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Rug Shedding What Is It & What You Need To Know

Updated: Feb 17

Rug shedding is most commonly associated with hand knotted rugs, where loose staple fibers emerge from the rug's pile or nap over a period pf time. This can happen with foot traffic or maybe most noticeable with vacuuming. The issue is not exclusive to knotted rugs, tufted rugs, and even machine-made rugs.

Rug shedding is more common in a wool rug, although alpaca or some man-made fibers like eco silk from viscose can also shed. Conversely, most synthetic fibers like nylon or polypropylene exhibit minimal shedding compared to their natural counterparts.

Why do Rugs Shed

During the production of most hand-knotted wool rugs, there's a stage where surplus fibers get worked out and sheared off. Part of the modern rug making techniques for oriental wool rug to undergo a finishing wash procedure, which rids oriental rugs of most of the loose fibers. The intensity of the rug's washing and finishing process can influence the degree of shedding. The "finishing" can be inconsistent, so some rugs may shed more than others.

You can expect some shedding with a new rug, as it's impossible to eliminate all loose fibers during finishing. Some shedding in wool rugs may exhibit more shedding initially due to the higher amount of loose fibers left behind after manufacturing, and this is a normal process or break-in for a new rug.

The Fiber Used in Rugs

The type of fiber can be divided into two categories: continuous fibers and staple fibers. Continuous fibers are long, unbroken strands stretching for vast distances without interruption. In contrast, staple fibers have shorter lengths, generally a few centimeters to a few inches.

Natural materials such as wool, alpaca, goat hair, and cotton predominantly comprise 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. Shedding isn't an issue of good quality wool or combining lower quality wool with good wool in rugs.

  • Staple Fibers: wool, alpaca, goat hair, and cotton.

  • Continuous Fibers: Nylon, Polypropylene, Viscose, Rayon, and Silk are continuous filament fibers.

Filament and Staple Fibers
Fiber types

The issue of rug shedding exists almost exclusively with staple fibers. However, some continuous fibers are cut short to act like staple fibers. So, it's common for natural fibers like wool and some synthetic fibers to shed.

machine to cut fibers shorter and blend them
Fiber cutter and blender in Afghanistan

Factors that affect the amount of Rug shedding

Rug finish washing Afghanistan
Afghan rug finishing to open up the pile and remove loose fibers seen as clumps

In some cases, wool brokers combine lower-quality wool with good quality wool as a cost-cutting measure. This lower quality wool often has a shorter fiber and sheds more.

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 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

Below is a Tufenkian basket weave; in the center is a new Afghan rug, and a raw, unfinished Afghan rug is on the far right. 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.

So, in the case of a Nepalese rug like this, Tufenkian rug shedding is normal and to be expected as a break-in period and for natural materials like wool.

Nepal rug, Afghan rugs
Different rug finishes and textures

Is Shedding A Sign Of Less Durable Rug?

A durable quality rug is a mix of factors beyond just shedding all wool rugs shed to some degree; we expect shedding from some oriental rugs, some a little more than others, such as Nepalese and Tibetan rugs, Morrocan rugs, and some new Persian rugs. Shedding is a normal part of a new rug break-in period.

How long a rug sheds depends on a few factors, such as how much use the rug gets, vacuuming habits, and the type of weave. Thicker 60-knot Tibetan carpets shed more than the finer 100 knots. Machine-made rugs tend to shed less due to the manufacturing process, yet even wool machine-made rugs shed. The quality and durability of your rug aren't based on shedding a durable rug shed, too. What makes a rug durable is a mix of quality materials and the weaving technique, but rest assured, even a durable rug sheds too.

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 are 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

loose spin long fibers
Rug shedding wool rug

In some cases, rug shedding can be a chronic issue. The pile yarn is short and loosely spun, such as in this Indo-Moroccan rug, and loosely spun yarn and a long, thick knap result in perpetual shedding.

Rugs like this will permanently shed some carpet fibers, and care should be taken to vacuum them. The fiber shedding cannot be fixed in rugs like this.

Do Rug Pads Help

Since shedding is an issue of fiber length spin, and finishing, a rug pad is not really a factor in reducing shedding. While a high-quality pad is beneficial for the longevity of your rug during use and reduces normal wear, a rug pad is not a fix for this issue.

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