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The truth about distressed wool rugs: Buyer beware

You’ve seen the ‘lived in’ trend before – ripped jeans, beat-up leather jackets, scuffed boots. Now it’s made its way out of the wardrobe and onto our floors in the form of distressed wool rugs.

Also known as ‘antiqued’ wool rugs, these pieces are becoming increasingly popular – the latest vintage-inspired fad to sweep into the interior design world. From Pottery Barn to Restoration Hardware, you’ll find styles that cost upwards of $10,000.

But, while they might look handsome, they can be a real headache.

Here, we talk through some of the challenges and concerns we’ve come across with distressed wool rugs. If you’re thinking about buying a distressed rug, you need to read this first. If you already have one, we’ve got some advice that might help alleviate the pain points.

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3 problems with distressed wool rugs

area rug cleaning servicesThe process of making things look old is actually not a new trend – in the past, rugs were given an antique look in by way of a luster wash, which causes the colors to fade, or a tea wash, which mutes the colors and gives the rug a sepia-toned finish.

The difference is that these traditional treatments maintain the rug’s wool pile. Distressed rugs achieve their worn-out look by way of intense chemical treatment – the wool rug is shaved, soaked, and coated with a solution that dissolves the natural wool.

The chemicals break down the fibers and eat away at the rug to create that trendy, aged finish. However, this entire process has a whole set of side effects.

1. Quality is hindered

Through the process of ruining the wool to get the distressed look, the rest of the rug takes a hit. The interior fibers absorb the same harsh chemicals that destroyed the surface layer of wool.

This means the rug’s quality has deteriorated alongside its appearance, and it’s likely to wear out much quicker than a typical wool rug.

2. Chemical smell

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All these strong chemicals will linger in the fabric, and can give off a strong, industrial cleaning smell – perhaps not exactly the aroma you want in your living room!

Some suppliers recommend leaving the rug to air out for a designated amount of time – however, we’ve had feedback from our customers that the smell still lingers.

3. Susceptible to dirt and stains

All the natural wool fibers that make a wool rug a durable and smart investment are destroyed during the distressing process, meaning the rug is far more susceptible to stains and general wear and tear.

The exposed cotton foundation tends to absorb spills, dirt, and dust, rather than repelling them. When exposed to these elements, the rug will quickly become dirty and discolored.

I already have a distressed wool rug – what should I do?

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If you’ve already invested in one of these rugs, there are a few things you can do to safeguard it from potential damage and decay:

  • Keep it in a low-traffic area, to prevent as much wear and tear as possible.
  • Be extra vigilant – make a rule to never eat, drink, or bring any stain-causing substances near it!
  • Keep it in a room with plenty of ventilation, away from small children and pets.

Unfortunately, because of the damaged nature of distressed rugs, it’s hard for professional cleaners to fully remove dirt or stains that do make it into your rug.

We’re always happy to take a look and give you our honest expert opinion about how we can help – learn more about our area rug cleaning and restoration services.

I still want a distressed rug – which one should I get?

If you have your heart set on the distressed look, consider looking for a cheaper synthetic rug, such as a polypropylene, viscose, or nylon option, which will have been designed and printed to look old, rather than put through a physical deterioration process.

If you’re looking to invest in a quality option that will last for many years, consider choosing a non-distressed wool rug. As well as being resilient and comfortable, there are endless beautiful wool rug designs that will compliment your taste – consider a retro pattern or muted color, to achieve the vintage vibe you’re after.

Check out our blog for more expert insight on carpets and area rugs.

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