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Rug with Tea WashingRug with Tea Washing (fringes losing brownish dye)

Tea washing of rugs, also called henna washing, or antiquing, can commonly be found in today’s marketplace, especially with oriental rugs. When people look for a beautiful area rug to grace their home or business, tea washing is an effect that is very inviting.

Tea washed rugs are purposely over dyed with a brown, gold, or greenish dye or treated with a chemical to create the effect of making it look older, or to mute the colors to give it a softer look.

But Buyer Beware! Rugs that have an application of tea washing can come with several built-in problems. A wise consumer should learn to recognize a rug that has been subjected to tea washing and be aware of these problems before buying or having the rug cleaned.


  • The chemicals used to tea wash a rug can harbor a really bad odor.
  • It is always possible that some people will be sensitive to the chemicals used.
  • Most importantly…tea washing is not permanent! The treatment will wear off or wash off over time and it will definitely wear off unevenly.


Although traditionally the tea washing procedure was done by packing rugs in tea leaves, today the process is much different utilizing chemicals or dye treatments to get the same effect.

Rugs will either be soaked or dipped in a chemical or a dye solution or a solution can be sprayed onto the rug. The different application methods, no matter the quality of the materials or how well it is done will affect the way the rug will look when it starts to lose the tea washing treatment.

In a professional rug washing plant like ABC, even the most gentle method of cleaning can remove some of the treatment. Rugs with cotton fringe will lose the tea wash more quickly from the fringe than from the body of the rug.

It is certain that all tea washing will be lost over time from washing, wear, or fading. Unfortunately, there is nothing that anyone can do to prevent this from happening. This is the main reason the consumer or rug owner should learn to recognize tea washed rugs and be aware of the inherent problems.


If you are buying a rug that you suspect may have been tea washed, make sure to test the dyes and look closely at the designs on both the front and back for any damage. Tea washing is often used by unscrupulous sellers to cover up previous damage to a rug. Rugs with urine or color bleeding stains will very likely lose the tea washing significantly in the affected areas.

If a previous owner has tried to remove spots or stains, it is important to realize that over-the-counter household spot removers are usually too aggressive for wool face yarns and will most likely take some amount of the tea washing treatment off.

If the application of tea washing was a bad one, there will bound to be blotchy fringes. If the overdye has begun to wear off or wash off, the original white of the fringes will begin to become visible. The field (center) of the rug may also have become blotchy from previous cleanings, even in a specialty rug washing plant.

If brownish or greenish dye comes off when wiping the rug with a dry towel or if dye comes off on a towel using hot water, this process is called crocking and that means that any moisture at all will make the dye leave the rug fibers.

If the application of the tea washing treatment was a good one and if the overall effect of a good quality rug is pleasing, most people won’t have a problem with the dyes used in tea washed rugs. However, even a high-quality tea washed rug will eventually lose its treatment (although not as fast as a lower-quality rug).

Check for odors. Higher quality tea washed rugs shouldn’t have bad odors.


If you suspect a rug has been tea-washed and you are not sure about whether to buy the rug or have it cleaned, please call or text our office for more information at 607-272-1566. Most reputable rug dealers will allow a rug to be taken from their store for a short period of time to see how it fits into the home or business. You may bring a rug that you suspect may be tea-washed to us and we would be happy to test it for you.

If you are planning to have a tea-washed rug cleaned professionally, be aware that some of the treatment will most definitely be removed. In a certified rug washing plant such as ABC, we will test the dyes as well as inspect the rug closely both front and back for pre-existing damage to inform you of what can happen during the washing process.

Knowing beforehand that tea washing is never permanent may prove to be very helpful when looking to purchase a new or used rug for your home or business.

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130 Cecil Malone Drive Ithaca, NY 14850


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