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Common Rug Characteristics & Problem Identification


Hand Knotted

More commonly referred to as Oriental rugs, hand knot rugs are typically composed of natural fibers such as wool, cotton, silk, and linen. Dyes used can be made from plant and insect materials (vegetal, vegetable), or synthetic.

In terms of the fabrication of this type of rug, warp yarns extend through the body creating the fringe. Knots are wrapped around and through warp yarns and hand tied. Wefts are woven between rows of knots to lock them in and create warp depression.


Hand Woven

The fabrication of this type of rug is similar to that of the hand woven variety with a the exception of the hand- knotting. Warp yarns extend through the body creating the fringe, and wefts are woven through the warps. This creates the patterns.

These type of rugs are typically composed of natural fibers such as wool, cotton, silk, and linen, and dyes used can be made from plant and insect materials (vegetal, vegetable), or synthetic.


Machine Made

Machine made rugs are created differently than hand made rugs in more ways than the obvious. Most machine made rugs are typically created from synthetic fibers and dyes. Despite the synthetic composition, machine made rugs still require expert cleaning to maintain color, shape, and cleanliness.

Color options are limited and not as varied in machine made rugs. Typically, the edges are serged, and the fringe is applied after the rug is created, and are not an integral part of the rug as with the hand made varieties. These rugs are ideal for someone looking of a very uniform style and pattern.


Tufted Rugs

Tufted rugs have become a very popular alternative to the traditional (often more expensive) woven rugs. Tufted rugs are comprised of short length pieces of yarn poked through a piece of stenciled canvas that has been stretched onto a frame. When the short yarns have completely filled in the pre-stenciled design, the canvas is turned over and a layer of latex adhesive is rolled onto the back. A secondary backing is then attached to cover up the latex and clean up the appearance of the back.

Over time, the secondary backing will break down and become loose or delaminated in places. At Oriental Rug Cleaner, our experienced professionals can remove the deteriorated secondary backing, re-latex the back, and re-attach or, if necessary, replace the secondary backing. We also recommend a rug pad which will provide additional cushion and support.


White Knot

Hand knotted rugs possess certain inherent characteristics which aid in their uniqueness. One of these characteristics is a phenomenon known in the industry as “white knot”. This occurs when the foundation of the rug, the warp breaks or comes to end. The rug maker ties a new strand to the broken strand which creates a raised white imperfection in the rug. Although the term imperfection creates a negative connotation, this is an example of the individual nature of handwoven rugs.



Hand knotted rugs possess certain inherent characteristics which aid in their uniqueness. Every rug is unique, and we consider variations to be similar to a “birthmark”. Color variations, known as abrash, is a beautiful example of such a characteristic. The term abrash, from the Arabic word for mottled, is typically used to denote color changes or striations running horizontally across the face of a rug. Abrash can also refer to a more general variation of color throughout a certain field of color causing the area to have a mottled appearance.

Abrash results from variations in the dyeing process. Most commonly, either attributed to different dye lots being used, variations in the yarn density and twist, different absorption rates of dyes, and time spent in the dye bath may also affect absorption.

Occasionally abrash may appear more apparent following a professional cleaning. Sometimes the true colors are obscured by soiling, and often the rug owner will very closely inspect the rug noticing slight variations which were pre-existing, but have long been forgotten.

Abrash is often prized as a beautiful characteristic of an oriental or hand knotted rug. Many machine made rugs often incorporate abrash in their designs to enhance their appeal. It is often discussed in the rug community how much of abrash is an “accident” of the dye process or how much is intentional by the weaver. The question only adds to the mystique of oriental rugs.


Dye Bleeding

Dye bleed or color run on rugs is often the result of one or more colors transferring to adjacent colors in a wet state. Colors that transfer in a dry state are referred to as crocking. Dye bleed is most often seen in rugs where darker dyes are absorbed into adjacent areas of lighter color. The causes influencing dye bleed cary. In some cases, it is simply the result of poor or defective dyes.

Other common factors which can cause dye bleed are prolonged exposure to animal urine, exposure to high alkaline detergents, and sometimes prolonged exposure to water; i.e. flood. With animal urine, and high alkaline detergents left in the rug from previous cleanings, dye bleed may not occur until the rug is washed again. An experienced rug washer like Oriental Rug Cleaner can usually mitigate or prevent most dye bleed.

Often dye bleed that does occur can be corrected, sometimes including rugs with pre-existing color run. However even when pre-testing and experience do not indicate potential problems surprises do occur. The cleaner should not be held responsible if industry standard practices have been employed in washing the rug.


Insect Damage

Although several different types of insects can damage wool rugs almost all of the damage that is seen is the result of carpet beetles and clothes moths. Clothes moths are small, only about ¼” in length. The females lay an average of 40-50 eggs in darker, undisturbed areas and the eggs typically hatch in 1-2 weeks. The larvae emerge and use the wool and any proteins deposited on the rug as a food source. The larval stage may last from one month up to 2 ½ years.

Carpet beetles, depending on the species, range in size from 1/10” to 3/16” and their bodies somewhat resemble lady bugs in shape. As with clothes moths it is the larvae that feed on wool and the larval stage may last up to 21 months.

Since both the carpet beetle and clothes moth prefer dark undisturbed areas it is important to regularly check your rugs for any signs of damage. Pay particular attention to the underside edges as well as both back and front areas that are under heavy furniture. Look for any areas of missing wool.

