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 Distressed Rugs and what you should know 

Distressed Rugs: 

 There is a charm with distressed rugs, especially vintage ones. These rugs have become popular for homeowners, designers, and decorators looking to infuse spaces with character, elegance, and a hint of yesteryear. Wear and distressing add a mystique, and timeless beauty seamlessly complements modern aesthetics, making them a coveted asset in contemporary homes. Much like a pair of distressed jeans, area rugs are also distressed to give a worn-in look. Why do people buy distressed jeans or, in this case, distressed rugs?


 The beauty of a distressed rug lies in its imperfections. The faded colors, worn-out patches, and subtle textures often feature classical patterns overlaid with a faded finish, striking a balance between tradition and modernity.

The beauty of these artificially worn rugs comes at a hefty price or longevity. 

The distressed rug look started in the late 1990s as new colors and styles entered the market wholesalers and dealers had a problem, an abundance of vintage carpets that lacked colors and designs that were popular in the modern decorative rug market. 

Turkey, in particular, had an overabundance of vintage Turkish rugs that were unsalable in the decorative rug market. Techniques such as tea washing and bleaching were used to make them more saleable to make these rugs more appealing to design tastes in the West and often at a lower and more attractive price than a new rug. The design trend caught on as time went on, and vintage rugs became a catalyst for rug producers to make new rugs with the intent of distressing them, giving birth to distressed area rugs and zero pile rugs.  

removing the capet pile on a vintage rug

What is Rug Distressing?

The process often starts by removing most of the carpet pile with a specialized rug shearing machine.

Sharp blades cut off the pile of the rug to the point of exposing the foundation. In this photo, look at the very far right end of the rug Vs. the center and compair the loss of carpet knap

Fire is often employed to remove fuzz and more of the carpet pile and fibers than a shearing machine can reach.

Like new blue jeans artificially aged, worn, and with holes put in them, these carpets have worn areas and low carpet nap. This process gives the rug a different lived-in look, crisper design, and feel from its original intent. 


In some cases, this damage is apparent; in others, it's latent, hidden, and the damage is repaired or "touched up" with ink, textile paints, and chalk to hide and obscure excessive wear and rug damage. These damages manifest themselves over time with foot traffic, exposure to sunlight, and, most commonly, in cleaning. 

Zero pile rugs being made in Turkey
Rug overdye.JPG

New Rug Smell 

A variety of chemicals are used to achieve bleaching, and overlying is often employed to dull shift or remove colors that aren't the latest trends. 

 This look comes at a cost in durability and longevity and can leave lingering smells and odors that take some time to dissipate.


In some cases washing the rug is the only way to kick odors out of some rugs 

 Buying Vintage Rugs 

Zero pile rug damage

In this oriental pile, rug has been taken down so low that the warps in the rug's foundation are exposed. Textile paint and chalk have been used near the center to hide wear and damage, and often these rugs and carpets have substantial repairs. 


At best, this carpet may last a couple of years with low to moderate foot traffic. The methods used to "touch up" and obscure wear and damage are removed and altered by use and rug cleaning.

Consumers need to understand that these are not forever rugs and may only last a few years on the floor.  

Closing Thoughts On Distressed Rugs & Zero Pile Rugs

A mounan of rugsi a landfill

Oriental rugs are prized for hard-wearing durability, longevity, and multi-generational use. It's not unusual for Renaissace to clean one-hundred-year-old rugs that have been continually used on the floor. 

Suplanted by fast fashion and quick turnover in color and design. Durability and longevity have no place in today's marketplace. Distressed and zero pile rugs are artificially worn and last but a few years on the floors  

In a time when we are more conscious of the environment and waste, many consumers choose what amounts to pre-planned obsolescence by color trend, design, and artificial aging. Short-lived disposable fast fashion means a quicker trip to the dump destined for the dump. 

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