Rug Construction & Sustainability Go Hand in Hand

Rugs are among the most versatile of all home furnishings. They are often used to help tie a room together. In larger spaces, rugs can help define smaller spaces within. They can even be used as a link between two rooms.

Selecting the perfect rug for a given space can be overwhelming with the seemingly endless array of sizes, shapes, colors, and textures. Let’s dive into the several different ways these rugs are manufactured, and what each method means for the longevity of the rug. The following methods of rug construction are listed from what produces the most sustainable rugs to the least.


The intricate, labor-intense construction of hand-knotted rugs produces a durability unmatched by most other floor coverings, making them one of the most sustainable options. Using a loom, one or more weavers carefully knot yarn around one or two columns of thread, known as warps. The ends of the knot create the pile, or the ‘face’, of the rug.

Finer yarns with more knots per square inch create a more defined pattern with enhanced durability, while looser weaves— often found in Oushak, Tibetan, and Soumak designs— produce a storied, artisanal look.

The fringe found at the top and bottom of knotted rugs are not only for aesthetic purposes as it also serves as the foundation of the rug. The fringe is knotted on either side to prevent the rug from unravelling.


Kilims, dhurries, and other flat woven rugs often have a casual and worldly ambience. Like their hand-knotted cousins, these rugs are produced by hand directly on a loom. This produces an extremely tight and long-wearing weave with a flat, low profile that won’t obstruct doorways or create a tripping hazard on hard flooring. Because they don’t have a backing, flat-weave rugs are reversible, but should be secured with a rug pad.


Woven by computer-controlled looms, machine-woven (sometimes called “power-loomed”) rugs often feature extremely precise designs, and are generally more affordable than hand-knotted ones.

The pile in these rugs is held in place by the weave and the pattern is visible from the back of the rug. While hand-knotted rugs feature knots wrapped around the warp yarns, most machine-woven rugs will have the pile yarns wrapped around the weft.

Karastan, now a division of Mohawk, is perhaps the best-known manufacturer of quality machine-woven rugs. Their invention of the Kara-Loc® loom spurred innovations in rug styles at prices that were more affordable.


Straddling the space between purely hand-made and machine-made, tufted rugs also deliver good value and interesting designs, though these rugs are not built to last for generations.

Hand-tufted rugs are produced by craftsmen who draw the designs on the canvas that becomes the rug’s anchor backing. They then apply the face yarn using a “tufting gun” to insert various colored yarns into the canvas. Lastly, a layer of latex is applied to the back, along with a secondary backing that helps anchor the stitches.

Hand-tufted rugs may be either “cut”, “loop”, or “cut and loop” finish. They also contain various pile heights to achieve a textured or sculpted effect.

Fiber is a Factor

Though construction plays an important role in the long-term durability and cleanability of rugs, the face fiber remains the most vital factor in the lifespan of a rug. The fibers summarized below are in order from most to least sustainable.

For more details on the pros and cons of individual fibers discussed in detail, visit our blog or Designers’ Corner!


Wool has many characteristics which make it a successful fiber for floor coverings. It is very resilient and tends to clean well. However, without a protective treatment, its stain resistance is considered only fair to poor.


Rating good in both resiliency and cleanability, nylon tends to have good stain resistance.


Known for its soft touch and luxurious shine, silk is rated fair for resiliency and stain resistance, but cleanability is good. Fading or yellowing can be an issue especially when exposed to sunlight.


Found most prominently in shag-style rugs, polyester is very stain resistant, but tends to attract and hold oily soils. Polyester cleans well, and its resiliency is fair.


Last on our short-list is rayon (aka, viscose, art silk, bamboo silk, etc.). Its gorgeous shine and soft touch make for a great install, but rayon is problematic in regard to maintenance. It grades poorly in resiliency, does not clean well, and has little to no stain resistance. Pile distortion/shading can be an unsightly problem. It is easily one of the least sustainable fibers.

How Fiber-Seal Can Help

No matter the construction or fiber makeup of your rugs, our local Fiber-Seal Service Center is on call for all things rug preservation and maintenance. Should you have any questions or comments pertaining to this article, or anything else fabric care/construction related, please do not hesitate to reach out!

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