Moth larvae will leave behind silken tubes or mats often the color of the wool and beetles leave behind shed skins and fecal pellets the size of a grain of salt which should aid in identification.

If you think you have damage contact Oriental Rug Cleaner as soon as possible. We have the necessary training and experience to safely and effectively treat your rugs.

Prevention is the best course of action. Periodic vacuuming of the back of your rug, especially areas under heavy furniture, rotating larger rugs, and keeping areas along baseboards and anywhere else hair and debris may accumulate clean is helpful. Having rugs professionally cleaned on a regular basis is important. Because the larvae feed on protein, rugs with food and urine stains are at a greater risk of damage.


Pet Stains

Dogs, cats, and other household pets can wreak havoc on oriental and other specialty area rugs. Pet urination and defecation can result in permanent staining, dye bleed, foundation dry rot, strong objectionable odors, and an overall unhealthy environment.

Pet stains typically come in three varieties; urine, feces, and vomit. Pet urine can present several issues. Staining can occur from pigments in the urine. The most common is urochrome which gives urine its yellow color. Staining can occur on contact. Urine, especially if not cleaned, can also affect the dye structure sometimes causing a bleaching effect in addition to destabilizing the dyes resulting in color bleed. If enough urine is present and is left unattended, dry rot, a fungal disease which causes cellulose to become brittle and crumble into powder, can occur. Cotton, which provides the foundation yarns of most oriental rugs, is primarily cellulose.

When a fresh accident is discovered quickly blot up all liquid with cotton or paper towels. Follow with a small amount of cold water and blot thoroughly. If necessary a solution of ½ teaspoon of dishwashing detergent with one cup cold water may be applied to the area and then blotted. Follow with a solution of 1/3 cup white distilled vinegar with 2/3 cup cold water and blot. Cover the area with a thick towel or several thin towels, weight down with phone book or magazines and allow 8 hours to dry. The weighted towel will continue to absorb moisture from the rug. If the top layer of towel appears wet more towels will need to be added to the top. Make sure not to disturb the bottom layer.

Pet feces are typically easier to deal with than urine. Solid deposits can be removed with paper towel or plastic bag. Clean the area with a solution of ½ teaspoon of dishwashing detergent with one cup cold water and blot. Rinse with water and blot. For loose feces or diarrhea scrape up all that is possible and then blot. It is important to remove as much as possible before adding any cleaner. Clean area with above detergent solution, blot, then rinse with water and blot. Do small areas (3”circles) at a time to prevent spreading. Pet vomit should be treated the same as feces. Due to food dyes and and stomach acids, staining can easily occur.

Please note that the use of any cleaner including water may cause color bleed and/or texture distortion. It is recommended to test all cleaners in an inconspicuous area to determine suitability.

Set in or dried stains and spots should be examined by qualified experts like our professionals at Oriental Rug Cleaner. Contact us today for an evaluation of your rug’s needs.


Shading/Pile Reversal

The terms shading and pile reversal are often used interchangeably and refer to a condition where certain areas of a rug’s surface yarns lay in a different direction than adjacent yarns. This results in light and dark areas on the rugs surface.

The pile yarns of a rug have a natural direction or lay to them much like velvet or suede. When new, all the yarns lean to the bottom of the rug, which is the end where the weaving began. Light reflectance can differ depending on which end of the rug you’re looking at. Looking from the bottom of the rug towards the opposite or top end, the rug will appear darker than looking from the top end to the bottom end. On short piled rugs the difference may be slight but on many rugs the difference can be quite dramatic. The reason is simple. When looking into the pile, where the yarns point toward you, more light is absorbed making the rug appear darker. When looking across the pile, where the yarns point away from you, more light is reflected making the rug appear brighter.

Shading or pile reversal occur as the rug wears. Traffic patterns and pivot areas develop, causing certain areas of the rugs’ pile direction to reorient. At this point the light reflectance across the rug is no longer uniform and light and dark areas begin to appear. Soiling on the rug can help obscure pile reversal so sometimes the rug owner may not notice this until after a thorough washing. In addition, the rug could be reversed or furniture placement changed after the rug is returned from
cleaning, revealing areas of shading previously hidden from view.


Rug Shrinkage

Dimensional changes in hand woven rugs are a natural and expected occurrence. Rugs are woven under tension, mostly uneven tension. When these rugs are walked on or exposed to moisture, these foundational tensions can change sometimes resulting in shrinkage.

The foundation or backing of a hand woven rug is comprised of warp and weft yarns mostly made from cotton, wool, or silk. The warp yarns run the length of the rug and are placed on the loom under great tension. The warp yarns travel side to side going over and under the warp yarns. When the rug is wet these yarns will swell and this causes the yarns to contract which in turn causes the rug to shrink. Most of the time, this is not really noticeable. One reason for this is virtually every rug is washed before it goes to market, so future washings result in minimal shrinkage. Another factor is the density of the pile yarns. A more densely knotted rug typically has less shrinkage.

Some rugs may experience more significant and or uneven shrinkage. This almost assuredly has happened after its post weaving wash. However after the wash the rug was blocked, a process where the rug is stretched then wet on the back and fixed under tension to dry. So now when the rug is washed for cleaning it simply rebounds to its previous state. Oriental Rug Cleaner can evaluate the condition of your rug to determine whether or not we can re-block the rug to a satisfactory result.