Monday, February 9, 2009

Am I the Advice Queen of Rugs or What!!

Hi Thea,
This looked more like a Thea question than a Barry question. Got any ideas?

--- On Mon, 2/9/09, Kent Schneider wrote:

From: Kent Schneider
Subject: Rug Pilling
Date: Monday, February 9, 2009, 10:46 AM


My name is Kent Schneider and I own a small furniture and rug shop in Atlanta called Verde Home. I do a monthly newsletter in which I like to research and write an article about topics which my clients ask me about. One topic which has been coming up a great deal lately seems to be rug pilling. I have been in the handmade rug business for about 10 years and am aware that pretty much all rugs will pill. I have also noticed that cheaper rugs (generally tufted or machine made) will tend to pill more heavily and for longer periods of time. I am doing some research on this and would like to write a brief essay on the topic for my next newsletter but am having trouble finding credible sources for information as to why this happens. My hypothesis (from what research I have been able to uncover) is that the cheaper rugs are probably made from cheaper wool. This wool is dryer and of shorter staple length resulting in a more brittle fiber which
will be more prone to breaking and pilling. I also suspect that this effect may be have something to do with the wools treatment and spin but I have not yet been able to connect all the dots.

I was wondering if you had ever written or researched the topic and could point me in the right direction?

Thank you for any help you may be able to provide.

Kent Schneider

*voted best of Atlanta

Hello Kent, Barry has forwarded your question to me and I hope that I can somewhat answer your question.

In a nutshell, pilling is caused by the incomplete slippage of fiber from a tuft. Instead of being completely shed, the fibers collect at the surface of the textile and can cause pills as well as a condition termed "bearding": an entanglement of slipped fibers on a textile surface without the unsightly little balls of material.

Pilling and bearding are not confined to wool fibers but may be found in any staple yarn product.

Lets start with the yarn:

Wool is naturally a staple fiber. When it is sheared from the sheep, it is graded by the length of the fibers as usually determined on where it is taken from the sheep AND by whether the fleece is a fall or spring shear.

Spring shear has had all winter to grow and is a denser, stronger and longer staple. Sheep that have had two shearings have a shorter, lighter staple in the fall and is typically more suitable for sweaters, suits and blankets etc. The quality of wool also depends on the breed of sheep, what they have been grazing on, minerals in the water and the weather. As you can see there are many variables.

Most TUFTED rugs come from India and China. The sheep used in these areas typically
have been inbred with Merinos. These have more lanolin in the wool, needs a more agressive cleaning to get rid of the grease and is a shorter, more brittle staple.

Most KNOTTED rugs from Turkey, Iran, Nepal, etc still use the wool from the indiginous fat tailed sheep. For too many reasons to continue here, the wool has completely different qualities but these have a long dense staple better suited to rug making.

Now on to rug construction:

Are you aware that making a tufted rug is essentially the same process whether or not one is making broadloom in Dalton or a rug in Dehli.

In Dalton, the primary backing is run through a tufting machine that punches the yarns through at a (literally) miles per hour rate, there is a layer of latex applied to the back and it is laminated to the secondary backing with heat and pressure. It is then sheared and inspected, rolled up and sent off.

In Dehli, the primary backing (usually with the pattern drawn on) is stretched into a frame to keep it tight. The yarn is inserted to the rug from the face with a tufting machine. This is an electric device for inserting yarn BUT becuase it IS held by hand, these are sold as "hand tufted" as opposed to "hand knotted". After the face is completed, a layer of latex is applied to the back and a secondary canvas is applied to the back. Other problems inherant with rugs made this way can be latex odor, bleeding color from the canvas backing, leakthrough of colors used to mark the pattern on the canvas and delaminating, brittle latex. This last one has a LOT to do with your pilling question.

Just a bit more: After the rug is tufted it is aggressively washed with(usually) a lye solution to remove the cuticle from the wool and give it luster, but this weakens both the pile and foundatation further.

So the question you're really asking me is how does the yarn slip out of the back and cause pills.

In tufted rugs, the little ball of latex that holds the individual tuft into the backing is called the tuft bundle. It must enclose 100% of all the fibers of the tuft although 80% and up would reasonably be considered within industry standards. The fibers that are not enclosed by the latex slip out to the surface from the abrasion of traffic or vacuuming and they become entangled eventually becoming pills.

Why are the fibers not completely enclosed by glue? Maybe they didn't use enough to start with, or maybe they were running out of glue and added more filler so the glue dried out and it didn't hold the tufts. And who knows what all they put in the glue there anyway???

