12 PM | 24 Jan

Why do some wool rugs fade?

Certain rugs – especially those from China – are given a strong chemical washing using chlorine bleach (which DISSOLVES wool fibers) in order to make the rug more appealing to buyers. It makes the wool cuticles smoother, and as a result they reflect more light and appear shinier and silkier. They also are softer to the touch as a result.

But- if the process is too aggressive, it can make these rugs EXTREMELY sensitive to permanent stains from spills (especially acid spills), to loss of color during spot cleaning, and also fading and total loss of color if placed in an improper setting (direct sunlight) or improperly cleaned (being cleaned in the home).

Here is a Chinese rug that was cleaned improperly with aggressive cleaning agents and dried in direct sunlight (a horrible double whammy):

This blue rug has faded to beige from improper cleaning.

This blue rug has faded to beige from improper cleaning.

Many rugs, when you grin open the fibers, if they are susceptible to fading you will see a distinct difference in the base of the fibers to the tips.  The base will be DARK, and the tips will be LIGHTER. Almost frosted.

What you need to know about these rugs are that they are more susceptible to permanent staining because the fibers are already weakened by this chemical processing. This does not mean that the rug will not last you a hundred years (wool is by far the BEST fiber to use for a rug) – it simply means you cannot grab an over-the-counter spot remover to use on these rugs, they will cause a loss of color that will be MUCH worse than the original spill was.

While we are talking about over-the-counter products, you want to make sure you NEVER use these on any wool oriental rugs, or other natural fiber rugs (silk or cotton).  These chemicals are formulated for synthetic wall-to-wall carpeting and are much too aggressive for natural fiber rugs.  Folex, Resolve, Oxyclean.

Even Woolite, when applied directly to certain wool rugs, will bleach out colors or cause discoloration that is not correctable due to some optical brighteners that are used in their formulation.  I find customers tend to not dilute it when they use it, and it almost always created dye damage as a result of a panicked over-use.

Many rugs are chemically washed – as are many fabrics and other natural fiber objects we use daily.  You just want to be able to point out which ones may be a problem in terms of color loss and fade from sun.

Gentle, proper washing of wool rugs does not fade a rug. 

What fades a rug is direct sunlight in a room, or direct sunlight drying of a rug being cleaner.  

What fades a rug is improper choice of cleaning solutions – using the same chemicals from your wall-to-wall synthetic cleaning on wool rug. 

Or what fades rugs is cleaning them in the home and as a result leaving cleaning chemical residue in those fibers afterwards because you are not washing the rug and rinsing those fibers clean.

Those are situations that contribute to further and faster fading of a rug.

– Lisa

08 AM | 15 Aug

Rugs To Keep Out Of The Sun.

A little sun never hurts, right?

Well, with rugs, that depends.  Some rugs , you could put them in the sun for ages with no affect. While others can’t last even a few hours.

Take a look at this rug. It appears to be a nice beige Chinese sculpted wool rug. (They use a hand tool to carve out those floral designs.) These are plush rugs, with nice BRIGHT white fringe tassels.

Chinese rug - popular in the 1980s-90's and found in many homes.

Chinese rug - popular in the 1980s-90's and found in many homes.

This particular rug was cleaned by a professional cleaner – one who had cleaned this rug several times before over the years. But this time, he made the decision to put the rug into direct sunlight to dry it out. Something that normally would not be a bad decision – but with this particular type of rug, it was, because the rug USED to be not beige, but blue – take a look:

The original color can be seen on the back of the rug - pastel blue.

The original color can be seen on the back of the rug - pastel blue.

Many contemporary rugs are chemically washed with a chlorine-bleach solution before it is sent to market. This process can lighten up strong colors and because it strips scales off of the wool fibers to make them smoother, they reflect more light and appear “shinier.”

With certain rugs from China, and this particular type shown in the photos – the chemical processing is aggressive, and while it makes the rug very attractive, it also makes it very reactive to many things. It permanently stains very easily with acid sources (coffee. tea, soda, juice, and pet urine), it reacts horribly to any spot removers (coffee stain remover will strip color out completely), and it is VERY sensitive to sun fading.

This rug in the photos was only in the sun for a few hours, yet that color change was severe, and also not reversible. And I receive photos like these several times a month from cleaners who want to thoroughly dry a rug for a client, and end up having a surprise like this result.

I have not found any rug more reactive to sun that this type of Chinese rug, and it has a very distinct fringe style, a wide white fringe base, with a knot style that looks like a fist.  Print the photo for your files so you can watch out for these in your cleaning business so that you don’t get yourself in trouble when you decide to place a rug in the sun.

– Lisa