Learn everything you need to know about Viscose rugs, how to maintain them at home, and what you need to do before you even think about professional viscose rug cleaning.
What is 100% Natural Viscose?
Description and manufacturing process
The technical description for viscose is ‘chemically processed cellulose‘. If that sounds about as unnatural as you can imagine then you’d be correct in your thinking.
In simple terms, viscose is made from the cellulose found in trees and plants which is then heavily processed using a harsh cocktail of chemicals. Sodium Hydroxide (Caustic Soda) and Sulphuric Acid are two of the nasties that are commonly used.
The source material is always plant based (hence the ‘natural’ often used by manufacturers and retailers to describe it), however due to the artificial manufacturing process it can more accurately be called a semi-synthetic fibre.
Does it have other names?
Oh yes. Bamboo Silk, Banana Silk, Rayon, Plant Silk, Art (artificial) Silk, and countless brand names which are copyrighted.
Why are viscose rugs so popular?
There is a growing trend amongst interior designers right now furnishing houses and apartments in top central London neighbourhoods with 100% viscose rugs. In fact, we maintain the fine fabrics and carpets in some of the most prestigious blocks in the capital and I can confidently estimate that in some of them at least 80% of the rugs are made of viscose. But why?
From speaking to our clients I’ve found there are two main reasons for the rise in popularity of viscose rugs, and none of them takes into account viscose rug cleaning issues down the line:
- Viscose looks and feels like silk. To the untrained eye they can be difficult to differentiate.
- It is cheap to produce viscose. Designers and homeowners love the fact that they can get that silk look without paying silk prices (although there are exceptions! see below)
- Huge range of designs. Due to the low cost of production you can find viscose rugs in numerous designs and colours. This is especially true of chromatic colours in modern designs which are very in fashion at the moment.
Why you shouldn’t buy a 100% Viscose Rug
Although the benefits listed above can seem too good to pass up, you may come to realise that 100% viscose rugs are a false economy. Viscose was developed to be an imitation of real silk at a lower price, however the attributes of silk far outweigh those of viscose. If you already own a viscose rug the points below will probably ring true. If not, think carefully before doing so:
- Viscose is a very weak fibre. Because it is made from a chemical soup of dissolved cellulose it has very little resilience. Spillages will ‘blow’ the fibres or cause them to ‘bloom’. Once this happens nothing can be done to return them to their original appearance. Silk and wool on the other hand are both naturally resilient and can actually look better with age if they are well made with good quality natural dyes. Wool and silk fibres spring back, whereas viscose crushes.
- Overpriced & doesn’t hold it’s value. Viscose rugs, although cheaper than a comparably sized silk rug can still be expensive when compared to a wool rug. I spotted a large viscose rug for sale, in excess of £20k, in a well known London department store which would be practically worthless once sold. The rug was labelled as ‘bamboo silk’, which while sounding like an exotic form of real silk is nothing more than 100% viscose. No doubt the pricey furniture that was sitting on the rug will further sway the unlucky buyer into believing they have bought something of real quality.
- Very difficult to maintain. Rugs are walked on. Therefore it makes sense to think about how they will look with use, not just how beautiful they are in the shop. Viscose rugs are extremely difficult to maintain. And viscose rug cleaning is not always as effective as wool and silk rug cleaning if too much damage has been done. They begin to look ‘flat’ and tired very quickly. Careless vacuuming can eventually cause irreparable damage to the pile. Even high humidity can discolour them as they readily absorb moisture.
- Bad for the environment. This article by the guardian gives serious cause for concern.
I own a Viscose Rug. Can it be cleaned?
The short answer is yes we regularly carry out viscose rug cleaning successfully for many clients. We can wash contaminated rugs (e.g flood damage) and return them to a perfect sanitary level of cleanliness.
How effective is Viscose Rug Cleaning?
There are limitations to what visual results can be expected when a viscose rug is cleaned, compared to a wool and/or silk rug. Any damage to the pile will not be corrected in the wash. Also discolouration due to browning and yellowing can be uneconomical to colour repair. Viscose will never look as good as silk does after it has been washed.
We can practically bring wool and silk rugs back from the dead. Viscose rug cleaning will always lag behind in efficacy. That being said, you will see better results if you have practiced good rug maintenance beforehand.
How should I maintain my Viscose Rug?
If you already own or are thinking of purchasing a viscose rug these tips will help you keep it looking better for longer:
Our rug care advice page gives general information on looking after rugs as well as including links to other pages on our website with rug care tips.
Specific to viscose, the most important thing you can do is to have a rug protector treatment applied as soon as you can. Ideally you should have this done before you even use it. Read my article Rug Protector Treatment – 3 Reasons Why It’s Necessary. In short, protector treatments help you manage spills more effectively. Any sort of spill, even water, on a plant based fibre can cause serious damage and discolouration. Anything you can do to minimise moisture from getting into your rug will keep it looking better, for longer.
Viscose rugs can be cheap but they’re certainly not good value for money. If you’re reading this before purchasing a 100% viscose rug then I urge you to reconsider.
The best course of action you can take to keep a viscose rug well maintained is to have it treated with protector as soon as possible.
Viscose can be successfully cleaned to a perfect level of sanitary and hygienic cleanliness.
A viscose rug doesn’t have the resilience of a natural fibre like wool or silk. Therefore viscose rug cleaning is more effective if the rug has been well looked after beforehand. It will be uneconomical to treat discolouration. Therefore the visual results will never match those of a cleaned wool or silk rug.
Blown, bloomed, damaged fibres are not repairable.
If you can afford it, go for a wool or silk rug instead.
Kathy Munday says
I have a 100% viscose rug which needs dry cleaning. Can u recommend a professional cleaner in the Maidenhead Berkshire area please. I understand this cannot be washed with water.
Nick Gonnella says
Viscose rugs can be safely washed ( in fact they must be washed to clean them properly)however you will need to find a local rug cleaning company such as us that carries out full immersion washing and fast drying using a centrifuge machine and drying room. The main issue with viscose rugs is getting them dry quickly and grooming or they can go brown and stiff. For this reason many companies won’t clean them. Contact the NCCA (national carpet cleaners association) to see if there is a company meeting these criteria in your area that they can recommend. If you have no luck feel free to call us and we will try to book you in when we are close to your area as we do have clients in Surrey and Rickmansworth but we don’t have pickups there every week. Best regards, Nick