Rugs 101

Learn everything you need to know about rugs! Rugs Done Right will help you learn all the major terms and facets of rugs helping you make the most informed buying decision.


Area Rug Care

Cleaning Your Rugs

Area Rug Construction

Decorating Help





Area Rug Materials & Dyes

Measuring Stair Runners

Area Rug Care

Household Tips for Area Rugs

Whether it's a hand-made fine oriental rug or a fun, inexpensive shag, here's where you'll find answers to a variety of area rug care questions and great household tips for area rugs. Here's where we've collected basic advice on everything from storing rugs to hanging rugs. So if you have a problem vacuuming oriental rugs or can't decide about selecting your rug padding, take a look below. If you don't find your answer, please let us know and we'll be happy to do find it for you.

How to Take Care of my Oriental Rug

If Oriental rugs have survived centuries in comparatively good condition, it is because of careful treatment. Oriental rugs will give remarkably long service if treated with proper consideration. Their two enemies, apart from the inevitable destructive effect of wear, are moths and dampness.


Moths can cause extensive damage to Oriental rugs. Not only do moths eat pile but they also eat the knots on the back of a rug. Moths are especially attracted to areas such as those under furniture that remain relatively undisturbed. It is quite simple to eliminate these pests and safeguard against their return. Certain chemical applications will render the wool inedible to moths. Both the front and back of a carpet should be sprayed about every six months with any one of a number of these moth sprays. Moths are best kept at bay by frequent moving or handling and by regular exposure to light and air. If rugs must be stored, then inspection at intervals is essential. A carpet in use is rarely in danger from moths.


Dampness will in time rot the threads and destroy the fabric but it can be avoided by obvious means. Do NOT store rugs in a humid, damp, warm or poorly ventilated room. This causes mildew that usually has a musty odor, discolors fabrics, and weakens them so that they fall in pieces. Never leave an Oriental rug wet. Failure to remove all of the moisture might result in mildew.

Mechanical Damage to Your Rug

One of the best household tips for area rugs that you should learn quickly - Act Immediately. If any mechanical damage is sustained to your oriental rug, such as cuts or burns, the damage should be dealt with as soon as possible, for such lesions get worse very quickly. In ordinary use, quite apart from accident, the ends and sides often tend to wear and fray in which case the parts should be re-overcast. Places in the middle of the carpet that are locally worn or damaged can have new knots inserted, and even large holes can be restored so as to be almost as good as new, though such work is rather expensive. In carpets of lesser value, instead of new knotting, patches cut from a suitable rug can often be inserted at less cost, and sometimes a serviceable small rug can be made from a larger worn one by cutting away the bad parts.

Rotating your Oriental Rugs

One of the area rug care questions that we often here is that regarding the need to rotate your rugs. We recommend that you frequently rotate the rug from sunny areas to the other side of the room to equalize the effect of the sun. Continuous exposure to bright hot sun rays and even indirect sunlight will cause damage to the dyed fabrics used in Oriental rugs. On bright sunny days, use window shades, shutters or heavy curtains to reduce the sun damage. Also, in terms of fading, sometimes gases and fumes (from furnaces, cooking stoves, chimneys and auto exhausts) mix with oxygen and humidity in the atmosphere to form an acid. This acid reacts on the wool and causes deterioration and discoloration. Usually faded areas are hidden by soil and will not be apparent until the surface has been cleaned. In this case, contrast of color fading could be avoided by rotating rugs from time to time to make fading or soiling uniform and by changing their places so that all parts of the rug will have a chance for equal exposure.

Padding Beneath your Rug

Good quality padding protects the rug, especially in heavily trafficked areas. The best padding is a hair or fiber filled pad with rubberized surfaces to keep the rug from moving or wrinkling. The life of an Oriental rug can be doubled with the use of a good quality pad.

Hanging your Rug

Before hanging carpets on the wall, one should be certain that the warp threads can stand the strain. Do not use nails or staples at the top of a heavy rug to hang it for a long period of time. Use a strong poster holder to distribute the weight of the rug evenly. Oriental rug hangers clips are also available.

