Rug quality is based on a few factors. To truly determine the quality of a rug, you must feel it. Sam Presnell, owner of The Rug Gallery, offers a variety of tips for rug buyers to learn before making a big purchase. Listen or read more to find out how to tell what rug quality you're buying.
John Maher: Welcome to The Rug Gallery with Sam Presnell. The Rug Gallery is an oriental rug company and carpet store in Cincinnati, Ohio. I'm John Maher, and I'm here with the owner of the Rug Gallery, Sam Presnell. Hi, Sam.
Sam Presnell: Hi, John.
John: Sam, today our topic is how to tell what rug quality you're buying. What are some ways that rug buyers can spot good quality rugs?
Sam: Well, that's a great question. I always think a lot of people are very confused on how to tell what quality is. A lot people believe what they've heard or read, or maybe a salesperson has told them. Basically, what makes a good rug … and I don't care if it's carpet rugs, or even some people would wear upholstery, it's how good is the yarn that they're starting with to begin with. If it's wool, as I've said many, many times, not all wool is created equal. The same thing with synthetic fibers. Certain fibers are stronger and clean better, and it's more stain-resistant. Some will not perform and wear, and some will shed and peel, and things like that.
Basically, yarn is very, very important. What is good yarn? What is good wool? I always say a good way to find out if it's good wool is just rub it. Rub the heck out of it. Then in your hands, if you're getting a lot of little fuzzballs or fiber or lint from it, or whatever you want to call that, that usually means the fiber's breaking down, which means, probably, if your fingers could do that, can you imagine what your foot will do to it with a lot more power and a lot more persistence.
Basically, the less you get out of it, the shedding out of it, the better performance. If it's very soft to touch and very mushy when you put your fingers into it, and your fingers sink into the back, it doesn't have density. You're not going to be able to get the performance out of that carpet. It's going to lay down more. Especially with traffic and those traffic lanes, you're going to see those … they're piled directional, that pile is are going to start laying down from the traffic. You'll see that it'll look different in the traffic lanes as opposed to the rug side that doesn't get walked on. Density is very important, yarn is very important. Those are two most important things. Then, quality is also subjective to how well they put the colors together as well. How complementary are they, how they shaded, things of that nature.
Tips and Tricks to Spot a Low-Quality Rug
John: Are there some tips or tricks on how to spot a lower quality rug?
Sam: Again, I think the big trick today is that a lot of people are using synthetic fibers, especially viscose. They call it bamboo silk, they call it tencel, they call it rayon. They call it viscose. It's basically the same fiber. It's basically a pulp-made fiber that really shines like silk, feels so soft, and you just love it. It feels like a rabbit coat or whatever … you just love to touch it. It looks gorgeous and very silky. It's just a great-feeling fiber, but it just doesn't form. Stay away from that if you want to see a lower quality. Viscose, a little bit in there is fine but try to stay away from too much viscose. If it is, you need something very dense and very low profile, and something that's been washed several times in order to allow it so it won't stain and things like that.
Those are good points to spot in lower quality. It's just what's in it and then the wool. Like I said, rubbing your hand on it. If it breaks down and sheds, at that point you pretty well be assured it's not a high-quality yarn that's going to perform in traffic.
Machine-Made Rug vs. Handmade Rug Quality
John: Can you talk a little bit about the quality of a machine-made rug versus a handmade rug, and maybe how to spot the difference?
Sam: Well, that's very difficult to do as far as spotting the difference. A lot of people can't really tell the difference. I always say, there are some rugs that are so well made by machine that they look like handmade. It'd be very easy to not be able to spot it. There's a perfection that goes on in machine made. Again, it's done by machine, but a machine can also be computerized or set up to loom in mistakes. They make rugs just like authentic hand-knotted rugs are.
I've got something to tell you because it's so exciting. This last trip up to Turkey … there was a company out there that was printing antique rugs on a polyester-chenille base. It's basically a printing. They printed in the worn spots, they printed in the color change, the abrash. They printed a $20,000 antique rug. You would swear at 10 feet that that's exactly what it is until you get on top and you're like, "What the heck?"
It's amazing what can be done today in carpets and rugs that can really look like high-quality rugs and be very inexpensive and not going to perform. It's a very challenging thing in spotting quality sometimes. The best thing to do is get there and feel and touch as much as you can and you'll see that. A lot times if you own one and it's not performing, that's probably a good one to stay away from next time and try to improve what you're doing.
John: With that printing technique that you were just talking about, are they making a rug ahead of time that doesn't have color on it and then they're adding color to it?
Sam: Yes. It's basically, textile like upholstery material. Like a chenille. Chenille has a little bit of a fuzzy top to it. It's like a flat worn piece of fabric that has a little bit of a fuzzy top to it, like a pile to it. It's very soft and they're very short-piled. I'll tell you, I love them. I think if you've found them on the internet, you'd look at that rug, you'd want that rug. That's inexpensive, you can buy a 5 by 8 for, I would think easily less than $2,000.
Benefits to Spending More for a High-Quality Rug
John: Obviously, cost is a factor to some people. They might be tempted to just buy a lower cost rug just because it's what they could afford. Can you talk a little bit about the benefits of maybe spending a little extra money and purchasing a higher quality rug?
Sam: Yes. I think it's like everything you buy. Price has a lot to do with the quality of it. Sometimes there are really great deals out there for one reason or another, liquidation or overstock, or whatever it may be, but 90% of the time you can perceive a quality of a product by what you pay for it. As the old saying goes, "You get what you pay for." That's very, very true in textiles and rugs. If you want performance, that's something you have to be careful of.
Definitely, the better the yarn, the better it's going to perform. The denser it's woven, the more of yarn that's in it, the more time it takes to make, the more expensive it'll be. If you're talking about something that's polyester, you're talking about something that's nylon, you talk about something that's wool, you talk about something's blended with wool.
All those things can change a price point. I would say if you start looking at things, start reading more, it is polyester. Well, polyester's not really going to perform. It's going to be a really great looking product that's not really made for high traffic or tough areas, unless you really want to throw a rug away after a couple of years. It's not worth even cleaning at that point. Nylon's a lot tougher and stronger than any fiber out there, but it's going to be more expensive than polyester.
Then there's polypropylene which is a really nice fiber, but it's going to be less expensive than nylon. Wool will be, not always, but in most cases be more expensive than a nylon product would. Price points will differ from the materials that are used into it, and then it's all about density, number of colors, the backing that's used, the fringing that's used. All those things play into the price of a product. You can't always judge by price, but I would say most times you should be assured the more you spend that you're getting a better piece.
John: All right, that's great information, Sam. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Sam: All right, John, you're very welcome.
John: For more information about Sam, The Rug Gallery, and oriental rugs and carpets, visit RugGalleryCincy.com. That's ruggalleryC-I-N-C-Y.com or call 513-793-9505. Make sure you catch the latest episodes by subscribing to this podcast on iTunes, and if you take the time to give us a review on iTunes as well, we would appreciate that. I'm John Maher, see you next time on The Rug Gallery.