FAQs

What is a handmade rug?

This is a rug made by tying individual knots around cotton, wool or silk warps which are strung on a loom. A large fine rug can have millions of knots and take more than a year to make. They are made row by row. After one row is completed a locking thread or weft is passed between the warp threads and beaten down to hold the row of knots in place.

What is the best type of rug?

There is no ‘best’ rug but hand knotted/handmade is generally better quality than anything else. Some are very very fine and made with silk and will be perfectly suited to a quiet part of the house or even hung on a wall to be admired as a work of art. Others will have 10 times fewer knots but have a really dense thick wool pile that will be far more hard wearing and practical for a busy sitting or TV room . It all depends on what you want to use it for and what you can afford. Much like buying a car. A Persian ( Iranian ) or Turkish handmade rug properly constructed using the best material is generally regarded as the best on the market. A good Afghan ‘Ersari’ will look very different but be equal in merit. There are thousands of different rug

What is a hand tufted rug?

These are made using a hand held tufting gun which fires knots into a cotton mesh backing to build up the design. These are then glued and covered with a backing to protect and hide the reverse of the rug. You will not see the design of the front on the back. Most hand tufted rugs are made for short term use and are very hard to clean properly as they cannot be wet cleaned due to the glued knots. Many ‘designer’ rugs are hand tufted and made to go with the fashion colours of the day so of course are dated when the designer palette changes. Buyer beware – they are often sold as ‘hand finished’ which is true but often wrongly construed as ‘handmade’.

What is a power loomed rug and how can I tell the difference between these and handmade?

These are machine made rugs and often have handmade rug designs . If you look at the back of the rug you will see that the design of the front is not clearly replicated as on a handmade. There will often be white lines running the length of the rug – on a handmade rug these will be running width wise and are the locking wefts. Belgian ‘Kashans’ and English Wilton and Axminster are the best known examples of power loomed rugs.`

Are vegetable dyed rugs better than chemical chrome dyed rugs?

There are ‘purists’ who like to think so but in reality modern chrome dyes are so advanced that very little arduously made and expensive vegetal ( vegetable and mineral ) dyes are made in the 21st Century. Vegetal dyes are most often used in Turkey where the production largely goes to North America where the consumer will pay more. The colours start life as intense tones which have a lovely depth and luminosity but which take quite some to mellow. Once this happens through the process of footfall and UV light the colours are wonderful. The best modern weaving using expensive chrome dyes will give this faded look immediately.

What sizes are available in handmade rugs?

There are handmade rugs sold as ‘mouse pads’ and there is one covering the floor of a mosque in Saudi Arabia almost the size of a football pitch! Rug sizes generally follow a mathematical formula of length in relation to width. It is the width of the loom that is restrictive – handmade rugs can be very long indeed ,especially when commissioned for a Palace corridor. The majority of handmade rugs are rectangular so sizes are as follows.

5’x3′ / 1.52x.91
6’x4′ / 1.83×1.22
7’x5′ / 2.13×1.52
8’x5’6” / 2.44×1.68
9’x6′ / 2.74×1.83
10’x8′ / 3.05×2.44
12’x9′ / 3.66×2.74
13’x10′ / 3.96×3.05
14’x10′ / 4.27×3.66
15’x12′ / 4.57×3.66
18’x12′ / 5.49×3.66

Sizes larger than this are readily available but there is an up charge per square metre due to the larger loom set up and handling difficulties.

What shapes are available?

There are round rugs made in all qualities but the majority will not be handmade. In the UK round handmade rugs are hard to source but when available will either be finer Persian such as ‘Nain’ or Afghan ‘Ziegler’ and in 6’/1.83 ,8′ / 2.44 and 10’/3.05 diameters. Oval rugs are available also but generally in lower quality handmade and hand tufted. Square rugs are made but are highly unusual in handmade.