Storing your Rug

If a rug is to be stored for a long period of time, use sheet or cloth to wrap it, but do not use an airtight plastic bag. Oriental rugs need to breathe and they will sometimes rot or mildew in a plastic bag. They could also be rolled up and kept in a chest with some paradichlorobenzene crystals, which will have to be renewed every few months. Ideally, large carpets should be rolled around poles, the protruding ends of which should rest on blocks or trestles. It is advisable to let carpets lie flat on top of one another for any length of time. Do NOT store an Oriental rug in a hot closet. The base of a rug can dry out and become brittle, destroying the strength and durability of the rug.

Crushed Pile

To up-right the pile that are indented or crushed by legs of heavy furniture, brush the depressed area with a soft brush and faintly moisten the area by a spray and follow-up by brushing.

Vacuuming Oriental Rugs

There is a trick to vacuuming Oriental Rugs. Never vacuum a rug against the nap of the rug (the direction of the nap can easily be determined by running the hand across the pile from fringe to fringe). Vacuuming against the nap also presses dirt back into the rug. Never vacuum the rugs' fringes. The continued catching of the fringe in the suction of a vacuum cleaner causes the fringes to break and tear. Sweeping with a broom will give the best result. As a general rule, so you will have no problem vacuuming Oriental rugs always do so with a low-level suction using a new bag.

Cleaning Rugs

Cleaning rugs, Oriental rugs specifically, is always a challenge. Here offers you a ready reference for stain removal for all types of carpet stains - everything from chewing gum to grease removal. Print this page and use it as a handy reference so you may properly care for your investment.

  1. Water Based Stains.
  2. Oil Based Stains.
  3. General Tips for Cleaning Oriental Rugs.
  4. Stain Removal Procedures.
  5. Stain Removal Supplies.
  6. Removing - Candle wax.
  7. Removing Chewing Gum.
  8. Removing Glue.
  9. Removing Ink from Ball Point Pen.

Oriental Rugs - Cleaning Rugs

Cleaning Oriental Rugs is vital to their long lasting beauty and life. Lack of maintenance will contribute to loss in the potential investment.

Cleaning Rugs - Stain Removal

There are two general categories of stains, and both are treated very differently.

1. Removal of Water Based Carpet Stains

A water-based carpet stain would include a stain cause by soda, juice, wine, and coffee. If you get to the spill before it dries, you have a much better chance of catching it before it stains.
Most water based carpet stains can be removed by using a white towel to blot the spill followed by a mild dishwashing detergent diluted with water at a ratio of about one capful per quart.
Make sure to test the cleaning mixture used on an inconspicuous area of the Oriental rug first.
And, once the stain is blotted, flush the Oriental rug once or twice with water.
When cleaning rugs, make sure you do not leave any soap in the rug. Residual soap will discolor and harm the rug's foundation.

2. Grease Removal and Oil-based Carpet Stains

The second type of carpet stain is oil-based. Oil-based stains may originate from tar, lipstick, and grease.

For oil based carpet stains and grease removal, blot the spill with a white towel, and then clean with a dry cleaning fluid. Dry cleaning fluid can be found at most hardware stores.

We recommend that you do not use the typical carpet cleaning solutions found at local grocery stores. These may discolor Oriental rugs or leave a residue of the original carpet stain.

3. Tips on Cleaning Oriental Rugs - Carpet Stains

  • Do it fast.
  • Blot up excess spills with paper towels. Do not rub.
  • Apply antidote(s) as shown on list with a clean dry cloth, working from edge to center.
    • Remember to always rub or brush lightly from the outer edge toward the center of the stain to prevent spreading or causing "the ring" when using solvents. (This is especially true for twist rugs and pile carpets)
    • On old, dry or stubborn stains, saturate, blot, and brush. Repeat this operation as often as necessary to remove the stain completely.
  • Do not soak.
  • Pat with paper towels. Dry with fan or hair blower.
  • Restore pile with a brush.

