Most rugs are made of either wool, silk, wool and silk, cotton, nylon, or viscose rayon. Wool rugs can last for centuries, as can silk rugs and wool and silk rugs. Cotton rugs can last around 100 years. Nylon rugs and carpeting last almost 10 years. Lastly, viscose rayon can last between three and 10 years. If your viscose rug receives almost any amount of foot traffic and wear, expect it to last closer to three years.
If you’ve bought a machine made rug before, chances are you are familiar with viscose rayon. Even if you aren’t, viscose rayon is used in paper towels, kitchen sponges, diaper liners, and more. Though it is good for cleaning products, it is not an ideal fiber for rugs as they are exposed to foot traffic, moisture, spills, pet accidents, and dirt.
So, what exactly is viscose rayon? It is a fiber created out of regenerated cellulose. The plant pulp is heavily processed to impart shine. Also known as artificial or “art” silk, viscose rayon is often referred to by names which make the consumer believe they are being sold real silk. However, in actuality, they have been sold a rug made of what is essentially disposable paper. And it’s being sold at real silk prices!
It is not uncommon for customers to bring their brand new “silk” rug to Behnam Rugs for cleaning or appraisal. Unfortunately, when shopping abroad, many consumers are sold viscose rayon rugs and are told their rug is real silk. In particular, the individuals most likely to be tricked are visiting Turkey, China, or India, often as part of a cruise. By the time they are able to get a second opinion on these “real silk” rugs, it is too late and they have no way to get their money back. That’s why we recommend reading our blog about rug shopping abroad before purchasing a rug in a foreign country.
The best way to get reliable feedback about a rug’s materials and construction is to ask a rug cleaner. They are the one resource consumers can trust because they are not being paid commission for a sale and they have cleaned viscose rayon and know about its benefits and drawbacks. When it comes to silk fiber, consumers must be educated before making a purchase. Educate yourself by reading our blog about buying fine silk rugs.
Let’s discuss the viscose rayon creation process. Most commonly made in developing countries, viscose rayon is derived from cellulose. This material is liquefied in a chemical mixture which makes a substance that can be spun into fibers and then into thread. The thread is then woven to create the rug, usually by machine, as handmade rugs are typically made of wool or silk.
Something important to note is that Carbon Disulfide is used in the production process. The highly toxic nature of this compound and the risk of poisoning has caused concerns for worker safety. Improved technology has lowered the risks of working with this chemical and reduced the emissions of sulfur to air. However, the production process is still far from ideal. In fact, the production process is so toxic it’s banned in the U.S.
While viscose rayon is biodegradable, which is a positive trait, the production process is so wasteful it negates the eco-friendly biodegradable aspect. So while you will have purchased a rug that will degrade once you throw it out after a few years and professional cleanings, it’s not really better than a wool rug that will need far fewer cleanings and last over 100 years.
Consumers are being told lies and half-truths about viscose rayon. These claims include the following:
“Viscose rayon is a luxury material.”
While it is true that these rugs have a distinct appearance and feel, their sumptuousness quickly fades from everyday wear. They need regular grooming and are rapidly affected by foot traffic and minor soiling. They show each and every footprint. In very little time, the fibers lose color, sheen, and quality. Attempts to clean this material are often unsuccessful. Though these rugs may at first seem luxurious, you will begin thinking about a replacement within a few years. Essentially, viscose rugs are highly priced disposables. Many consumers are not informed or aware that these rugs last for only a few years before needing a replacement.
“Viscose rayon is simple to maintain.”
This is just not true. Because viscose rayon is made of regenerated cellulose, it cannot hide soil. Dirt from foot traffic and general dust in the home permeates the fibers, causing graying. In addition, foot traffic can cause shedding and breakage quite quickly. Small amounts of moisture from spills cause yellowing. Even a minor water spill can cause a permanent yellow stain and fiber damage. Cleaning up the spill only makes the soiling more obvious. Instead of spot cleaning yourself, trust the professionals to remove any spills or stains to avoid yellowing. Vacuuming can also damage the fibers and cause sprouting. Due to all of this, viscose rayon rugs require professional cleaning much more often than rugs made of other fibers. This is an added expense most consumers aren’t aware of or prepared for. Viscose rayon begins to look dirty quicker than any other rug material. In addition, folding these rugs for shipping or moving can cause unsightly and likely permanent creasing, crushing, and more.
“It’s good for the environment.”
While these rugs are indeed biodegradable, you are now aware that the creation process is toxic, wasteful, and dangerous. In addition, the rug will require many professional cleanings. A wool or silk rug that can last for centuries is a better choice, as viscose rayon rugs need to be replaced about every five years or so, increasing demand for these rugs and thus increasing the output of the far from ideal production process. This production process has been improved with newer technology but it is still quite harmful to the environment.
If you have purchased a viscose rayon rug, it is likely in need of professional cleaning. Make sure you work with a company that specializes in washing viscose rayon, like Behnam Rugs. We have been working with this fiber, as well as nylon, wool, silk, and cotton for over 40 years. Call 972-733-0400 to schedule professional hand washing.
Consider browsing our showroom for a replacement, as your viscose rayon rug will only last a few years. We carry thousands of handmade rugs constructed of materials that are much more ethically sourced and long-lasting than viscose rayon.
If you have purchased a viscose rug, place it somewhere it will not be walked on that is a low risk area for spills and stains. Consider using it as a wall hanging to maximize its lifespan. Now that you know the drawbacks to viscose rayon, we hope you feel more well-informed about the rug buying process. We highly recommend all new viscose silk rugs be sealed by a professional to protect them from spots and stains.