Area Rugs: Are They Wool, Silk or Synthetic?

Wool, silk, or synthetic area rugs

So you have some space on your floor that you’d like to beautify and soften with area rugs. Perhaps you are uncertain whether to select will silk or some kind of synthetic rug. Many people inadvertently purchase the materials that they thought was silk or will when it actually is woven from a cheaper synthetic material.


oriental rugs are hand- woven from wool, silk or cotton

This is real photo of one of the great industries in the Middle East- hand- knotting of natural rugs


All area rugs are either machine made, handwoven or hand-knotted, or partially handwoven and partially machine woven and machine made. An Oriental rug by definition, must be 100% natural materials, and 100% hand-made.

Many area rugs these days are made out of some kind of rayon such as viscose, which is a synthetic silk typically used in cheaper rugs which are sometimes sold to people as silk.

Then there are many synthetic area rugs which have a pattern on the front which comes from typical Persian rug designs such as Kashan, Tabriz, or Heriz. These are not Oriental rugs. They simply have an Oriental rug pattern. They are typically made out of heat set polypropylene. This is also called olefin. Although it is durable it does not have the softness and luxury of wool.

Also, this type of fiber attracts soil and or oily residues from your shoes and feet. So, we feel that the natural fibers are superior to the synthetic fibers in the long run, even though the investment is typically substantially more. Buying an area rug is a “you get what you pay for”type of endeavor.

 Seek Information- Buyer beware

However, many area rug purchasers inadvertently buy a rug for a high dollar ticket price that they have problems with later. Sometimes this is because they thought that the rug was made out of silk when actually it is made out of a synthetic material made from natural sources. Some of these fibers are called things such as bamboo silk or banana silk because the pulp originally comes from those sources and then is processed in a factory with chemical processes.

We have found that these type of rugs are subject to permanent staining, which means that our customers bring us the rug after spots and spills have occurred but we have more frequent occurrences of permanent stains with these rugs.

However, any rug or carpet can have permanent stains that no one can get out. This is why you should be careful about foot traffic, and beverage spills or pet stains such as urine or vomit. If you get a spill or spot call A wool safe certified rug cleaner and ask for advice or professional service.

If you are concerned about that, ask your rug cleaner before purchasing about their recommendations. As a veteran rug cleaner, I often refer my clients to certain rug dealers and recommend certain styles and fibers. Also, we can provide a protective stain resistant finish to a new rug to prevent staining.

Some Area Rug tips:

  • Get a second opinion before buying an area rug. Sometimes interior designers are not familiar with the cleanability of certain fibers.
  • Beware of unscrupulous rug dealers. Some will subtly misrepresent area rugs as being “Oriental,” or “silk.” Go to a rug dealer who has a great reputation.
  • Get regular (every 2 years) cleaning a by a certified professional- should be listed with IICRC- (Institute Of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification) and/or Wool Safe