4. Spot and Stain Removal Procedure for Cleaning Rugs - Oriental Rugs

Detergent Cleaning Fluid Detergent Detergent Detergent
Blot Blot Blot Blot Blot
Vinegar Detergent Amonia Vinegar Amonia
Blot Blot Blot Blot Blot
Detergent Water Amonia Detergent Vinegar
Blot Blot Blot Blot Blot
Water Amonia Detergent Water Detergent
Blot Blot Blot Blot Blot
  Detergent Water   Water
  Blot Blot   Blot



Alphabetical Stain Treatment Index
Acid D Cosmetic B Lipstick A Sauce A
Alcoholic Bev. A Crayon B Machine Oil B Shortening A
Ammonia or Alkali A Egg B Mayonnaise B Soft Drink E
Beer E Excrement B Mercurochrome E Soy Sauce B
Berries E Fish Slime B Merthiolate E Starch B
Blood D Fruit Juice E Metal Polish A Tar B
Butter B Furniture Polish B Milk A Tea D
Candy(sugar) A Gravy A Mixed drinks E Tooth Paste A
Carbon Black B Hair Oil B Mud A Urine D
Catsup B Hair Spray B Mustard E Varnish B
Charcoal A Hand Lotion B Paint B Vaseline B
Chocolate D Ice Cream B Perfume A Vomit B
Coffee E Lacquer B Rust A Washable Ink A
Cooking Oil B Lard D Salad Dressing B Wine E


Before the rug can be woven, the weavers must refer to a full-scale graph paper drawing of the rug, called the cartoon. This is basically a chart in which each tiny square represents one knot. The design is drawn and colored so the weavers know when to change yarns. Next the loom must be strung. The warp is tied vertically to the loom, and then the weft is woven through it in a basket weave fashion. This is considered the foundation of the rug; and it is made from cotton, wool, or silk. In between the layers of weft threads, the weavers tie knots onto the warp in a horizontal row, which creates the pile.

Most weavers tie an average of 5000 to 6000 knots per day. Generally speaking, the finer the weave (smaller the knot), the more detailed the design may be. Handmade rugs are often judged in part by the knots per square inch. A coarse weave is typically less than 40 knots, medium is between 40-90, fine is between 90-180, and very fine is 180 and up.

Most importantly, the weave should fit the design. The finished rug needs to have good clarity in the design, so it doesn't look fuzzy or blocky. A fine weave becomes more important if you want a very detailed pattern, and less important if you desire a simplistic design. Contrary to popular belief, the average rug weaver is a 25 year old male who comes from a family that has probably been weaving rugs for many generations.

Once the rug has been woven to its finished size it is cut off the loom and goes through a series of steps in order to be completed. The ends are usually finished by weaving the weft threads through the warp to create the selvage. This is a tight flat-weaving process often used to protect the knots; as well as to add a decorative or finished look.

The remains of the warp strands actually become the fringe. Then the sides of the rug are overcasted in the same material the rug is woven in. Next the carpet is hand sheared, washed, and is then ready for inspection. This completes a typical hand knotted rug weaving process.

Machine Made Rugs:

Machine made rugs are woven on power looms operated either by hand, machine, or computer. The design and colors are determined, and a computer card is created which tells the computer which size and color it needs to produce. The loom is strung with a warp of jute, or sometimes cotton.

The rug is then woven using wool, nylon, polypropylene, olefin, or any other yarn suitable. Wool is the most durable and easiest to clean, as well as the most expensive. Some of the common synthetic materials are olefin, which is resilient and if heat set, is not as shiny as many others; polypropylene, which tends to flatten more readily; and nylon which is generally less durable. All of the synthetics do not clean as well as wool, but can be more cost effective.

There are two types of looms used to create three different categories of oriental reproductions: Wilton, Cross-woven Wilton, and Axminster. Each of these can be designed to achieve different pile heights and density, as well as various finishes and qualities.