There a plenty of long narrow hall runners to buy in the UK with widths being from 1’10” to 3’6” / .56 to 1.07 and lengths from 6′ / 1.83 to 16′ / 4.88. There are longer ones available but in smaller amounts. AS they age they can start to bend, especially if woven on a wool base.

Gallery (Kellye or Kelleghi ) rugs are made in hand knotted quality and are generally twice as long as wide.

Do I need an underlay or pad?

Not necessarily but most rug specialists recommend one. If your handmade rug is small and light and sitting on top of a wall to wall carpet then it will move ,which is annoying. We would recommend a thin slightly sticky pad cut to size to help anchor it. For larger rugs that are heavy enough to stay in one place, generally because they are anchored with furniture, you can use a pad to provide more bounce and comfort. This also helps protect the back of the knot from wear, especially on stone floors, and will allow the dirt to fall through to the floor below, therefore reducing the amount of abrasive particles at the base of the knot. This will help the longevity of your oriental carpets and rugs.

How do I clean a handmade oriental rug?

Not very often! You should vacuum the rug once a week using suction only, unless your pet or a child has brought inside surface dirt which has dried and needs the revolving brush to shift it. Powerful brush motion strips your rug and is not necessary as they are remarkably resilient to dirt because the wool is still naturally quite oily . These oils, lanolin, act like a natural protective treatment.

Rugs are NOT self cleaning but a heavily patterned handmade Persian rug will hide a multitude of sins! We recommend having your rugs washed or if silk or cotton, dry cleaned, once every five years. Please ask a rug specialist to do this for you as very often your local carpet cleaner will be clueless as to what they are dealing with. If you MUST do it yourself then vacuum it intensely , front and back, until no more loose dirt is in the pile, and scrub using pure soap flakes in cold water. Depending on the provenance of rug you may still experience colour bleeding, especially with a chrome red into cream. Consider this a warning!

DO NOT USE A RENTED ‘ALL PURPOSE’ MACHINE AS THE SOLUTION SUPPLIED WITH THEM IS TOO HARSH FOR RUGS OF ANY QUALITY.

Once finished brush the pile back down so it lies flat in the correct direction. Allow to dry naturally in sunshine, preferably on concrete or tarmac and raise up to allow air to circulate. If small enough hang it up to air dry in the wind.

However if you have spilled red wine, tea, coffee or children’ drinks (especially that very purple one ! ) call an expert immediately. This also goes for any kind of urine staining.

Does vinegar clean rugs?

No. Use pure soap or a dedicated rug soap.

I have heard beating a rug in the snow is a good way of cleaning. Is this true?

Another old wives tale. You can gently tap the back of a rug to loosen the dirt trapped at the base of the knot and of course any particles falling out show up very satisfyingly on virgin white snow. The snow is not a help at all in drawing out the dirt.

How do I clean a hand tufted rug?

Please do not try and clean these yourself as you should NOT make them wet at all. Have them dry cleaned by a specialist and if the price is too high throw it out and buy another!

How do I clean a power loomed or machine made rug?

Your local carpet cleaner should be able to manage these without charging too much. Do not pay more than £1Ft2 as it is no different from cleaning regular wall to wall carpet. The dyes are generally well fixed BUT make sure it is returned with the direction of the pile all lying in the same direction. Make sure they are fully insured for any mistakes and YOU take an image of the rug before they take it away.

Can rugs be restored?

One of the many advantages of a handmade rug is that it can be re-woven if there is damage through burning or chewing ( from your dog or cat, not your child !). If the side binding ( the selvedge ) starts to unravel or you lose any fringe ( which is an integral part of the rug ) then this can be rectified. If you get to it in time then the cost need not be too high but again the original purchase price and current replacement value needs to be taken into account.

Do you part exchange rugs?

At Larsen we always try and help our clients! Mostly we cannot part exchange as we carry no stock ourselves but will offer to place it in the best market for you. This may be your local auction house, e-Bay or the SALE section of our website.

