Carpets have become an essence of home décor for many years now and oriental rugs add that extra exquisite and unique touch to your home décor. Once upon a time, if you went to buy an oriental rug, it would definitely have been made from wool or silk. Authentic oriental rugs are still made from wool. However, there are many fake rugs out there and they're made from synthetic fibers.
Many people wonder about the differences between synthetic and wool rugs. The difference can be as clear as night and day.
How to tell if a rug is wool or synthetic?
Check the labeling or product information
If you have access to product information about the rug, check the label of the rug for material list. Generally the label is the back and at the bottom of the rug. If there is a label, it's most definitely synthetic since synthetic materials must be labeled as such. Handmade rugs are not labeled in this way.
Most wall-to-wall carpets are made from synthetic fibers and about 60% of this synthetic wall-to-wall carpeting is made out of nylon.
Consider the price
One of the obvious ways that differentiate wool or synthetic rug is the price difference. If you're paying a low price, it means you're purchasing a synthetic fiber rug manufactured on power looms, an automated machine. While wool rugs are expensive since they are hand-woven by artisans and are high quality, lasting for generations.
Back of the rug
Flip the rug over and look at the bottom side. Wool rug has its back a mirror design of top front meaning the front and the back has the same decorative design. In synthetic rugs, the back of the rug is plastic and is glued. Also because the back of the wool rugs are soft, they won't damage the flooring underneath but hard plastic backing of synthetic rugs can scratch your hardwood floors
Judge by feel
Another area where wool stands above competing materials is in the feel of the rug. Wool rugs are soft on both sides. Does it feel soft, almost buttery? If so, then it is most likely a wool rug. However, if it feels hard, scratchy and stiff, it's most likely made from a synthetic material.
The hundreds of knots tied to create the patterns and design make wool rugs that are hand-woven soft, silky and luxurious to the touch. Their pile is sturdy, and the rug can maintain its shape for many decades thanks to its natural spiral construction.
Synthetic rugs will also feel soft to the touch but only last for few weeks or may be months. Soon they will feel tough and plastic. The back is hard to the touch and the fringe is sewn on. These materials are budget-friendly are aesthetically pleasing for a short amount of time. Synthetic rugs can last up to 5 years with professional cleaning and aren't resilient to foot traffic to the point wool rugs are.
Snip and burn
If you own a rug and you're curious whether it's wool or synthetic, snip a few small strands from inconspicuous area. You only need a small fiber, don't cut too much. Take tem outdoors and pinch the strand with a pair of tweezers or paper clip. Light the fibers on fire using a lighter. Take note of how they burn and smell.
If the carpet fibers melt and stick to side of lighter, the carpet is a synthetic one and if the fibers burn and crumble, your carpet is a wool carpet. If the burning fiber smells like celery, it is nylon. If it smells like asphalt, it is olefin. If it smells sweet, it is polyester. If it smells like burning paper, it is rayon. If it smells like charred meat, it is acrylic. If it smells like burning hair, it is wool.
Making the choice
Though, at the end of the day, it's clearly a matter of personal taste and what material suits you and your lifestyle best! Each type offers certain set of advantages and incurs a range of disadvantages.