In creating a hooked rug a canvas cloth is first attached to a frame. Using a hooking device and following the pattern, the weaver punches the yarn up through the canvas, creating a looped pile. For better surface coverage the design is worked in a crescent pattern instead of straight rows, which tend to separate easier.

Next the rug is taken off the frame and a layer of latex glue is spread over the back of the rug. This is necessary to hold the yarns in place, as they have not been knotted or tied into the foundation. It is important to note that the long ends of wool that often appear on the surface of the hooked rug (called sprouts) must not be pulled for this very reason. If they are pulled, versus cutting them even with the pile, it will result in a section of missing wool and will damage the rug.

After applying the glue, a cloth is attached to further protect the back of the rug. Lastly, the edges of the canvas are turned under and stitched. The quality and durability of hooked rugs vary, but it is mostly based on the point (stitch) size; the smaller the loop the better. Gross Point is the largest loop size and is used for larger scale designs. Petit Point is a smaller loop and allows for a more detailed design. Micro hooked is the finest weave, and gives both the most detail and the best durability in hooked rugs. As is true with all rugs, the quality of the wool is equally important.


Hand tufted rugs are created in a very similar fashion to hand hooked rugs. The major difference is that after the loop pile is created, it is usually sheared to produce a flat pile surface. The weaver also uses a lot more wool and a heavier canvas backing in constructing this style rug; for a rugged, more durable carpet. Fringe is often sewn on once the rug is completed.


This category includes Dhurries, Kelims, and Soumaks; among other types. They are all pileless, reversible rugs, which are created when a weft is woven across a warp in a basketweave fashion, making a design. The weft is usually wool and the warp is either cotton or wool. These flatwoven carpets, like their handmade counterparts, are created with natural or chrome dyes. The quality is again determined by the amount of labor involved, i.e. the intricacy of the weave; and the quality of the materials.


The first braided rugs were created by Early American settlers using old pieces of blankets, clothing, canvas, and other materials. There are several different types of braids. Flat braids are braided around two guide yarns, which makes them more durable. Tubular braids contain a single core, around which the surface yarns are knitted. Tape braids use three solid pieces of material braided in a traditional fashion. Yarn braids consist of several three-ply yarns which make up one part of the three elements of a braid. Braided rugs are woven with many different materials ranging from nylon, to cotton chenille, to wool, and even blends of different materials. The quality is again determined by the tightness of the braid and the materials used.

Decorating Help

I've decided to redecorate. Now what?

Interior Designer Susan Young reveals the one step that can simplify your entire decorating project.

It's only natural to feel slightly overwhelmed when you start a home redecorating project. After all, the choices ahead of you are virtually limitless. It doesn't have to make you crazy. In fact, Interior Designer Susan Young of Chattanooga, Tennessee, offers a first step that can simplify every decision that follows.

Her advice? Start with the rug just inside your front door.

Considering the importance of first impressions, you may know to give extra thought to your foyer. What you may not know is that the decisions you make there can simplify everything else. Here's how.

Start by selecting a rug that has rich color, pattern, and intricate design. You'll realize two major benefits.

  • First, you conceal the soil, sand, mud, and rain that people inevitably track in.
  • Second, and most importantly for the task at hand, your rug helps you make all-important color decisions.

You probably already have an idea of the main color you'll use in your home.

Find a rug that's predominantly that color. The rug you choose, the one you're drawn to, will practically make the decision of your two accent colors for you because most rug designs will consist of three main colors. With one purchase, you know three colors that you can now mix and match to create a striking, stylish continuity from room to room.

On a recent decorating project, Designer Susan Young started with a base of natural, earthy brown. Susan actually knew before she started that her two accent colors would be off-white and celedon green, but non-designers among us don't often have that foresight. The rug she chose, however--Carden Park from Shaw's Jack Nicklaus Collection-- could have made the decision for her.

Repetition of patterns, colors, and designs creates flow in adjoining rooms, says Susan. The three colors from the rug--brown, celedon, and white--became the basis for all the decisions that followed.