What is a kilim or dhurrie?

These are what we call ‘flat weaves’ and have no pile – hence the name. A kilim is made from wool and a dhurrie from cotton. The wefts running across the rug are what makes the pattern so it is simply a warp and weft rug. No soft pile. These are now made in vast quantities and can be purchase very cheaply through places like IKEA. Do not try and use them on wall to wall carpet as they will move like crazy. On hard floors you will need a rug pad. There are some beautiful kilims on the market and they look fabulous on the wall, over the back of a sofa, as a decorative table cloth etc…….. Dhurries are more fragile, harder to clean and not generally as good looking or useful as kilims.

What is an Aubusson?

Aubusson were made in France for the royal court and nobility. See our Aubusson ( link ) page for a full description.

Can you steam clean Persian and Oriental Rugs?

No! Superheated water vapour is the last thing you should subject good quality unbleached wool to. It will strip the pile of any natural oils and break down the yarn fibre to leave it brittle and therefore much less durable. On many rugs it will also remove some of the depth of colour. Always use a professional qualified rug cleaner – a good place to start is to check the WoolSafe website at www.woolsafe.org. It goes without saying that a silk rug needs highly specialised treatment.

Can Persian and Oriental Rugs get wet?

Yes! Handmade rugs are generally made with a wool pile and a cotton base (warp and weft). They are soaked in running water after completion to remove excess debris and wool but are then thoroughly naturally dried in the sun. They are turned over regularly so the front and back receive equal amounts of warmth and this ensures both the pile and the base are completely dried out. However, it is often the case with lower quality rugs that you will experience some colour run (bleeding) if you over wet your rug at home. This is particularly obvious when a cream or white sit next to a red. Always dry your rug in a gently heated room – do not aim a fan blower at it – by either draping it fully or placing something underneath to allow the air to circulate. Keep brushing the pile to ensure it lifts back to normal height as if it dries matted and flat it may create a flat shiny spot.

It is vital with a Persian or Oriental rug woven on a wool base (warp and weft) that it is properly dried, as you may experience some changing of shape as the wool takes in the altered atmospheric properties. This is one of the reasons why you see out of shape rugs- particularly runners.

Can Persian and Oriental rugs be dry cleaned?

Unless your rug is silk there is no need to subject the natural unbleached wool to the chemicals of dry cleaning. Dry cleaning crystals often used by unqualified rug cleaners should be used only on a hand tufted rather than hand knotted rug as these are made with a glue that should be kept dry. Therefore, have your hand knotted rug wet cleaned as this is the most effective way to properly clean the surface and interior of the rug – the base of the knot and the warp and weft yarns.

How to store Persian and Oriental Rugs

Your Persian or Oriental rug is an amazing and simple example of human ingenuity. It will withstand much abuse and still give you decades of good service. However, it is best when being used as you are constantly walking on it and vacuuming it (you should be vacuuming the reverse every 6 months too). This disturbance prevents moths and carpet beetles from getting to work. So, when storing your rug please follow these steps.

  1. Have it professionally cleaned first. This will ensure that any nasties in your rug will be removed. Ask the rug cleaner to then roll the rug – they can be folded but if in storage for a long time will develop creases that take a while to ‘fall out’ when the rug is placed back flat on your floor.
  2. Request that the rug is wrapped in strong plastic and sealed. If particularly worried about where the rug is to be stored ask for some moth balls to be included or the moth spray applied.
  3. When you place in storage prick tiny holes in either end of the wrapping to allow a bit of air to circulate. Wool needs this to prevent it drying out and becoming brittle.
  4. Make sure that mice do not get at your rug so check on it regularly – especially important in home lofts or basements.

If you are simply storing under your bed for a short while you can ignore the initial cleaning and simply vacuum thoroughly front and back. However, always be mindful of your rug being eaten by moths and carpet beetles so do wrap it in plastic. Do not use a household sheet as this can be eaten through.

