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Real SilkReal silk is produced as the cocoon covering of the silkworm, the pupal form of the Asian or mulberry silk moth, bombyx mori. The cocoon is spun by the silk moth caterpillar of a single silk fiber that can be up to several thousand feet in length. To harvest the silk, completed cocoons are boiled or heated to kill the silkworms, then laboriously unwound into single fibers which are plied together and spun into thread or silk yarn.Silk is extremely high in tensile strength, exceeding that of nylon. It has been estimated that if a single silk fiber with the diameter of a pencil could be produced, the fiber could lift a 747 aircraft (who figures these things out, anyway?). Silk is used to make Oriental rugs because dyed silk is a fiber with rich, saturated colors, and a distinctive, almost translucent luster. We clean silk!: Oriental rug cleaning in Boulder CO.
Artificial SilkArtificial silk is everything billed as silk that doesn't come from the silkworm cocoon. Most often this means mercerized cotton; sometimes it means a manufactured fiber like rayon or a blend of chemically altered and/or manufactured fibers. It's not that artificial silk is intrinsically evil, it's just that the whole point of using artificial silk in a rug is to save the cost of real silk. I have gone to client’s homes to pick up a rug for washing that I was told over the phone was silk. And many times I have been fooled by the appearance. It looks like silk. It has a thin weave. The client claims they paid thousands for it. We were all fooled. By clipping a single thin fiber and burning it with a lighter, it immediately proven by the resulting ash and odor of the smoke, that it is COTTON! It’s not nice when a rug seller claims a rug is silk when it’s cotton and downright awful and criminal when he charges for silk.
Mercerized cottonA ripening cotton ball can contain as many as 5,000 separate cotton fibers, each fiber growing from a tiny seed and formed as a hollow cylindrical sheath of as many as thirty layers of almost pure cellulose. Cotton fiber is mercerized by being stretched under controlled tension at room temperature while being treated with a 21%-23% solution of caustic soda (NaOH). The effect is to swell the fiber and make its surface much more reflective, thus dramatically increasing its luster (and also its tensile strength). After the chemical treatment, cotton yarn is often singed to remove whatever small amount of fuzz remains on the surface of the fibers. Sometimes cotton is calendered by being passed between heated rollers. The effect is to increase the luster and sheen of the fiber still more. Cotton rugs need to be washed! Try us: Oriental rug cleaning in Boulder CO.
RayonLike cotton, rayon is made of almost pure cellulose, but rather than being grown, rayon is produced by first dissolving cellulose (obtained from cotton or woodpulp) to produce a thick yellow liquid called viscose. The viscose is extruded through tiny holes into a chemical bath that produces long filaments which can be spun into thread and yarn. Viscouse rayon was the first man-made fiber. In 1920, DuPont bought from the French the technology for making viscose rayon. DuPont first called the material "artificial silk", and formed a company (The DuPont Fibersilk Company) to manufacture it. Other artificial fibers would follow quickly: acetate (also derived from cellulose) in 1924, nylon, (commonly, adipic acid reacted with hexamethylene diamine) in 1939, acrylic (from acrylonitrile, a petrochemical) in 1950, polyester in 1953, and triacetate in 1954. Rayon or a Viscose rug is hew worst thing ever invented! I cannot be cleaned and falls apart quickly under consistent foot traffic. It’s a throw away rug- after a few years, just throw it away. Never pay more than a hundred dollars for a large Viscose. It’s trash!
Burn test! This test can be helpful when doubt creeps in at the time of purchase. Clip off a small piece of the fringe, or pull a knot out of the rug from the back. Burn it. Look at the ash and smell the smoke. If the material was cellulose (rayon), the ash should be soft and chalky, and the smell should be like burning paper (most paper is made of cellulose). If the sample is real silk, the burning sample should ball to a black, crispy ash, and the smell should be of burning hair (you're burning protein, the same stuff your hair is made of). You've got to be a little careful with this test to avoid smelling the smoke from the match (and to avoid igniting your home or the rug dealer's shop). NEVER ever by a silk rug without this test being done by you or the rug seller!