Updated: Sep 20
In recent years tufted rugs have become more popular. Production times are much faster, and the cost of production is less than traditional hand-woven oriental rugs. But, how are tufted rugs made, and are tufted rugs worth the money? Let's look at tufted rugs and common issues with this style of area carpet. Do they make sense to own, and are hand-tufted rugs a good investment for your home?
How Are Tufted Rugs Made?
Tufted rugs are made using a tufting gun that punches yarn through a heavy cloth or canvas. The heavy cloth can be a natural or synthetic material held in place by a frame or stretcher under tension. Typically a design or stencil is applied to the fabric material to guide where the different color yarns are "tufted" through the cloth to make a design. The process is quick and efficient, and room-size rugs can be completed in a fraction of the time it takes to weave a hand-woven oriental rug. The wholesale and retail rug market favors the nimble, quick production times of tufted rug making and rug buyers have less expensive rug options for their homes. The production times of tufted rugs vary by the producer but can be one-fourth that of a hand-woven rug. It's understandable why tufted rugs have become popular with rug dealers, interior designers and consumers.
When the tufting is complete, the tufted rug is removed from the stretcher frame, and adhesive is applied to the back of the rug. This adhesive stabilizes the yarn tufts, so they don't fall out, and the adhesive gives the rug body and dimensional stability important when used on the floor.
Carpet adhesive holds everything together; it's an essential part of the rug structure. Remember the Adhesive part; we will be coming back to this later on. It's a 3 part system, tufted pile yarn, foundation material, and adhesive to make a rug. The final finishing is shearing or clipping the front of the rug to set the pile/ nap height.
How Long Do Tufted Rugs Last?
The longevity of any rug depends on use, foot traffic, cleaning intervals, materials used (wool, silk, cotton,) and with tufted rugs, the quality of the adhesive used in the foundation. Adhesives bonds the tufted rug together; when the adhesive fails, so does the rug.
This is notable when a tufted carpet starts to leave a power film on the floor under the rug. The powder is usually white or pale yellow and it's the adhesive drying out and disitgrating.
In tufted rug-producing countries like India, the adhesive used in tufted carpets varies in quality. There are good quality tufted rugs made with high-quality adhesives and cheaper lower quality tufted rugs with inferior quality adhesives.
High-quality rug backing adhesives are expensive, and unscrupulous rug producers may use a cheaper low-quality adhesive. Lower-quality backing adhesives find their way into tufted rugs as a profit motive, profit isn't always in the selling but in cutting the cost of manufacturing.
Another cost-reducing strategy is cutting or thinning adhesives with cheap fillers such as clay, and cheap adhesives. This reduces the strength and longevity of carpet adhesives and drives the off-gassing of odors common in some hand tufted rugs.
Are hand-tufted rugs toxic?
It's not uncommon for hand tufted rugs to show up at our shop with strange odors, burnt rubber smell & ammonia, or to some, it smells like a pet accident.
In reality, the rug is off-gassing from the adhesive odors and backing deterioration. We have never heard of anyone getting sick from the adhesives used in tufted rugs. If you are sensitive to odors, you might want to think twice about buying a tufted rug and stitch with a hand-woven carpet
Signs of poor quality adhesive are off-gassing odors, stiff or brittle backing, and cracking noises when rolled. Power under the rug from the backing disintegrating.
In some cases, adhesive backings can be reapplied to tufted rugs. This is dependent on the condition of the rug and, in some cases, the nature of the backing.
Can a new backing be applied to my tufted rug?
A new backing can be applied to an existing tufted carpet; however, it's not cheap. In some lower-cost Pottery Barn, west elm, and Wayfair rugs, the cost of applying adhesive is close to the replacement value of the rug. In some cases, the tufted rug is no longer made, and the driver for repair isn't replacement value, it maintains the current esthetics of the room.
There is no one right answer; we re-back dozens of hand-tufted rugs every year for clients and some driven by value and others esthetics
Are Tufted Rugs Worth The Money?
Hand-tufted rugs are more affordable than handwoven rugs. As you have learned, this price point comes at the cost of longevity and durability. We clean 10, 20- year-old tufted glue-back rugs, rarely any older; they don't last or have the performance of a handwoven rug. In contrast, we clean new, vintage, and antique hand-woven wool rugs daily with quite a few over 100-year-old. There is no comparison regarding longevity and durability hand-woven oriental rugs win hands down Vs. tufted rugs
Are hand-tufted rugs good quality?
Yes, there are good quality hand-tufted rugs, as we covered earlier, what holds these rugs together is adhesive. Even the best adhesive has a life cycle and breaks down so a good quality tufted rug has a shorter life cycle than a handwoven rug.
As we become more environmentally aware, I question the logic and reason of such rugs, rugs with no staying power. Much of this is driven by interior and color design trends that change every few years; in such a fast-changing design environment, few people seem to be looking for a "forever rug," just a for-now rug, this is the tufted rug niche.
If you are looking for a long-term flooring solution, tufted rugs are not a good choice hand-woven or machine-woven wool rugs are the best option. If you plan on redecorating your home every few years, a tufted rug makes sense.