Are Persian and Oriental Rugs handmade?

Yes, they are handmade, but the correct term is hand knotted. Every single knot is tied by hand around two warp threads which are the longitudinal cotton, wool or silk threads that you see as the fringe at either end. A rug can take from 2 weeks to 2 years to make, depending on the knots per square metre or the size. However, be careful that what looks like a genuine hand knotted or handmade Persian or Oriental rug on the front will not always be what it seems. Always turn it over and see if the pattern on the front is the same as the back. If not, the rug has a Persian or Oriental design but is machine made.

How much do Persian or Oriental rugs cost?

How much does a car cost?! It all depends on the make and model. So it is with rugs which are made in many countries and with an astonishing number of designs, colours, materials and sizes. To use a 3×2 meter example – a loosely woven Persian tribal rug might be £1,000 ($1300) and a very fine Persian ‘Qom’ silk rug might be as much as £40,000 ($52,000). It is all very much subjective, particularly at the finer end of the market and price is set as whatever the seller thinks he can achieve. Do as much research and comparing as you can but is VERY rare that you can compare the exact same handmade Persian or Oriental rug with between two sellers. Branded rugs sold online is another matter. Bear in mind that what seems expensive to start will often give you far better service, clean and restore much better and most importantly give you much more pleasure than a cheaper version. However, the most expensive is not always the best rug for your needs so trust your preferred expert to advise you.

How to value Persian and Oriental rugs

Quite simply, it is impossible for the layperson to value a hand knotted Persian or Oriental rug. There are too many types of rugs of different ages and with differing values of importance to the collector, interior designer, commercial decorator or home maker. All the books about rugs cannot help you without handling hundreds of thousands of rugs over many years, knowing the fluctuating market values and having an insight into market forces. As always, find an expert you trust and ask their advice.

How to identify Persian and Oriental rugs

There are many books on the subject, most of which are overly complicated and useful only to the rug dealer or serious collector. These include Rugs and Carpets of the World by Ian Bennet and Oriental Carpet Design by P.R.J Ford. Two simpler books to read are Oriental Carpets by Jon Thompson and Rugs and Carpets: Techniques, Traditions and Designs by Andrew Middleton. The best visual book to determine your tastes is Oriental rugs- The Secrets Revealed by Mark Blackburn.

To start with the layperson should use three categories- City/Workshop, Village and Tribal rugs. This will instantly identify the most common types of rug available on the market and enable you to research the type best suited for your practical and decorative needs. The world of rugs is such a vast subject that it is pointless to offer you any further advice as it takes years or decades to fully understand all you need to know. As always, find an expert you like and trust and follow their advice. Remember that rugs are now made and copied in countries far from the original so a Persian ‘Kashan’ design from Iran will be a very different product than the same looking rug made in India. The surface appearance tells you nothing which is why buying on the internet is so risky. Take the time to investigate, shops, galleries and warehouse or have an expert visit your home to start the process.

If you simply want to know if the rug is hand knotted (handmade) turn it over and see if the design of the front is the same as the back. If it is not but there is some design outline showing, then it is machine made. If the back is plain and covered with a cotton or hessian backing it is hand tufted.

How old are Persian or Oriental rugs?

No one really knows when hand weaving of rugs first started. There is no written record and because of the nature of the art form the oldest examples have long since crumbled into dust. The earliest known wool weaving is in the Hermitage museum in Russia and this rug was discovered in 1949 in an ice entombed burial mound in the Pazyryk Valley of the Altai Mountains in Siberia. It has been dated to the 5thcentury BCE. The modern knowledge of rug weaving does not start until the appearance of ‘Turkey’ carpets in the paintings of Holbein dating from the mid 15th century and the wonderful rugs of the court of Shah Abbas at the same time in Persia.

Are Persian and Oriental rugs a good investment?

