Rug and Carpet Buying Guide HomeSite Map Email

Quick Checklist

Care tips



Natural carpet and rugs

These days, natural materials are being used much less than synthetics in carpet and rug production. The reasons range between higher price, lower availability and more restrictive physical properties of natural materials. Convenience is also a factor: in general, natural fibers require more care and maintenance than synthetics. Still, natural fibers are still sought after, and the demand may actually increase, as the population in general becomes more environmentally concerned.

Natural fibers used for rug and carpet production are: wool, silk, sisal, hemp, jute, bamboo, seagrass and cotton. There are important differences in their properties, which determine how suitable is any particular rug/carpet for the intended use.

Wool is the oldest face fiber, known for its soft, luxurious feel, resilience, durability and wear resistance. It is most often used for quality handmade rugs, and very seldom for carpets. Its non-transparent, scaly fiber has excellent soil-hiding quality. Like most of natural fibers, it is natural fire retardant, with good color retention. On the other hand, its color palette is softer and more limited than that of synthetic materials, and its chemical and stain resistance is generally lower. Wool tends to fade in prolonged sunshine and, like other natural fibers, tends to absorb considerably more moisture, which makes it susceptible to mildew and fungi. It can cause sensitivity discomfort in some individuals. Still, its probably main drawback is the price - it is the most expensive face fiber material after silk. New Zeeland wool is traditionally regarded as best quality wool on the market.

Mentioning silk, it is the most appreciated natural rug fiber, for its unsurpassed softness and luster, as well as good resilience and wear resistance. However, when untreated, it is very sensitive to alkali. Its coloration is more easily compromised by sunlight, dye loss and yellowing. Its sensitivity to waterspots makes dry cleaning very recommendable.

Rest of the natural fibers, like sisal, hemp, jute, bamboo and seagrass are used for mainly for rugs and area rugs, usually in various flat-weave techniques. Sisal is stronger than hemp and jute, with the last being not well suited for high traffic areas. These plant fibers are naturally anti-static and flame-resistant. They are also good thermal and acoustic insulators. However, similar to wool, they absorb moisture and, unless chemically treated, are more sensitive to chemicals and pest attacks. Their lower surface friction makes them unsuitable for stairs and wet areas. Natural (plant) fiber rugs usually come in limited color variations, have less bright colors than synthetic fibers, on average, and the pattern - if any - is usually produced by varying the texture and weave. This gives them simple but elegant look, well suited to a variety of spaces.

Bamboo fiber has very high tensile strength. In area rugs, bamboo is usually used in the form of strips and cuts.

Cotton is used for face fiber very infrequently, and there are good reasons for it. It has very poor stain resistance, poor durability, browns easily, turning dull with time and prolonged use. It's most common use is for area rug fringes.  

Carpet and rugs terminology - This sounds like a school class - but this is the one you don't want to miss. An educated buying decision translates into a buying success, and that is your goal. Certainly, understanding carpet and rug terminology is something you need for enjoyable, successful shopping.  And it is not as simple as it may seem at first...

Construction - Simply put, rug or carpet construction is a particular way of putting it together. Whether produced by hand, or by machine, they are made in a certain way. This includes all that is done to come up with a finished product: from tufting or weaving the yarn to dyeing and applying chemical or other treatments...

Materials - Nearly all of materials used for rug and carpet construction are in their face-fiber and backing. It is usually the face-fiber material that gets most of attention and consideration. This is because the rug/carpet fiber forming its face is most exposed, both, visually and physically. Hence it is the main determinant of appearance quality and retention...

Environmental effect - Most materials, natural or synthetic, have some environmental impact, and those used for carpets and rugs are no exception. Health hazard comes mainly from rug and carpet being outgassing potentially toxic fumes, as well as from rug and carpet mold (mildew) infestation...

Label and warranty - Rug/carpet label and its warranty can give important information and indications in regard to its quality level. Getting familiar with their contents is time well spent. Here's what you should look for...

Area rug size and shape - In somewhat different ways, area rug size and shape have both, functional and aesthetic aspect. At first, one would say that area rug's size is pretty much determined by dimensions of the space it is intended to. In reality, the decision on how large area rug will be, and whether it is to be square, round or of some other shape, should come after careful consideration of not only room's size and geometry, but also typical traffic patterns, form and arrangement of other objects and decor elements present, as well as the intended use of the room, or space...

Colors and Patterns - Color of your rug, or carpet, creates certain visual effect, emotion, and an atmosphere. Individual perceptions vary, but most of us will be affected similarly. Here's a brief overview of what are out typical responses to colors and patterns. It may help you decide what rug color and pattern type is best for your room...

Design style - Possible variations in the visual characteristics of the rug/carpet face - its design - are literally countless. They come from visual rug/carpet attributes created by both, fiber coloration, and its dimensional appearance. Luckily, all this immense variety is being channeled, fairly efficiently, into a few main classifications...

Carpet and rug buying checklist - The two main aspects of every rug or carpet are (1) its aesthetics and (2) practicality. Once you find the one that has the right looks, the next step is to check out how appropriate are its materials and construction type to its intended use. In other words, what is its quality level. The following checklist will help you figure that out...

Rug and carpet care tips - From the moment a new rug or carpet enters your home, certain steps and procedures should be followed to ensure its functionality and appearance retention. They are related to placement and installation, as well as carpet or rug care and maintenance. Here are the main pointers.

home    site map    comments    privacy policy    links