Rug Materials 101

There are so many different types of fibers used in rugs today, it can get confusing. So we broke it down for you. All the details giving you the what, where, and how these fibers get turned into beautiful pieces of art that are rugs.  

Natural Fibers

Wool
It’s natural, soft, textured, and renewable.

What //

Wool is the most commonly used natural fiber in carpeting for a reason. It's one of Mother Nature’s most durable fibers, ideal for heavy foot traffic like your living room, and is naturally very resistant to staining and soiling. Well-maintained wool rugs will be in your home for at least 50 years and can be used as heirloom pieces for generations.

Where //

Wool is most commonly from New Zealand when used for home decor purposes. Other areas include Peru, Australia, Argentina, China, UK, and more!

How //

  • It’s haircut time, sheep shearing is the process by which the woolen fleece of a sheep is cut off. This typically happens 1-2/year in adult sheep usually in the spring after their coat has grown very long.
  • The wool is then separated into four main categories: fleece, broken, bellies, and locks.
  • Wool that is freshly removed from sheep is known as “Greasy Wool”. Since it’s fresh and unwashed it contains dead skin, sweat residue, high levels of lanolin and will typically contain traces of vegetable matter and pesticides that come from the animal’s land environment.
  • The cleaning process involves a pretty standard, basic washing in warm water with a specific detergent.
  • Then, loose wool is then passed into a dryer and through a number of mechanically beating machines to remove all water.
  • The wool is blended and ready to be spun into yarn.

Jute

It’s shiny, natural, undyed, and 100% plant grown. Jute is renewable & biodegradable as well.

What //

Jute is one of the longest and most used natural fibers for rugs. It’s known as the “golden fiber”. Cropping jute enriches the fertility of the soil for the next crop. Jute also does not generate toxic gases when burnt (which is good for the soil).

Where // 

India is the world’s largest producer of jute.

How //

The same fiber used to make burlap, jute grows in shiny, green stalks that are soaked, stripped, and spun before weaving using only the plant’s stalk, not its leaves.

  • Jute is planted and soiled, after about four months when the plant is fully grown, harvesting begins and cut at the base root of the plant.
  • The stalks are tied into bundles and soaked in water for about 20 days.
  • Once softened the bond between the bast and inner woody fiber stick together.
  • The fibers are then stripped from the stalks in long strands and washed.
  • After 2–3 days of line drying, the stalk is grabbed in bundles and hit with a long wooden hammer to make the fiber flexible from the jute plant core.

    Sisal

    It’s been grown in the same sustainable way for centuries. It’s naturally renewable and biodegradable.

    What //

    Sisal is strong (second only to wool). It is one of the more pricey plant fibers. Sisal is particularly prone to fading in direct sunlight and can be stained even by water. natural fibers are anti-static and non-toxic.

    Where //

    Sisal comes from the succulent cactus plant “Agave Sisalana” that comes largely from Mexico, Brazil & Africa. Brazil is the largest producing country. Sisal is ready for cultivation three to four years from the time it was planted. The sisal plant has a 7 to 10 year life-span and typically produces up to 250 usable leaves.

    How //

    • Fiber is extracted by a process known as decortication, where leaves are crushed, beaten, and brushed away by a rotating wheel set with blunt knives so that only fibers remain.
    • Then water is used to wash away parts of the leaf.
    • The fiber is then dried and cleaned again by brushing.

    Linen

    It’s a durable, 100% plant-based fiber and usually best blended with other materials in a rug for lasting quality.

    What //

    The biggest issue with this type of rug is liquids can penetrate the fiber and leave a stain that is very tricky to remove.

    Where //

    Linen yarn is made from flax. Turning flax into linen is a multi-layer process from the flax plant linum usitatissimum. Most linen carpeting is produced in France and Belgium (the latter is generally considered the better quality).

    How //

    Flax stems consist of a stiff central core, called xylem, surrounded by an inner bark on the outer skin of the plant. That’s the part of the plant used to weave.

    • After the bloom, the plant is mature. In the month of July, farmers pull the flax from the ground rather than cutting it as it preserves the long fiber in the stem.
    • Flax fibers are attached to the woody stem and the retting processing begins.
    • It is during this process that the fiber obtains its natural beige color, often referred to as écru.
    • Retting needs moist from rain and dew, as well as drying from sufficient sunshine.
    • The retted stalks, called straw, are dried in the open air spread out on a lawn or grass field and rotated. This process takes about between 3 and 6 weeks to fully dry.
    • Once dry the flax stalks are bundled and stored indefinitely until they are spun into yarn.

    Bamboo Silk

    It has a natural sheen and softness that feels like silk but is far less expensive to produce as a material.

    What //

    Bamboo is an environmentally friendly crop, it grows rapidly, reaching maturity in three years and naturally regrows. Bamboo silk is a type of natural viscose. It is extremely durable and has hypoallergenic and antimicrobial properties.

    Where //

    The bamboo species used for textiles is called Moso bamboo. Moso bamboo is the most important bamboo in China, about 2% of the land mass.

    How //

    Bamboo silk is extracted, dried, and then expelled.

    • Cellulose is extracted from the plant and formed into a sticky paste.
    • After extraction, the cellulose is then left to dry.
    • Once dried, it is expelled to become a soft silky fiber.
    • Spun into yarn.

    Synthetic Fibers

    Manufactured fibers use naturally occurring cellulose to make the material. For example, Viscose is made using raw material: wood pulp. After being highly processed, these fibers are considered semi-synthetic.

    Synthetic Fibers are made from polymers through a chemical process. They can mimic natural fibers for a more affordable retail price. They are non-porous fibers that help with stain resistance. Synthetic fibers tend to crush easier from foot traffic and furniture than natural fibers because they do not have the same level of resiliency that many natural fibers do – such as wool.

    These fabrics are usually made of filaments extruded as liquid and formed into various fibers. Because the fiber starts as a liquid, many of the fibers are colored before they become filament, thus they are difficult to dye after the fiber is woven into a fabric.

    Nylon

    What //

    Nylon is durable, resilient, and stain-resistant. It is one of the more expensive synthetic fibers. Manufacturers can treat nylon rugs with stain repellents leaving a chemical top coat on the rug that will eventually wear off. Nylon fibers are smooth, non-absorbent and dry quickly. Dirt doesn’t cling to this smooth fiber.

    Rayon

    What //

    Rayon is produced through a process using natural cellulose from wood or cotton. Because it uses raw materials that are natural resources, it is considered semi-synthetic. It has many of the same qualities as silk, wool, cotton or linen and it blends well with other fibers.

    Viscose

    What //

    Viscose is produced through a process using natural cellulose from wood pulp. Because it uses raw materials that are natural resources, it is considered semi-synthetic. One of the most commonly used faux silks, viscose is a type of Rayon. The natural sheen of the fiber has earned it the term art silk for artificial silk. These fibers go through an extremely aggressive chemical process to make those fibers soft and shiny. Extracting from this natural material is energy intensive and toxic releasing carbon disulfide. It is carefully recovered in the manufacturing process.

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    5 billion pounds of rugs go into landfills every year. 

    That’s 2% of total U.S. landfill.

    Loomy is on a mission to make that number 0% by manufacturing a better sustainable product.