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About Oriental Rugs

By the strictest definition, Oriental rugs are carpets hand knotted only in Asia. Iran, China, India, Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, Tibet and Nepal are some of the biggest rug exporters. Persian rugs also are Oriental rugs but they are made only in Iran (formerly known as Persia). Characteristics of a Persian rug include an unusually thick pile (up to 160 knots per square inch), extremely rich color combinations and unique designs, and a very distinct knot. Persian carpets are traditionally known for their tremendous variety in design, color, size, and weave. Moreover, they are known for the uniqueness of each and every rug produced. Rugs are generally named after the village, town or district where they are woven or collected, or by the weaving tribe in the case of nomadic pieces.

The History of the Oriental Rug

The art of carpet weaving existed in Iran in ancient times, according to evidences and in the opinion of scientists, the 500 B.C. Pazyric carpet dating back to the Achaemenid period. The first documented evidence on the existence of Persian carpets came from Chinese texts dating back to the Sassanid period (224 - 641 CE).

Historical records show that the Achaemenian court of Cyrus the Great at Pasargade was decked with magnificent carpets. This was over 2500 years ago. Alexander II of Macedonia was said to have been dazzled by the carpets in the tomb area of Cyrus the Great at Pasargade.

The advanced weaving technique used in the Pazyryk carpet indicates a long history of evolution and experience in this art. Pazyryk carpet is considered as the oldest carpet in the world. Its central field is a deep red color and it has two wide borders, one depicting deer and the other Persian horseman. By the sixth century, Persian carpets of wool or silk were renowned in court circles throughout the Middle East.

The Making of an Oriental Rug


The natural dyes in an Oriental rug are derived from plant materials and insects such as indigo, madder, oak, sumac, pomegranate, cochineal and larkspur. Before the 1870s, they were the only source used to dye wool. Since the invention of synthetic dyes, there has been much debate about which type of dye produces a more beautiful and investment-worthy rug. Natural dyes tend to gently fade with time and therefore produce a much sought after patina.

Weaves and knots:

Most consumers know about "counting knots" to judge if the rug they are considering is of a high quality. Below you will find procedures to counting knots, but please be advised...The simple counting of knots is not a true test, but a guideline. The actual knot count needs to take into consideration the material used in the individual rug.

A consumer needs to take into count the entire carpet, the design, the dyes, the material used, as well as the emotional value they receive from a rug. If you purchase your carpet from a reputable dealer, then the only thing the average consumer need to know is if they appreciate the appearance of the carpet and if the carpet fits into their budget.

Knot density (knots per square inch) is an important indicator of rug quality. Most weaves are measured simply by counting the number of knots per linear inch along the warp (i.e., along the length of the rug) and the number of knots per linear inch along the weft (across the width of the rug) and multiplying to get the number of knots per square inch (or per sq. cm.). Unfortunately, this simple concept can be tricky to apply in practice.

How do you know when to count one bump on the back of the rug as one knot? It's easy... Look carefully at the individual areas of color across the width of the back of the rug. If you only see colored elements in pairs, you need to count each pair as one knot. If you see lots of single colored elements, the rug has offset warps and each element should be counted as one knot. Many country rugs from Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iran show both knot elements on the back of the rug, as do Bokharas from Pakistan. Most rugs from India and China have strongly offset warps, and so show only one knot element on the back of the rug.

In the Varanasi area of India, rugs are graded using two numbers, like "5/40," "9/60," or "12/60." The first number represents the knots in 9/10 of an inch of the rug's width. The second number represents the knots in 4 1/2 inches of the rug's length. 0.9" x 4.5" equals 4.05", almost four square inches, so an easy conversion is to multiply the two numbers together and divide by 4 (sq. in.) to get the approximate weave in knots per sq. in. For example, with a "9/60" quality rug, 9 X 60=540 and 540/4=135 knots per sq. in. Note that most rugs from India have strongly offset warps, so you will only see one element of the knot on the back of the rug.

