The best rugs hands down are made from silk blends because they are soft to the touch, have a slight shimmer and feel absolutely luxurious. But, with all of that luxury comes a price tag that puts them out of reach for most of us.
Enter the knock off. We are familiar with “fake silk” fabrics from clothing. You would know it as Rayon. In the rug industry, this is presented as viscose or “Art” Silk. Viscose is a blend of “dissolving cellulose” (wood pulp fibers and cotton by products) and chemicals. Not only is the production of this textile terrible for the environment, it makes incredibly WEAK fibers. The same process is used to make cellophane.
These crappy viscose rugs are surprisingly popular because manufactures are not up front about the durability – telling people to immediately wipe up spills and simply have them professionally cleaned. Um… right… good luck finding a professional who will clean it, because most of us will run from that challenge.
Cleaning A Viscose Rug Results In Any Combination Of 4 Possible Outcomes
1) Yellowing – cellulose fibers yellow when wet, so any liquid that spills on viscose has the potential to turn the rug yellow. Try to clean the yellow, and you will just make it worse. Citrus based detergents seem to give us the best results with very exhaustive drying attempts and variations.
2) Shedding – because the fibers making up the thread are weak and short, they break and shed. Normal wear and tear (vacuuming and walking on it) will pull lose strands and eventually make the rug look shaggy. Compare it to a sweater that pills. Washing/cleaning it just speeds up this process. You have to shave off the offending stragglers to keep the fabric looking good.
3) Bleeding – viscose just doesn’t hold dye. When you clean it, you are removing some of the dye. Usually it will fade a shade or two with each wash – and usually two washes are required to clean these rugs because one pass using a small amount of water to prevent yellowing, won’t do the job. So one pass for a half clean rug one shade lighter, or two passes for a very clean rug two shades lighter. Not great options, but better than a dirty rug.
4) Stiffening – the fibers of these fake silk rugs will never be as soft as they were before cleaning. They get hard and scratchy after cleaning. The rugs need to be misted with a softener and then hand groomed (carefully to prevent #2) during drying and again after it is fully dry.
So the short version – these rugs are 4x as difficult to clean as a quality rug, and come out looking worse despite the extra effort.
And the morale of my story is this: Buy a wool rug, buy a lower quality silk rug, buy synthetic. Stay away from Viscose, (Art Silk, Rayon… fake silk.)