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Contemporary Chinese RugContemporary Chinese Rug

Contemporary Chinese Rugs are those handwoven rugs produced in China in the last quarter of the last century. They are very common in homes today and we often see them in our rug cleaning plant at ABC.

They are sometimes called ‘sculpted Chinese wool’ rugs because of the tool used around the floral designs. They are also referred to by their knot count as 60-line, 90-line, 120-line, etc. They are generally thick, heavy, deep-piled rugs in a variety of colors and motifs and will have large and pristine white fringes at both ends.

When new, they can be quite beautiful to look at and walk on but there are some serious concerns unique to their construction that need to be pointed out when it comes time to clean them or if you see one on sale and would like to know more about it.


Chemical washing, usually with a solution using chlorine bleach, is a common procedure used to dissolve the wool fiber cuticles in a rug in order to produce some desired textile effects. This process helps to make the wool reflect more light so that it gives the rug more of a silky look and feel. It also helps to mute the colors so it is more appealing to the eye. It also softens the feel of the wool so that it feels smooth rather than scratchy.

Light treatments of chemical washing can create some of these desired results. Aggressive treatments can create a lot of damage and it is important to remember that this type of treatment ALWAYS causes SOME damage to the fibers. It is just a matter of how much.

Sometimes the damage does not become apparent until the rug is cleaned. At ABC, we always thoroughly inspect rugs before cleaning to make our customers aware of possible problems that could occur because of the particular construction of any rug, especially these contemporary Chinese rugs.

One plus about the Chinese rugs from this era is that the normal worry about 'dye bleeding' is lessened considerably by the prior chemical washing (as well as by having been around long enough to have already been washed a few times).


These contemporary Chinese rugs are extremely sun-sensitive and will fade. How much the colors will fade depends on how much the fibers were damaged with the initial chemical wash. They cannot be put out in the sun to dry or be cleaned with high temperatures as this will make the fading occur faster. Even in a fully dry state, these rugs will fade with direct sunlight. To minimize this, the rugs should always be rotated annually to even up fade and wear.

To check for fading before any cleaning or purchase, just flip over half of the rug onto itself to compare the back and front colors. Since the back side of the rug has had no environmental exposure, those colors will be more true to the original. It is also recommended to ‘grin’ the fibers on the front side to compare the tops of the fibers to the roots. There you will see the difference between the color vibrancy at the top tips versus the colors at the base of the fibers.

Back of Contemporary Chinese RugBack of Contemporary Chinese Rug

Another procedure to check out these contemporary Chinese rugs is to walk around the rug to note the difference between light and dark. All rugs have a light and a dark direction, depending on if you are looking into the grain of the face fibers or looking with the grain. With these particular rugs, the difference between light and dark is extremely noticeable.


Spotting Damage on Chinese RugSpotting Damage on Chinese Rug

Contemporary Chinese rugs are very sensitive to spotting solutions since the fibers are already deteriorated from the chemical treatments used on them by the manufacturers. Pet urine goes on hot and acidic and can either create permanent staining or a loss of original dye color in the affected areas.

In truth, the options for stain removal on these particular rugs are very limited and there is always the likelihood of making the stained areas worse. We would advise our customers to stay away from buying any of these rugs that have any staining. Just assume that all of the stains are permanent.


Contemporary Chinese Rug FringeContemporary Chinese Rug Fringe

The fringe on these rugs is often rotten. The kelim (straight edge before the fringes) may also be rotten. This will be obvious if you were to grab a single tassel and give it a tug and find it and possibly some of the kelim pulls off easily.

The chemical treatment used on these rugs tends to yellow the cotton fringe as well as any kelim ends. So to make them white again, an aggressive whitening treatment (with hydrogen peroxide ) is applied in China. This deteriorates the fringe, resulting in yellowing with age, rotten kelim ends that can tear, and fringe tassels that untwist and pull away easily.

The best solution to bad fringe is to replace it. Fringe replacement on Chinese rugs is one of our more common repair services at ABC.


On many hand-woven rugs, the foundation cords, the white weft (side to side ) and warp (up and down) can be seen on the back. But modern Chinese rugs are so tightly knotted that you do not see any white foundation threads at all. This is what is called a ‘closed back’ weave. These cotton foundation threads are very thick which is what contributes to the stiff feel the rug has.

Cotton is a very absorbent fiber and anything coming from the top or the bottom of these rugs will absorb through the wool knots and get trapped within those inner cotton foundation fibers damaging them. Also, because of the tight weave, serious damage from the back may not make itself visible on the front. Rotten areas, such as from longtime pet urine exposure, may still have face fibers intact on the front which might pull away during a cleaning.


Rugs are like people in that damage done in their younger years becomes more and more visible with time. These rugs are no different. But if you know what to expect and the key dangers to look for, you will be able to make an informed decision about purchasing one or having one you already own cleaned.

We at ABC can help. Please call or text us at 607-272-1566 with any questions. You can also email us at Or feel free to bring any rug to our plant for a thorough inspection.

Please note: Information for this article was used with permission from the

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Oriental and Area Rug Washing at ABC Oriental Rug 

Rugs on the wash floor are gently scrubbed before thorough rinsing.

Gentle scrubbing continues. Note the wringer in the background-the next step in the washing process after rinsing.

After thorough rinsing, the rug is sent slowly and carefully through the wringer to take out as much of the water as possible before being hung on racks in the drying room. 

Rugs are hung on a rack in the temperature controlled drying room until completely dry.