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Rug Materials Guide

There are many materials used in the manufacturing of rugs from natural fibres such as wool, sisal and hemp to man-made polypropylenes and polyester shag piles.

Each material has its pros and cons and unique attributes. Below we provide a balanced overview of the materials used in our rugs:

Wool
Acrylic
Polyester
Polypropylene
Viscose
Natural Fibres

 

Wool Rugs

Wool is the benchmark material for most rugs and carpets, it gives warmth and an attractive appearance. Wool is soft, strong and durable and is excellent for absorbing moisture, a natural air filter for your room. It has excellent elasticity and has a natural resistance to dirt, wear and tear. Wool does not burns over a flame but smoulders.

When it comes to wool used in rugs there are varying qualities, for most rugs the best quality is New Zealand wool which is a naturally whiter wool, meaning the whites used are cleaner, and colours more vibrant when dyed. It has a longer staple length leading to less shedding and a slightly softer, smoother finish.

Characteristics of Wool

  • It is warm.
  • It resists crushing.
  • It resists wear and tear.
  • It is light-weight and durable.
  • It absorbs moisture.
  • It retains shape.
  • It resists flames, smoldering instead of burning.
  • Has good stain resistance.

As a material, wool is the most sought after when it comes to rugs. Aside from its benefits as a material for a floor covering wool provides health benefits over other materials. The main downside to wool is the cost, woolen rugs tend to be more expensive than most other materials. In addition to this, the vibrant colours that are achieved in synthetic materials such as acrylic are not always achievable in wool. Wool is also susceptible to dampness and over-wetting should be avoided during cleaning. Wool rugs can fade given strong UV exposure, not that this is an issue for most of us in the UK! Finally, wool is the natural habitat of the carpet moth, so care needs to be taken when left for long periods undisturbed, particularly in dark or damp spots such as unused rooms or under heavy furniture.

Acrylic Rugs

Acrylic is a fine, soft and luxurious fabric used in many rugs to give striking colours as well as good stain resistance. Acrylic fabric is made from a man-made fibre which gives the appearance and feel of wool. It dyes well, taking vibrant colours well. The fabric breathes, it absorbs and releases moisture quickly. Crucially for rugs Acrylic resists moths, oil and chemicals, and also sunlight degradation. It is softer than wool but does not deal with crushing as well.

The first Acrylic fabric was first developed by DuPont in 1944 and in 1950 it was commercially produced for the first time. Initially it was used for outdoor purposes but with the advancement of technology, acrylic has come a long way, and is now commonly used in apparel and carpets.

Japanese Acrylic is widely regarded as the best in its class although to the layman the difference between Japanese and Chinese fabrics is not noticeable.

 

Characteristics of Acrylic

  • It is lightweight, soft, and warm.
  • It dyes to bright colours with excellent colour fastness.
  • It absorbs and releases moisture quickly, thus allowing the fabric to "breathe".
  • It is resilient, retains its shape, and resists shrinkage and wrinkles.
  • It has flexible aesthetics for wool-like, cotton-like or blended appearance.
  • It is resistant to moths, oil and chemicals, and sunlight degradation.

Acrylic rugs offer a similar texture to wool at a lower price-point. The material is very resistant to stains and damage with excellent colour fastness. Lower grades can suffer from static, poor fire resistance and piling, although many, if not most rugs are treated to prevent these issues. Acrylic is perhaps one of the materials used in rugs thats characteristics are most determined by the quality and density used, acrylic rugs can be low-end, cheap rugs that are not particularly hard-wearing, to higher-end, vibrant design led rugs with good resilience and stain resistance.

Polyester Rugs

Polyester is a hard-wearing fabric which takes colours well. Soft to the touch, anti-allergenic and easily cleaned (although susceptible to oil-based stains) polyester is a good choice for cheaper, fashionable rugs. However, although hard wearing in terms of breakage, it has a low resistance to flattening and can look 'tired' much quicker than other higher priced fabrics. Polyester is also quick to dry, resilient, requires minimum care and is easily washable.

