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That Rug LIES! (Or it is lays…?) 🙂


Just like Tammy Faye used a lot of makeup to cover up her “real” look to try to appear younger … certain rug dealers can use some “tricky” cover-ups to make a rug look OLDER. (Interesting, huh?)

Tea wash, henna wash, antiqued wash – these are the culprits.

It is a brown or gold dye, applied after the rug is woven, to give it a darker, older look. It can hide harsh strong dyes to make them more subtle. It can also hide past stains, flood damaged dyes, and other damage to make it appear un-damaged to the uneducated buyer. It can also be used to make a rug appear to be an antique to the uneducated buyer.

Or – it could simply be used to make the rug more attractive.

But here’s the problem – most of these applications are NOT permanent. So if a someone buys the rug, and gets it cleaned, it can suddenly lose the “look” that compelled them to buy the rug in the first place. (Usually they are not told the rug has been “tea washed” when they bought it. And honestly, many retailers handle too much product to know a wash warning sign like this – but rug cleaners, we need to catch it before we end up buying the rug ourselves from an unhappy client.)

Look at this rug:


Hmmm .. the color looks a little off.... (hint, hint!)

Hmmm .. the color looks a little off…. (hint, hint!)

If you are running a conveyor belt cleaning operation – hundreds in and out a week – you might not catch these.

But when you run a hands-on workshop operation, where the teams inspect each rug closely, and then wash the rugs one at a time carefully, you will pick up on these dangers (and you can let the rug owner know there is a problem BEFORE it’s cleaned).

Grin open those fibers – what do you see?:

Grin those fibers open

WOW! This rug was living a LIE! It’s not antique, it’s antiqu-ED!


When you clean a rug like this one, even if you are gentle, you will remove this over-dye process.

How do you spot the warning signs – as a rug CLEANER or as a rug BUYER? You compare the front to the back (any color differences?), you grin open the fibers (any color differences from the base to the tips?), you take a towel and dampen it and wipe the fibers (ANY color coming off onto the towel?).

You also look at the FRINGE to see if it is beige or brown instead of white. Usually they spray or dip the entire rug, and the cotton fringe will dye unevenly from that process.

If you like the look of a tea washed rug – then by all means buy it. But know that eventually this rug needs to be cleaned (at least once every 18 months under normal use, once a year for high traffic, that is IF you vacuum the rug regularly) and when it is cleaned it may lose some of this coloring process. It is not permanent, but some applications are better than others. Some are horrible and will come off with simply water.

Be aware that this means the color can also come off onto fabrics if you sit on the rug, and it may transfer to the carpeting underneath if you are placing the rug on top of wall-to-wall carpet.

As a cleaner – test the strength of the over-dye application and make the decision to move ahead with cleaning, or turn the job away if the rug owner will not release you from liability on cleaning their tea-washed rug. Your cleaning process is not doing damage, the application process is the problem.

Makeup will only cover up spots so long … eventually you have to show the “real” you … and eventually these rugs need to be the rugs they were “born” to be. Just be wary of the cover-ups!

– Lisa

P.S. Since you’re here anyway… why not post a comment? I’d like to know if you like my posts, or if you don’t, or if there is anything you’d like me to share some insight on. Come on! It’s fun! 🙂