Rug Fringe. What You Need To Know

Fringe.  People love it. Or they hate it. On some rugs, it’s short, so it’s not a bother. On others it’s L-O-N-G, and drives some rug owners nuts. (I’ve had more than one take scissors to them in frustration… and then discovered the costly error of their ways, which we will get to later in this blog. Just HIDE the scissors for now please.)

And for rug cleaners, fringe is the part of the rug they hate the most.

It’s the part that gets the filthiest, requires the most labor to clean, and makes a rug owner not happy with the cleaning job if it’s not perfectly white.

So let’s talk about fringe. What you need to know about those tassels, and the solutions to the most common fringe frustrations.

WHAT IS FRINGE?

On hand woven rugs, the fringe tassels are the WARPS of the rug. These are the strands that wool (or silk) pile knots are twisted and tied around to create that rug.

This means each single tassel strand (usually cotton) runs from one end  all the way through the middle of the rug to the opposite side. It is the skeleton of that rug.

Fringe in most cases has little or no significant impact on the value of a rug, because it is a byproduct of the weaving process. But if the fringe tassels untie, are torn, or wear off, the knots of the rug can begin to pull away and unravel, and this ABSOLUTELY has an impact on the value of the rug.

The decorative braid is sliding away from this Persian rug, the fringe is unraveling and wool knots are sliding away from the rug. This impacts the value if it continues to lose knots from the outer borders of the design..

If the rug is a machine woven rug, then the fringe will be added on after the fact, usually machine sewed on or glued on. So when the fringe on these rugs gets filthy, or damaged, it’s an easy choice – tear off the old and add on some new.

With hand woven rugs, where the fringe tassels are the foundation that the rug knots are tied around, it’s not that easy.  Fringe that gets torn by the vacuum cleaner, chewed off by the dog, or worn off from foot traffic, needs to be handled right away… and in the right way.

What does the owner of a “real” woven rug do when their fringe gets filthy and damaged?

Here are your options.

CLEAN THEM

Most rugs today are woven on a cotton foundation.  This is usually the part of the rug that spurs someone to get their rug cleaned, because it begins to look dingy on the fringe.

Wool is the best fiber for use in a rug because it “hides” dirt amazingly well. The fibers have layers of cuticles to hide dust and grit, and as it gets dirty it just begins to look dull.

But the COTTON is another story. Cotton has no place to hide soil, so it gets embedded, and ground into the strands.

I liken cleaning cotton fringe tassels to trying to clean heavily soiled shoelaces. There is no way to just spray on a solution that magically makes the soil disappear. You have to scrub, and scrub, and scrub it clean.

If a rug begins with super white fringe when it’s new, this means that fringe was strongly bleached white BEFORE it went to market for sale.

This whitening process makes the fringe look great at that time, but it comes at a cost. Bleaches and oxidizers (like hydrogen peroxide) do create chemical damage to the cotton fibers to create that “white” look, and it weakens them.

That damage may be slight, or may be severe, based on the strength of the solution – and whether there was already past damage that this is deteriorating even further.

When you have cotton fringes that easily break off when you tug a strand, this is a BIG warning sign of past chemical use.

Even with a gentle cleaning, fibers are going to break off, and you will not get those fringes looking fantastic without a thorough scrubbing. They cannot expect their rug cleaner to get that fringe clean when it is too fragile to do the job right.

So rug owners with this type of damage to their fringe may need to look at the other options to help clean up the look of worn/torn/weak fringe, while also ensuring that the base of those tassels do not tear away and result in their rug unraveling and coming apart.

Here are some options for your “Fringe Frustrations” when cleaning just is not enough:

FRINGE: CUT THEM SHORTER!

When fringe tassels are extremely long, sometimes they can simply be trimmed shorter to be less “in the way.” This makes them less likely to be grabbed by a vacuum cleaner, or snagged by shoes.

The problem with just cutting them as short as possible is that when these tassels are the warp foundation threads of the rug, this will lead to unraveling of the rug knots – and the loss of value. You want to cut them shorter, but not too short.