In Pakistan, indicated qualities like "16/16" or "16/18" for rugs in Persian design represent the number of knots per linear inch across the warp and weft counted in the normal way. For example, a "16/18" quality Kashan has 16 X 18 weave, or about 288 knots per sq. in. Note that these rugs have strongly offset warps, so you will only see one element of the knot on the back of the rug.

So-called "double" Bokharas from Pakistan in qualities like "9/18," "10/20," "11/22," and "12/24" are different. In this type of rug, warps lie side-by-side and are not offset, so both elements of the knot show on the back of the rug. Be sure not to double-count the weave across the width when examining a Bokhara.

China uses a completely different nomenclature, with "line counts" like "70 line," "90 line," or "120 line." The line count equals the number of knots in a linear foot measured across the width of the rug. Thus a "90 line" rug has 90 knots per linear foot across its width. A "90 line" Chinese rug has about 56 knots per sq. in.; a "SINO-PERSIAN" (a Chinese rug in Persian design) in "160 line" quality has about 177 knots per sq. in.; a "240 line" rug has about 400 knots per sq. in. Chinese rugs have strongly offset warps, so you will only see one element of the knot on the back of the rug.

Rug Maintenance: The Correct Way to Care for Your Rug

Cleaning your Rugs
Keep The Dirt Outside!

To extend the life of your rugs, establish household habits like taking your shoes off inside or switching to house shoes. Be sure you have a doormat outside of all entryways and a small area rug inside to catch dirt and keep it away from your rugs.


Vacuuming is the most important way to care for your rugs. Not only does vacuuming remove surface dirt and debris, it also removes soil that has worked its way down into the rug fibers. Over time this dirt can wear down your rug from the inside, reducing its lifespan. Follow these tips on effective vacuuming:

  • Slow passes are more effective than quick passes for removing deep down dirt.
  • Many area rugs recommend keeping the beater bar off or in the highest setting when vacuuming. For those without that recommendation use the brush or beater bar to increase agitation and loosen the soil.
  • Multiple passes are important to remove as much unseen dirt as possible, especially in high traffic areas.

Woven rugs and rugs with open, woven or fabric backings can be flipped over and vacuumed from the back. This will help remove dirt and dust that has worked its way down into the rug fibers and backing.

Spot cleaning

Blot up spills right away, blotting liquid with a dry clean cloth will absorb it out of the fibers.

When solid spills are on top of the rug, use a cloth to pinch them up, work from the outside in, pulling it up and away from the rug. Do not rub or scrub, this pushes a stain into the fibers further.

To remove spots or residual stains, first try warm water on a clean cloth and dab the spot, press the cloth into the rug and allow time for it to absorb any residual stain. If more power is needed, next try diluted soapy water. Add just a few drops of detergent dissolved in warm water and use a clean cloth to dab this solution into the spots. Follow with dabbing warm water to remove any residual soap. Finally, blot with a clean dry cloth to remove as much moisture as possible.

If mild detergent isn’t strong enough for your stain, use a carpet cleaning product. Always test for colorfastness in an inconspicuous area. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for your rug and read the cleaning products instructions carefully. Use small amounts of cleaner, more product is not better and will simply make it more difficult to remove residual soap. Apply in small amounts from the outside of the stain inward, use a blotting technique only never scrubbing. Blot dry. Follow this by dabbing with clean water to remove residual cleaner, and finally blot dry.

Deep Cleaning

For periodic deep cleaning on larger rugs, especially those made from materials like wool, leather or natural grass fibers, professional care is recommended.

Additional Rug Care Tips:
  • Always use rug pads to extend the life of your rug, protect your floors, minimize movement and increase comfort.
  • Periodically rotate your rug for even wear.
  • Most rugs will hold their color longer if they are not exposed to direct sunlight.
  • If the corners of a rug start to roll up then back roll the rug to help flatten them back out.

Never use a beater bar on carpet fringe or long shag rugs.


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