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How to tell a high-quality rug from a cheap one

By LLM Reporters on 10th December 2020

When it comes to creating a luxury feel in your home, only the finest quality will do – and everything from your sofa to your chandeliers should be as well-made and durable as they are beautiful. Often, however, it can be difficult to determine just how high-quality an item is at first glance, so it pays to be armed with the knowledge when shopping the ensure that you’re getting the very best.

Large living room or bedroom rugs are a great way to add warmth to a room, and often require a reasonable investment – but they also happen to be one of the most difficult items to assess for quality if you’re new to interior design. If you’re looking to buy an antique rug, how can you be sure of its origins – and does that silk rug really have silk in it, or has it been made from mercerised cotton – a cheaper imitation – instead?

The rug you choose to complete your home with will likely stay with you for years to come – so we’ve pulled together some simple tips to make sure you’re getting the very best money can buy.

Where to buy

Ten years ago, you could buy a woven rug only from a gallery – but nowadays, they’re everywhere, and their quality differs from one provider to another

Ten years ago, you could buy a woven rug only from a gallery – but nowadays, they’re everywhere, and their quality differs from one provider to another.

Because synthetic rug manufacturers have moved into the market and improved their techniques, they can now make a low-quality rug look like a fine one, so it’s challenging to tell the difference if you lack education in the domain.

As with most things in life, however, you get what you pay for – so if the price looks suspiciously low then be wary. To avoid such situations, ensure that you always shop at reputable high-end and designer stores. You can also pick up some beautiful pieces at antique stores, but this does require you to be a little more careful to ensure that what you purchase is worth the money you’re going to pay.

Specialist stores such as Lawrence of La Brea should be your first port of call for premium quality textiles as, with a reputation that precedes them, they have a long history in providing the very finest products, and will be able to make you some specific recommendations to suit your home.

When you’re looking for a rug with great character or a particular hue, check rug galleries that sell only hand-woven oriental rugs. At places like this, you’ll be able to find both new and antique textiles, offering you a broad selection to choose from and an increased likelihood of finding your dream rug.

Ask your local rug cleaners to recommend you a gallery that sells good rugs. They see hundreds of rugs weekly and can tell a quality rug from a cheap one at little more than a glance. You can also find top-notch rugs in furniture and flooring stores, but make sure to check the textiles’ quality yourself to be certain of what you’re getting.

Appearance, fibre, and shape

The quality of any rug comes down to two things: the skill, and the materials that went into crafting it

The quality of any rug comes down to two things: the skill, and the materials that went into crafting it. So, checking the dyes and fibres used and determining what manufacturing or weaving process was used will set you on the right path to assessing your options.

Every interior designer will tell you that the best rug fibres are wool ones, because they’re strong, resilient, and vibrant. Cheap rugs are made from synthetic fibres like olefin, polyester, acrylic or nylon – and you’ll be able to tell by the rougher feel.

Wool, on the other hand, feels great to the touch and will feel even better when you’re walking on it barefoot at home. It also masks dust for those in-between vacuuming days – which frankly, is always a bonus.

Although some eco-friendly activists believe that wool isn’t a green fabric, it is, in fact, the only true green choice because it’s a sustainable resource. Synthetic alternative solutions are made from petroleum products because they’re mainly plastic.

Even so, some wools are of inferior quality, which can be spotted by touching the textiles. Inferior wools will feel more brittle and shed and break over time – so if you’re preparing to splurge on a beautiful rug for your home that will last, then it’s something to look out for.

When you rub your fingers over the carpet, check if it feels smooth but firm or more like a straw. Wool sheared from inferior breed sheep or dead or ill animals is more brittle. Some manufacturers also use heavy chemical processing during production that can make the wool look and feel lifeless, so bear this in mind when shopping.

If you’re keen to explore another high-quality alternative, but it’s pricier than wool. This is where most people get scammed because they purchase inferior silk blended with synthetic fibres. A high-quality rug has a thin pile, vibrant hues, and a high knot count.

Another way to tell a fine rug from a low-quality one is from the irregularities that appear in the textile. Even the best pieces will feature some irregularities, but when the product has different or uneven sides, it’s a sign of sloppy manufacturing and should be avoided. Well-crafted rugs lay flat and evenly on the floor because they have even sides and straight edges.

Colour and hue

You can tell a cheaply made carpet from a good one from its colour

You can tell a cheaply made carpet from a good one from its colour. If it’s too bright or shiny, the manufacturer may have used heavy chemical processing to obtain the bold colour. Good rugs are painted with colourfast dyes, and although you cannot check the dye stability in the gallery, you can instead turn it over and check the underside for visible dye migration, or use a damp handkerchief to identify any migrated colour (reputable stores will allow you to do this without question).

If there’s only a slight mark on your handkerchief, the manufacturer used a strong dye that can stand hot water cleaning, making it a good choice for your luxury home and one that will last for years to come. Low-quality rugs, on the other hand, are coloured with fugitive dyes which, if you spill water or other liquids on them, will immediately bleed. Sometimes the dyes are low-quality, but mostly, the fibres have excess paint in them because they were not thoroughly rinsed at the time of manufacture.

So, be sure to always look at the rug and test it with a damp handkerchief before purchasing it, as this is the ultimate test.

Purchasing a high-quality rug starts with finding a reliable provider, so opt for a high-end interior design store that is known for producing premium quality textiles, and you won’t go far wrong. But, should you have your heart set on an antique piece, then you have all the tips and tools you need to make the right choice, and bring home a show-stopping addition to your home.