Polyester is a polymer, which is produced from the coal, air, water, and petroleum products. It was first commercially produced in 1953 by E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Company, Inc. in the United States. It is next to cotton in worldwide use as a fabric due to its low cost.

Polyester fabric blends well with fabrics meaning it is often used alongside other fabrics in rugs. It blends with wool and viscose to improve their durability and even to make them more easily washable, if the percentage of polyester is high.

Characteristics of Polyester Rugs

  • Are resistant to mildew.
  • Have good abrasion resistance.
  • They are resistant to most chemicals.
  • Not easily damaged by sunlight or weather.
  • Dry quickly.
  • It is easily washed.
  • Do not absorb moisture making them damp resistant.

Polypropylene Rugs

Polypropylene, also referred to as heatset and occasionally frise is a hard-wearing fabric which takes colours well. With a similar touch to wool the fabric is stain resistant, easily washable and abrasive resistant. It is a very common and popular fabric in machine-made rugs due to its wool-like qualities, strength and of production.

Polypropylene is a great value material offering many benefits, its main drawback is that it does not have the same bounce-back abilities as wool, similar to acrylic unless treated (although these days most rugs and carpets are) it can have issues with sun-fade, flame resistance and static. Polypropylene rugs have a very similar look to wool, although some can be more waxy to the touch.

Characteristics of Polypropylene Rugs

  • Stain resistant.
  • Easily cleaned - some bleach cleanable.
  • Resistant to mildew.
  • Have good abrasion resistance.
  • Prone flattening quicker than other fabrics.
  • Not easily damaged by sunlight or weather.
  • Do not absorb moisture making them damp resistant.

Viscose (Art Silk) Rugs

Viscose is neither fully man-made nor natural. It is made by regenerating natural materials into a usable form. The non-static material is often created by mercerizing wood, hemp or cotton to create a plush, silk-like texture. The treated fibres give a luxurious material with high luster or sheen.

Viscose Rayon was developed in France in the 1890s and was then named as 'artificial silk'. In the year 1924, it was named as 'rayon' and was officially adopted by the textile industry. It is made from wood pulp, which is a naturally-occurring cellulose-based raw material. Hence, the properties of rayon fabric are similar to natural cellulose fibers like cotton or linen. Most rugs made using viscose are hand-tufted, made in India where many wool rugs are made. The cost of viscose is actually higher due to the processes involved in creating the material, making it similarly priced to New Zealand wool rugs.

 

Characteristics of Viscose Rugs

  • High sheen
  • Silk like touch
  • Soft and cool
  • Breathable
  • Easily dyed in vivid colors
  • Abrasion resistant
  • Insect resistant
  • Anti-static
  • Loses strength when wet
  • Poor stain resistance
  • Relatively expensive

Viscose is an excellent choice for silk-like rugs and highlights without the cost of real silk. It is extremely soft and luxurious, looks and feels like silk and can look stunning in the right home. It does however have poor stain resistance. Because viscose loses strength when wet it can be difficult to wash, it is important not to heavily disturb the pile when wet (i.e. do not scrub it, particularly not in a circular motion) and not to use hot water in a similar way to real silk.

Natural Fibre Rugs

Natural fibres such as Sisal, Seagrass, Jute and other renewable fabrics offer unrivaled texture as an eco-friendly flooring solution. Perfect for bringing nature to the home or workspace, natural fibre rugs are often used as a base layer for other rugs or to add a more tactile appeal to modern living spaces.

Characteristics of Natural Fibres

  • Unparalleled texture
  • High strength
  • Lesser stain resistance
  • Renewable sources - eco friendly

Bamboo is an excellent fabric and one we believe should and will be used more often. The silk-like characteristics and fact that it is a fast growing and renewable natural resource mean that it is ideal for the environment as apposed to man-man chemical fibres. It also has the benefit over similar Viscose Rayon fibres in that it is stronger when wet so can be cleaned more easily.

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