No, not often in the purely commercial sense. Unless you buy direct from the weavers or in the country of manufacture at their wholesale prices, or you go to a genuine auction house, the price you pay retail will take decades to be realised; and only if your rug is kept in perfect condition or has become so rare that is worth restoring.  A good quality hand knotted Persian or Oriental rug is a great investment in practical and decorative terms. It will last you a very long time, if properly looked after, and will give you plenty of colours from which to connect with your other room furnishings. Or it might be a plainer example that is solid and muted, anchoring the room. The better rugs are a true artisan product, made with sustainable materials, great skill and love which will provide much pleasure and practical service over decades. As such they are a super investment.

Are Persian and Oriental rugs out of style?

Yes and no! There is the fashion now of putting plainer monochrome or funky contemporary rugs on the floor. However, the market for traditional Persian and Oriental rugs is still strong. They are generally hand knotted and made with a blended wool pile which provides warmth and beauty. A traditional design with darker colours and plenty of pattern is the most practical rug for a busy room in which children play or wine and gravy might be spilled.

Ignore the magazines and the TV shows and simply furnish with what appeals to you most- and what will give the best all round service. A traditional Persian and Oriental rug looks fantastic as the centrepiece of a modern apartment just as a funky contemporary rug can look stunning in a Georgian sitting room. Be yourself!

What’s my Persian or Oriental rug worth?

This all depends on the circumstances. The replacement value for an irreparably damaged rug is whatever your insurance company will pay- so ensure you have it re-valued every 3 years to allow for current market forces. The value to simply sell a rug that you bought within the last 3 decades will be low- the market is flooded with rugs so ‘pre-loved’ rugs achieve low prices. NB. This does not include fine or antique rugs. If you want to trade in your rug against purchasing a new one you will either get a good price, which will be offset by the dealer in a high price for the replacement or a low price, which should be reflected in a much-reduced price for your replacement. Take into account the often-inflated initial ticket prices of many rug dealers! Much like the casino, the ‘house’ always wins! To have your rug valued it you should ask two experts; your local independent rug dealer as well as the local, or national, auction house expert. This should give you the correct median price but at the end of the day the price your rug is worth is whatever the buyer is willing to pay.

Who buys Persian or Oriental rugs?

Who buys retail or who buys them back? People who buy hand knotted Persian and Oriental rugs are those who can afford to. They often have a home or a desire for a certain upmarket look that demands the real things. Some buyers are regular folks who love rugs and make it the centrepiece of a simple room where they have not spent on expensive curtains and fabrics. They let the rug do ‘the talking’. Others have an interior designer who always puts genuine hand knotted rugs into their projects. A colourful and highly patterned Persian or Oriental rug gives the designer so many options on tones and motifs. Others are people who grew up surrounded by rugs and who cannot imagine a home without them. Others just want whatever the best is and hang the expense. As to who buys rugs- you can sell your rugs on eBay or other online marketplace sites- sell direct to a rug dealer or place into an auction house. Unless you have something old, rare or special it is often best to offer your old rug to a family member or friend as prices realised are mostly very low.

Why are Persian and Oriental rugs so famous?

Ever since paintings of interiors with rugs were made, most notably by Hans Holbein in the 15thcentury, rugs have been associated with luxury and practicality. Persian and Oriental rugs were used by the rich and powerful to show their spending power and aesthetic sensibilities. In the time before central heating, on stone or wooden floors, rugs provided both warmth and sound insulation as well as being intensely colourful and comfortable underfoot. They gained a reputation for longevity, with the added bonus of looking even better with age. Rugs were not only used on the floor- they were hung on walls as the first woollen wallpaper, as well as draped over tables, benches and beds. The Orient was a source of fascination to outsiders from the time of the Vikings and continues to this day- albeit with some ill-informed opinions about the people and culture it contains. Persian and Oriental rugs continue to be the absolute pinnacle of floor coverings as they are initially more expensive than other options, but provide many years, if not decades, of beauty, practicality and warmth.