Before Washing Silk Rugs in Boulder, CO, Know This.

Before Washing Your Silk Rug, Know This.

By Aaron Groseclose, ICS Magazine. For more articles like this, go to

Silk has been woven into tapestries, rugs, fine fabrics and accessories for over 4,000 years. Sericulture (the cultivation of silkworms for silk) has remained virtually unchanged over the centuries.

Silkworms are actually caterpillars, with Bombyx mori the most common. It is raised domestically and feeds on the leaves of the mulberry tree. The silkworm will spin a cocoon (See Image 1) to go through the transformation from the pupa state to emerge as a moth. However, the cultivated silk process does not let the moth emerge from the cocoon as they are steamed to kill the pupa. This keeps cultivated silk as a continuous fiber. The fiber of one cocoon can be up to 3,000 feet, or 900 meters. The cocoons are then immersed in boiling water (See Image 2) to remove the sericin (a gummy-like substance that hold the cocoon together) then reeled on to bobbins (See Image 3). The silk is spun into yarns or threads for weaving into fabric or making a hand-knotted rug (See Image 4).

A lot has changed in the silk rug market since this topic was last looked at, which was all the way back in the September 1999 issue of ICS. Due to the high labor cost of producing silk, China and Turkey have substantially decreased the amount of hand-knotted silk rugs. Egypt, due to the recent political upheave, has all but disappeared from the market along with Kashmir. Some silk production continues in Thailand, but not rug weaving. 

Persian silks have been woven for decades with some of the best from Tabriz, Heriz, Kashan and Kirman. Recently, the main production is in the city of Qum. Quality varies to a surprising degree and each rug should be examined for workmanship, fineness of knotting, design and stability of dyes.

The colors of Qum rugs are rather limited, with dark blue, pale gold, salmon pink, ivory, green and brown as the main colors. Patterns will vary from prayer rugs and hunting carpets to medallion designs. Sizes vary from 30” x 20” to 12’ x 9’.

Persian silk rugs found in the U.S. would have been imported before the current embargo that began in September 2010. Prices of silk rugs in Iran (and the U.S.) have skyrocketed due to local and international demand. A Qum dozar (a rug about 6’ x 4’) in good condition will retail anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000. At $300 per square foot, you do not want to have problems when washing a silk rug.

So what should you do about cleaning your silk rug? Silks are tricky to clean, and with values going up, “mistakes” are more expensive than ever. My advice is simple - don’t clean silks unless you’re absolutely sure you know what you’re doing. I receive about 3 to 4 calls a month regarding damaged silk rugs from improper cleaning.  If you do not know your rug ID and can’t tell a Qum from a Tabriz, you should not be cleaning a Qum or Tabriz. Cleaning silk rugs is more than just knowing the fiber.

Instead, find an established rug cleaning plant where you can bring your silk rugs. At Cleancare of Boulder, we have some of the most experienced rug washers in the country caring for our client's rugs. And we offer FREE pick-up and delivery back to your home.


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