Why do Rugs Shed?

What causes a rug to shed?

If you have ever brought a rug that continues to shed, it often will become the blain of your life or a cause of many of your lint frustrations.

Sometimes shedding happens briefly with a new rug and stops after light vacuuming and everyday wear. However, if your rug is still shedding after six months, then there are probably two main factors causing this: 

Either the material or the make.

The Material or Fibre Used

The material used in rug manufacturing varies in quality, even in the selection of wool.
New Zealand wool is considered the best globally because of the investment over the last two centuries of knowledge and specific genetic breeding, producing long white stables of fleece, with the fleece fit for purpose. For example, a Merino fleece, which is a fine micron, will end up in clothing. Romney fleece classed as strong wool will be often woven into rugs, carpets or blankets.

If a rug is made from wool that is drier, the fibre is more brittle, and the rug will shed more. The highest quality wool with the highest lanolin content is New Zealand wool, and generally, less expensive and drier wool is from India.

Now wool from other places globally is often not supported with a long term investment in technology and genetics. This wool could also be impacted by pollutant contaminants, as the wool as a fleece is an absorbent breathing product, therefore pollutants are weakening the wool filament.
Another factor to be considered is where the sheep are reared; wool from sheep reared high in the mountains is used to weave rugs of a very high, durable quality. Wool from the sheep in lower lands tends to be coarser and of lesser quality. Also, these sheep in the lower land are sheered
more often, and the wool is left short. When the wool is short, adhesives are added to bring these short wool pieces together to create a yarn suitable for manufacturing purposes. Over time, the glue breaks down, and these little pieces begin to shed.

How the rug is made

The other major factor is how the rug was made.

There are many ways to make a rug, but these are the most common.

· Made by hand, like hand-knotted and hand-woven
· Manufactured with modern techniques, like machine-made and hand-tufted

Hand-made rugs are crafted from techniques that give structural integrity to pieces: hand-knotted rugs are made from hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of threads knotted to the rug’s cotton or wool foundation.

Hand-woven rugs are made by repeatedly passing a warp through the carpet’s weft. These techniques ensure that every part of the rug is integral to the rug’s structure and less likely to come apart.

Modern techniques allow for the mass production of rugs at an affordable price point. They include tufting either by hand or using pass tufting machine. In the tufting process, the wool tufts are shot through a plastic grid. These rugs need to be backed with glue or polymer to keep the tufts in place.

Machine-made rugs are made at incredible speed on either a face to face or jacquard loom. In this process both natural fibres or petroleum-based materials, fibre such as olefin (polypropylene), nylon, polyester, and acrylic can be used.

When you combine lower quality wool or synthetic materials with modern rug-making techniques, it is common for your rug to shed. The manufacture of this type of rug is based on a low-cost manufacturing process and is reflected in the end purchase price.

So how do you buy a rug that doesn’t shed?

1) Do your research about the fibre, understand its strengths and weaknesses of the fibre in the New Zealand environment.

2) Understand the process of manufacture and appreciate the costs of manufacture. ie low-cost wool, low cost of labour in places such as India equal low-cost products. Premium New Zealand wool combined with the high cost of labour, potentially manufactured in Belgium is a medium to high-cost product.

3) Where possible, buy a rug that identifies New Zealand wool has used. Because New Zealand strong wool is highly sorted after by reputable manufacturers globally, it is a good indicator of the quality of the rug manufacturing process. Therefore it will have the longevity to wear well in its environment.