Should I Choose Silk or Wool for a Rug?
It is never an easy decision to choose between silk and wool for a rug, especially when there are so many factors to consider. Listen to this podcast as Sam Presnell, owner of the Rug Gallery, makes your decision easier by breaking down the differences in appearances, clean-ability, durability, and prices.
John Maher: Welcome to the Rug Gallery with Sam Presnell. The Rug Gallery is an Oriental Rug Company and Carpet store in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m John Maher and I’m here with the owner of the Rug Gallery Sam Presnell. Hi Sam.
Sam Presnel: Hi John.
The Appearance of Silk and Wool Rugs
John: Sam, today we’re talking about silk and wool in rugs. What are the main differences in appearance between a silk and a wool rug?
Sam: The big difference, as far as looks, being that the silk has a very nice shiny appearance to it. I call it a moody rug in that, depending on the light source, if it’s a dreary day or a bright day or direct sunlight, it’s very reflective, it dances. The color is just changed from one end to the other drastically. If you look at the rug it has a little bit of a grain to — all rugs have grains to them. From the one side, it looks very dark and deep and rich, and the other side you swear that the design is totally gone off of it, so like it’s so reflective that the design is not as evident.
It’s a very interesting, I call moody, type of a fiber and very cool, very expensive, feels great. Wool is a little more scratchy — not always, but it doesn’t have that softness that you would find through a touch of silk and its colors are a little more flat or not as crisp as the…it doesn’t have the sheen to it that you would find through a silk rug.
Cleanability and Durability of Silk and Wool Rugs
John: What about cleanability and durability? What are the differences between silk and wool rugs in that regard?
Sam: Definitely durability, wool is far superior of a rug to use if it’s going to take a lot of traffic. I just have an old saying it goes well, can you use silk in high traffic? I said well, if you got the money and you can afford it, you can do anything. But it’s very expensive to buy silk it is it does perform but it’s not going to perform as well as a good wool rug would for sure.
John: Really good for the looks of it but maybe not the best for a high-traffic area, the silk rug.
Sam: I would not recommend it and then cost is usually prohibitive for most people to think that everyone is going to wipe their feet on it or they’re going to get dirty and had to clean them more often. I would say probably not and silk is durable but not as durable as wool.
John: What about the cleanability? Can you clean both silk and wool rugs?
Sam: Yes, you’ve got to know what the heck you’re doing when you clean silk. It’s a different fiber than wool and reacts differently when it gets wet and also when you dry it. Then I think a lot of times you can see where it gets very flat and lose some of its shine and it becomes very flattened feeling to it that you just think, well, I’ve lost all its appearance and things like that. It’s usually from the pH that was used in the detergent, how they cleaned it, how they dried it.
I think it’s something best when you can get a silk rug, a real silk rug or anything that looks like silk rug take it to a really professional guy who knows what he’s doing or they’re doing.
How to Shop for Wool and Silk Rugs
John: Is one superior to the other or is it really just a matter of choice?
Sam: I think to me wool is definitely superior as far as performance goes. As far as looks go, I love silk. If I could recommend anything, I’d love to sell all silk rugs to everybody, but nobody would know my name as far as the price goes. Usually a price of, just to put it in comparison, if you’re weaving that same knot in wool and weaving that same knot in silk. I would say you probably could at least double to quadruple the price of that same design for the same knot and the same colors.
John: What are some of the things that I should look for if I’m shopping for a wool rug?
Sam: As far as the quality of the wool, I think we’ve talked about this in previous podcasts, where you basically rub your hand over it really hard, like on your fingertips. Just try to make it come apart. And what happens is you’ll see a lot of shedding that comes out of wool. Wool is a hair, so if it’s a short staple, very short fibers put together, not spun tightly enough, it’ll start shedding and breaking down. Be wary of that. In high-traffic it’s going to shed. I mean, all wool rugs shed, just some shed worse than other ones because of the fiber that’s used and the ply and spin of it.
As far as wool goes, look for something that’s going to hold together. Now, that I’ve always said this and I mean this in the same words silk, is the same way. Not all wool or all silk rugs are the same. Wool is not wool there’s all different qualities their silk is exactly the same way, not all silk is the same.
John: Talking about silk rugs, are there things that I should be looking for if I’m looking for a silk rug to buy.
Sam: Well, I think that, again, you don’t know if you’re always getting the correct information. There’s no way of… there’s no stamp, or like diamonds and AIG type of approval or what kind of quality, color, clarity whatever. The best kind is Chinese silk. The best kind is also what we call mulberry silk and there’s all different kinds of we call first and seconds and thirds in silks. The first is always the best cut or the best quality and the most expensive.
A lot of times like I said people buy a silk rug they don’t realize it there is different qualities of silk and what makes difference between one silk being one price and also be another price a lot of time is the cost of the silk and the performance of that silk will be better on the higher quality.
John: All right that’s really great information Sam, thanks again for speaking with me today.
Sam: You’re welcome.
John: For more information about Sam, the Rug Gallery and Oriental Rugs and Carpets, visit ruggalleriescincy.com that’s rug gallery C-I-N-C-Y.com or call 513-793-9505. Make sure you catch the latest episodes by subscribing to this podcast on iTunes. If you could take the time to give us a review as well, we’d appreciate that. I’m John Maher, see you next time on The Rug Gallery.