Cleaning & Restoration Association News

The Rug Cleaning Specialist: Road Map to Rug Identification


In past pre-cleaning inspection articles we discussed the potential to make costly mistakes when working with the expensive rugs of your clients.

Problems with rugs stem from their construction, dyes, after-market treatments, pre-existing conditions and the effects of cleaning on the texture of the face yarns.

Why Rug Identification is Important to the Rug Cleaner

  • Identify problem rugs: there's nothing impressive about a poor cleaning job or ruining a customer's rug.
  • Set yourself apart from your competition: anybody can not know rug identification. Does your company want to be just "anybody?"
  • By understanding construction, you can solve problems, anticipate potential problems and better advise your customers on cleaning and repair.
  • Customer service: the customer will look to you as the expert. Definition of expert: "very skillful; having much training and knowledge in a special field." Ask yourself, "Am I an expert in rug cleaning?"
  • It is important to learn to handle complaints in a constructive, knowledgeable manner resulting in your customers gaining confidence in you as their cleaner of fine textiles.
  • Superior knowledge is not a marketing gimmick. It will increase your bottom line and enhance your reputation.


Why Cleaners May be Afraid of Rug Identification

  • Most cleaners understand that rug identification is an important skill. However, they think it is difficult, so they try to operate under the misconception that rug identification is not necessary to operate a successful rug cleaning business. Rug identification is not easy, but it can be learned.
  • Ego: who among us is not afraid of failure? Confront your fears and jump in! We bet you'll find that rug identification can be fun as well as a challenge.
  • Some rug cleaning classes or training materials teach that rug identification is not important. You do not have to be able to tell the difference between a Hamadan and a Lillihan, both single-wefted rugs, to be a good cleaner; however, to be able to identify a hand-knotted from a machine-made rug, wool from cotton, and the myriad of potential cleaning problems, does require a certain level of rug identification skills. These skills will be developed and improved over time with effort, education and experience.

Remember, rug identification is a lifelong pursuit and even the "experts" can disagree on a rug's attribution.

Road Map to Rug Identification

On first inspection, determine the rug's construction. Is it hand- or machine-made? If it's machine-made, what type of construction is it? If it's hand-knotted, is the rug from Iran or from some other country? Pre-World War II rugs that you will see for cleaning are mostly from Iran, China, the Caucasus region, Turkmenistan or Turkey. In general terms, pre-World War II rugs from Iran have colors and designs that are harmonious and well conceived.

Rugs from pre-World War II China have typical Chinese designs and are easy to identify.

Most Turkish rugs made between 1900 and 1940 are either copies of Persian city rugs or are village pieces. The colors of the Persian copies miss the mark and their designs can be more simplistic and clumsy. Turkish village rugs are on a wool foundation and the colors are bolder and less harmonious.

Pre-World War II Caucasian and Turkoman rugs are generally 6-by-9 feet or smaller and on a wool foundation. Both types have geometric designs with many Turkoman rugs having linear rows of repeating guls.


Differences Between Hand-Knotted and Machine-Made Oriental Design Rugs

The key differences between a hand-knotted and a machine-made oriental design rug are:
  1. Look at the back of the rug. Warp yarns do not continuously run the length of a hand-knotted rug whereas they do run continuously in a machine-made rug.
  2. Looking at the back of the rug, a hand-knotted rug often shows the weft yarns while machine-made rugs do not.
  3. Many hand-knotted rugs will have a kelim between the pile and the fringe, while most machine-made will not.
  4. The fringe on hand-knotted rugs is a continuation of the warps while machine-made rugs will have fringe applied by machine.
  5. Looking at the sides, hand-made rugs are overcast or serged by hand while the sides of machine-made rugs are serged by a machine.
  6. Look at the back. If material is glued or sewn onto the back, the rug is most likely tufted.

Next time we will discuss the identification of hand-made rugs.

Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the new book "A Comprehensive Guide to Oriental and Specialty Rug Cleaning" available through ICS Magazine. Visit


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