Updated: Nov 22
Rug shedding is a phenomenon where loose fibers emerge from the rug's pile or nap over a period. It's a frequent occurrence in certain hand-woven rugs as well as machine-made ones, especially if they're crafted from organic materials such as wool, alpaca, or specific man-made fibers like viscose. On the flip side, most synthetic fibers like nylon or polypropylene exhibit minimal shedding compared to their natural counterparts. Notably, hand-woven and hand-tufted rugs are more prone to this.
During the production of most Oriental rugs, there's a stage where surplus fibers get worked out and sheared off. The rug then undergoes a washing procedure, which ideally gets rid of most of the loose fibers. However, there can be instances where not all of these fibers are effectively removed.
The intensity of the rug's washing and finishing process can influence the degree of shedding. Loose fibers that weren't eliminated during production might come off with regular use, especially during vacuuming or under consistent foot traffic. It's worth noting that newer rugs may exhibit more shedding initially due to the higher amount of loose fibers left behind after manufacturing.
Why Do Rugs Shed? It's All About The Fiber
Rug fibers can largely be divided into two categories: continuous fibers and staple fibers. Continuous fibers are long, unbroken strands that can stretch for vast distances without interruption. In contrast, staple fibers have shorter spans, generally a few centimeters to inches.
Natural materials such as wool, alpaca, goat hair, and cotton predominantly consist of staple fibers. On the other hand, synthetic materials like nylon, polypropylene, and rayon are examples of continuous filament fibers. The type and quality of these fibers play a pivotal role in determining the shedding behavior of rugs.
Fibers include wool, alpaca, goat hair, and cotton staple fibers.
Nylon, Polypropylene, and rayon are synthetic continuous filament fibers.
So, the issue of rug shedding exists almost exclusively with staple fibers. However, some continuous fibers are cut short to act like staple fibers; wool shedding is the most common, but synthetic fibers can also shed. Hand-tufted rugs shed fibers. The gun tufting or hand-tufting has no relation to the shedding other than some hand-tufted rugs use lower-quality shorter, looser spun fiber wool yarn, resulting in more shedding. Whereas long wool fiber results in less shedding.
Factors that affect the amount of Rug shedding
Rug finishing refers to the final steps in the production process of a rug, where various techniques and processes are applied to enhance its appearance, durability, and functionality of a hand-woven rug.
The specific rug finishing techniques may vary depending on the type of rug, the
materials used, and the desired outcome. This photo shows an aggressive scrubbing to remove the loose fiber in a new Afghan rug. You can see small clumps of the short-staple fiber removed in this process. Since this rug has been aggressively finished, it will shed very little.
Why Aren't All Rugs Finished Like This
Belowis a Tufenkian basket weave; in the center is a new Afghan rug, and on the far right, a raw unfinished Afghan rug. The short answer is that the texture of a Nepalese rug like this Tufenkian would drastically alter the look and feel with an aggressive finish and destroy the desired aesthetic appeal.
Because of this, we expect shedding from some oriental rugs such as Nepalese and Tibetan rugs, Morrocan rugs, and some new Persian rugs; Shedding is normal and expected for the rug to shed during a break-in period.
How long a rug sheds depends on a few factors, such as how much use the rug gets, vacuuming habits the type of weave. We find that thicker 60-knot Tibetan carpets shed more than the finer 100 knots. One can expected the first years to see some shedding with normal use
Accelerating Rug Shedding
At Renaissance, we have developed a series of noninvasive methods to help accelerate the natural shedding process in hand-knotted rugs that is not too aggressive. In cases where the natural shedding bothers the owner, we bring rugs to our shop and accelerate the loose fiber removal.
Chronic Rug Shedding Issues
In some cases rug shedding can be a chronic issue. The pile yarns finers are very short, such as in this Indo-Moroccan rug, and loosely spun yarn, and a long thick knap result in perpetual shedding.
Rugs such as this will permanently shed some carpet fibers, and care should be taken to vacuum them with a beater bar style vacuum.
The fiber shedding cannot be fixed in rugs like this.