Is Your Rug Handmade or Machine-made?

Is Your Rug Handmade or Machine-Made?


We clean practically every type of rug at American Rug Laundry. But we don’t clean them all the same way or with the same products. That is why when you contact us for a cleaning estimate, one of the first questions we ask is whether your rug is made by hand or machine. Not sure? Here are some tips:

  1. Look at the back of the rug.

Machine-made. On many machine-made rugs the top pattern of the rug is discernible on the back of the rug, but generally it looks fuzzy and dull. The foundation of the rug, usually a fabric mesh, gives the back of the rug a rough texture that makes a scraping sound when you scratch it. Most machine-made rugs (with the exception of tufted rugs-see below) can easily withstand a deep washing and tend to be colorfast. Nonwool rugs (olefin, polyester, nylon etc.) almost never experience color-run during washing. Machine-made rugs with a wool pile have some susceptibility to color run, but it is rare.

Handmade. The backs of handmade rugs show the rug pattern sharply. The individually tied knots can be distinguished and counted. Most can withstand a full-submersion washing. Some, however, are made with unstable dyes that can bleed if exposed to water. Our experts at American Rug Laundry are skilled at recognizing handmade rugs of the types that are prone to bleeding. If we are not sure if the dyes are stable, we test them in an inconspicuous area before exposing the whole rug to moisture. Fragile rugs with unstable dyes are laundered with a white vinegar solution instead of water. Alternatively, we will pretreat the rugs to set the dyes so they do not run during washing (we call this process our Special Wash), allowing us to give the rug a thorough cleaning.

Special Case: Tufted Rugs. If there is fabric glued to the rug back or a fabric border glued on, it is a type of rug called “Tufted.” They are made by hooking tufts of yarn into a fabric mesh with a tool. Then, the back of the mesh is coated with latex glue to hold the fibers in place. Fabric is applied to conceal the glue layer. As the rugs age the latex naturally begins to break down and can become brittle or buckled. Exposure to water can accelerate this process, so unless the rug is extremely soiled we generally recommend a surface-washing for Tufteds, where the rug is not fully submerged.

  1. Look at the fringe.

Still not sure if your rug is handmade or machine-made? Examine the fringes, if your rug has them. The fringes on handmade rugs are actually the ends of the warp lines onto which the knots that form the pile are tied, making them an integral part of the rug’s foundation. The fringes on machine-made rugs are sewn onto the ends of the rug after it is machine-woven. Sewn-on fringes have a tendency to separate from the rug body and often become loose or even fall off over time.

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