For the sitting room, for example, she painted the walls a bright celedon green. It brought a brilliant splash of color to the home. Rich in tone, the effect is ultimately soothing, welcoming, and warm. The base color remained equally important in the sitting room, with the natural brown continuing from the foyer rug to the carpet and as accents in the drapes and sofa fabric.

The colors in your paints and fabrics and floorcoverings won't be exact matches, but they will be from the same family, which creates depth of color, visual interest, and design flow.

"Repeat, repeat, repeat" is one of Susan's primary decorating tips. "Repeating patterns, and colors, and designs over and over again helps tie many various elements together."

So, to create distinctive rooms that flow together beautifully,

  • find a rug you love for just inside the front door
  • determine the rug's three main colors
  • then, repeat, repeat, repeat.

* Courtesy of


A major concern for most people is how long they can expect their rug to last. For all types of rugs it thoroughly depends on the quality of materials and workmanship to determine how it will wear. The following categories are designed to give you a general estimate on how many years your rug may last.

First you need to decide which type of rug you are interested in buying, and what room its going into (ie: machinemade for diningroom). Next you need to decide what the traffic condition will be in that room. Then find the rug type below and follow the row across to find the letter that best represents your traffic condition (e.g. "M" represents medium traffic). Finally, look at the range of years it is expected to last, found at the top of the column. For example, a machinemade rug for the diningroom (of a good quality) will last for over twenty-one (21 & over) years.




The art of Oriental Rug weaving is a craft that dates back 2500 years. The oldest hand-knotted pile rug was found in the Pazyryk Valley in Siberia. It had been preserved in solid ice since the 5th century BC, until it was discovered in the late 1940's. It measures approximately 6 feet square, and can be viewed in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad. Presently, true Oriental Rugs are made in areas that include the Near East, Middle East, Far East, the Balkans, and Northern Africa. They are hand-woven with natural fibers consisting of a wool or silk pile.

Materials & Dyes

What are the best wool types for rugs?

There are approximately one thousand breeds of sheep in existence, but only a few types provide the wool used for carpet weaving. The shoulder wool is the longest and most expensive. It provides superior strength, resilience, softness, and durability. Often the wool from different breeds of sheep is blended together. This is done to reduce the cost of the carpet, or to combine the best properties of each type of wool.

In terms of durability, the type of wool used in the rug is very important. The drier wool (market wool) tends to wear out faster and absorb stains more readily. These come from a variety of sources, often local to the area of weaving. On the other hand, a wool rich with lanolin, which is an oil found naturally in the wool, will last longer, is more resilient, and takes the dye better to produce a wider variety in color. It also cleans much more easily than a drier wool because the lanolin acts as a repellent; the way oil does with water.

This superior quality wool can come from many sources, but among the best are New Zealand and Australia. Other factors include the climate in which the sheep are living and the type of food they eat. Although the wool is not graded per se; it can be described in terms of quality, and should be an instrumental part of the decision making process in choosing the right rug for your needs.

There are many steps involved in preparing the wool.

  • First the sheep are sheared. This is similar to a shave and does not harm the sheep. Then the wool is washed, sorted, and carded to remove debris and align the fibers.
  • Next they comb the wool to remove the shorter fibers, which are less durable. Then the longer fibers are twisted and spun together. This determines the strength of the yarn. The more twist, the stronger and harder it becomes.
  • The last step in creating the yarn is called plying. This is a process of twisting the strands together. Three ply is three strands, and so on.

What dyes are used for dying wool yarns?

There are three types of dyes used for dying wool yarns. Natural dyes are the oldest and derive from animal or vegetable sources. These, although quite beautiful, are inconsistent, have fewer colors, and may fade over time. They were used in antique rugs because it was the only type available at that time, and are currently used in new rugs to create an antique look. Aniline dyes were very acidic, faded in sunlight, and are no longer used. Chrome dyes are synthetic and were developed to give a wider range of color as well as to produce a colorfast product. These modern dyes are bonded to the wool with potassium bicarbonate, which makes the wool resist fading and doesn't harm the wool.