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Rug Materials Demystified: Wool, Silk, Cotton, & Synthetic Fibers

Rug Materials Demystified: Wool, Silk, Cotton, & Synthetic FibersPhoto from Unsplash

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Within the rug industry, there are a few standards. Some involve the weaving process, and others involve the rug materials. On the latter, there are four types of materials: wool, silk, cotton, and synthetic fibers. We want to demystify these rug materials and explain how they help to create beautiful, hand-made rugs.

Hand-tufted rugs and high-quality materials often go hand-in-hand. If a weaver chooses to use wool, silk, or cotton, they likely specialize in traditional weaving techniques.



Wool is a popular rug material. As expected, wool comes from sheep. As shepherds raise their flocks, the sheep’s coat grows thicker and thicker. In some areas, such as Uşak in Turkey, sheep drink water from iron-rich mountainsides. This, in turn, creates an incredibly durable and robust type of wool popular in Oushak Rugs, a subset of the Turkish Rug family. However, Turkish Rugs aren’t the only category of rug that uses wool. Oriental and Persian do, along with other types from around the world. Wool is soft and easy to maintain, making it an excellent option for weavers.


The Silk Road was a historic network between various parts of the “old world.” Silk fibers from China were transported along this path, linking the East with the West.

At the same time, rug weaving techniques in Iran — historically, Persia — were growing and being refined. From that, silk became one of the most popular rug materials in this era and this region.


The cotton industry has a strong historical connection with the southern portions of the United States. Cotton exports from the U.S. contributed to our industry within the Rug Belt. But the U.S. is only a few hundred years old. Where did cotton come from before southern plantations were a thing?

Records from the Roman Empire show that cotton production was happening as far back as the 12th Century, imported from India and Arabic regions. It was here that the material was first referred to as cotton, though other records show that this material has been prominently used throughout history.


Synthetic Fibers

Finally, a modern invention is synthetic fibers. These are produced via chemical reactions. The first generally accepted artificial fiber was polyester in 1928. This is a well-known rug-weaving synthetic material still in use today. Nylon followed in 1935, with triexta and olefin emerging later. While commendable for their ingenuity, synthetic fibers often fail to compare to the quality of natural materials such as cotton, wool, and silk.

Buy hand-made, all-natural rugs from Rug Source!

Our primary focus is on providing our customers nationwide with access to the highest-quality rugs at a fair price. Hopefully, our thoughts today have made these rug materials feel approachable. But if you’d still like to learn more, we’re happy to help! Just send us a message here letting us know your need or question. You can also give our offices a call at 980-819-7373 to get started!

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