here is a post regarding these types of rugs.
With this overview on the most common shedding scenarios, cleaners can give their clients the best advice on how to minimize the problem, or to recommend to them to buy a better quality rug.
If you have a shedding scenario that you have questions about, please feel free to send me a note using the CONTACT form.
Best to you,
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