Pilling and dry powdering latex CAN be remedied by removing the secondary backing, recoating the insides of the carpet with a good quality latex and
reapplying the secondary backing. At this time repairs can be made to any missing pile as needed.

We do these routinely and are not expensive repairs.
I hope this helps.

Thea Sand,CRS IICRC023262
Emmanuel's Rug and Upholstery Cleaners
Seattle WA


Nathan K. said...

Great blog, Thea!
Local high-end tufters (The Scott Group, Paul V'Soske Design Studio) have told me that there are also curing agents (ammonia, etc.) added to the latex to make it dry faster. When I mentioned some of the odor issues with rugs from India, they theorized that this was an excessive and/or inproper curing agent issue.
Re: piling, I think you hit the nail on the head. Most of the pilling I see is the result of short staple fibers (garment wool) that's been either bleached or lyed. While it's not always an option, pile lifting followed by re-shearing can sometimes help get a handle on the problem.

Seattle rug cleaning said...

Hey Nathan, good to hear from you!

A portion of the odor problem (according to the guys at at the SB Latex Council, Henry's and Parabond) is that: In the US, we've used synthetic latex since WWI because it's predicatable, stable, odor free (relatively) and there are no allergies to it. When rugs are imported from overseas there are no regulations about natural vs. synthetic latex, what's in what proportions + the extra ammonia, mystery ingredients etc used as curing agents + the percentage of filler(clay and who knows what else) used to give the adhesive body. When natural latex + mystery ingredients sits in the pipes at the rug plant, it can get a bacterial growth that makes the smell worse. I've been told that the latex needs to be pumped out of the pipes at the end of a shift and the lines cleaned to prevent guck in the lines. Don't know if this is true or not, just what I've heard tossed around.

But, case in point: I did a carpet inspection for a custom guntufted broadloom made in India a few years back. The client had odor problems in one part of the installation and not the rest - those were the rooms at the front of the roll, after the nasty old latex was out of the lines, the rest of the carpet was fine. At least that was the theory....No kids, no pets, new construction home.

Check out the SB Latex Council, they have some interesting stuff.

When we re-backcoat those, we use a paint roller. After everything's dry we pile lift to get the extra fuzz off, then shear as needed and it seems to work pretty well.

Will we see you in Palm Springs?

Seattle rug cleaning said...

Maybe thats WWII, anyway a long time.....

Dave said...

Wow, wow, WOW. Really great information in here Thea!

I'm going to be the not so cool guy and open a can of worms with a *slightly* OT comment.

I am very happy you have taking on the responsibility of not only providing the content herewith, but also am ecstatic you are actively preventing many of rugs from being prematurely sent to the curb and written off as the highly disposable rugs which I myself am *severely guilty* of referencing them as.

While local creative solutions such as the previously mentioned reconditioning is nothing short of good deed and service... I am going on the record (despite advancements of tufted rugs even within the last decade) as saying I see these floor coverings as not only a serious disappointment, but also indicative of a greater problem I sincerely hope the producers and importers alike will either phase out or make significant changes to accommodate "better" social and ethical responsibility for consumers despite public demand for low price point area rug options.

Please correct me if the following is not 100% accurate, but the structure of a good percentage of tufted rugs at larger department stores and even those from stock of prominent industry importers do not seem to be entirely conducive to reconditioning. Additionally, while other tufted carpets may be candidates for such practice, my sentiment is that long-term concerns regarding the lack of acceptable cleaning results from deep cleansing in typical thorough shampoo and drying processes render these rugs as having a lifetime ceiling which is sub-standard despite good faith efforts to conserve on behalf of the even best of cleaners.

None of the above as criticism. I've proven myself as a woven rug snob... Perhaps resonating somewhat on the creative solution of revitalizing these rugs, my position is that while options to renew an otherwise expired tufted may be available, so is the option for a rug neophyte to acquire a "new" second hand hand knotted rug. Or kilim, or dhurrie...

My hope is that the public moves away from these substitute rugs and feel more comfortable with learning about better purchasing options rather than encourage tufted rug renewal. Educating the public about the advantages of a solid woven rug as not only the more informed purchasing decision, but potentially a wiser long term investment and *maybe* a healthier, more economical and more energy saving choice.

I love your solution. The information and resources you've provided are nothing short of outstanding. The option of revitalizing these rugs is highly appreciated.

Unfortunately, I really think tufted rugs are a disservice and inconvenience to the history, the industry, the weavers, the cleaners, and worst offense - the public.

Can/will these tufted rugs be brought to an acceptable standard?

Seattle rug cleaning said...

Hi Dave, Of course you're always cool and what's OT about your comments? Tufted rugs are what they are......

The problem with low price point rugs, no matter what the construction, is that clients often balk at having them cleaned PERIOD because the cost of good cleaning is sometimes more expensive than the cost of the rug new.

The opposite end of the spectrum is when the client has decorated (often at great expense) an entire room around one of these rugs and then the rug starts to fall apart. They will jump through hoops of FLAME to fix the rug regardless of the cost, even when you point out that they could save the money and buy a nicer used rug for the same amount.

Because of the laminated nature of tufted rugs and the risk of having the latex fail due to excessive water, we dust these guys thoroughly, pile lift or vacuum them, then clean them with hot water extraction and dry face down so any bleeding from the backing or canvas doesn't get to the face.
The problem is it really only gets the face clean, not all the way through and you have to extract the fabric on the back as well to clean up the urine stains. Using an acid rinse to follow up cleaning can usually stave of the yellowing that sometimes pops up on creme or light colored rugs.

High end tufted rugs like Fields and V'soske are a dream to clean.
They have such good quality pile and latex. Thirty years down the road, if well maintained, they can still look fabulous.

I really feel that the difference between a tufted rug and a hand knotted rug is that a tufted rug is a fashion statement, not a classic. Down the road it will have a dated color palette, the pattern will not have aged gracefully, the wool will be dull and lifeless and it will be impossible to maintain. Of course the same thing can be said of CERTAIN hand knotted rugs as well...

Can tufted rugs be made up to an acceptable standard? Anyone can write a standard of what a minimally acceptable construction would be. The tougher challenge is getting manufacturers to agree on and adhere to a standard and getting consumers to understand the difference so they can demand a quality product and stop thinking with their wallets. How do we evaluate the REAL cost of that inexpensive rug? It may have only cost 200.00 off the showroom floor, but how long will it sit in a landfill when it fails, what about the odor that makes the rug unreasonable to have in your home, what about the health issues of never being able to clean it properly when the cleaning costs more than the rug?

I'm constantly astounded how the same people who will only eat organic food, use cloth diapers on their babies, research every purchase on Consumer Reports and eschew fur and leather will go buy one of those things and stick in their home because it's not expensive.

OR how about the "new money" folks that buy a million dollar home(before the real estate crash) and furnish it from Costco?

It's all about education, and I truly feel that as cleaners and rug people this is our greatest challenge to bring oriental rugs the true credit they deserve. The majority of consumers today grew up in homes with wall to wall carpeting and, while hard surface floors and rugs are trendy, they have no idea of how to select and maintain the right product for their situation.

Nathan K. said...

Amen to all! Dave I couldn't agree with you more, but the reality is that right now, many people look at rugs as disposable commodities. Use it, abuse it, clean it once (maybe), pitch it, replace it. I'm hoping that with the next generation, there will be a resurgence of interest in "art for the floor", and quickly. My rug dealer and repair friends are hurting!

Sorry I'll miss you in Palm Springs, Thea, but I'll be in Jordan on most of those dates. A friend here in locally told me that the queen of his country, Queen Rania, has helped set up a textile revival project called the Jordan River Foundation. I'll be in that part of Asia for three weeks anyway, so I'm excited to visit a new (to me) country and add to my textile souvineer collection! :)
I'm thinking about Iran next. Going back anytime soon?


PS. Had to postpone the washing of the fabled juicy-colored Bakhtiari, but I'll be sure you get to see it very soon...

hanlon said...

Hi Guys (Thea, Dave, and Nathan), As someone mentioned " rug dealing and repair friends are hurting." Yes, business is down, but here's one thing for sure: I will not compromise and sell tufted or machine made rugs!

I am in the business down here in Texas and I named my business Hanlon Handmade Rugs. Handmade. Period. I do not deal in Indian, Chinese, tufted, or machine made. To me, those kinds of fibers are an insult--- to the world! I will starve before I have anything to do with anything less than handmade.

High-end tufters? That's an oxymoron. Handmade rugs do not have to be expensive! Mine aren't-and I sell everything from Kilims to tribals to Oushaks. And they're clean or I clean them before sale-

Every, single chance we get, we should tell the public: "I can get you a finer handmade rug, better weave, better colors, better price". Thanks, Hanlon, Texas