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Hand Tufted Rugs: White Residue and Powder Explained

As a hand tufted rug owner, you may notice a strange white powder or residue on the floor or padding when lifting up a corner of the rug.  To understand what this powder is, one must consider the construction technique of fabricating such a rug.


Hand tufted carpets are made by hand, however the way in which wool or other pile fibers are afixed to the rug are unlike traditional knotting techniques used in oriental rugs.  As opposed to hand knotted rugs, the pile of a hand tufted carpet is created with a tufting gun, which is held by hand.  The fabricator then uses the tufting gun, and punches strands of yarn into what is often a color coded canvas to create the pattern.  After the rug has been completed with all colors and wool in appropriate sectioned areas, the reverse side of the rug is subjected to a coating of a layer of flexible white glue.

Longevity and Odor:

One of the major problems with hand tufted rugs include a considerably shorter lifespan than the average quality Oriental Rug:  Tufted rugs are not meant to last forever.  One of the biggest concerns are tufted rugs are the amount of time they remain in a seller's inventory prior to consumer use.  It's not uncommon for a small vendor to have "old stock" of tufted rugs.  Whatever amount of time the rug had been held in inventory prior to use could theoretically be subtracted from typical lifetime of these rugs prior to your use.  That's right, it's not uncommon for the onset of deterioration to begin before the rug is even placed on your floor.  This is why it's a good idea to make sure the rug is in good shape before you purchase, and always go for the "trendier designs," as this may be indicative of a newer rug.  In terms of odor, tufted rugs are known after a period of time to have a rubbery smell, sometimes even carrying an "electrical" or "burned wires" odor throughout a home in extreme cases.  See the bottom of this page for related articles.

White Powder and Residue:

The white powder of which appears underneath a tufted rug is actually dried up particles from the glue which had once held wool securely to the canvas or "foundation" of the rug.  You shouldn't necessarily be concerned unless sections of your rugs pile or yarn are slowly surfacing.  That is to say, although the glue may have dried, this does not necessarily mean your rug will immediately fall apart. 

What does this powder look like?  

Below is a picture of the reverse side (corner) of a tufted rug/carpet which shows typical signs of a deteriorating glue.

Back of a Hand Tufted Carpet 

If you don't alread show signs of deterioration with powder on the canvas backing of your tufted rug, flip one corner back as seen below, and drop it back down to the floor. 

Reverse side of a Gold Modern Tufted

Flipping the reverse side of the rug to the floor should release any loose or dried glue to the floor below.  The powder is very dusty, white, and often may even have an odor.

Powder Residue from a Hand Tufted Rug

Prevention of Deterioration

There is no real way to prevent such occurrences of deteriorating tufted rugs.  Other elements which may be found in conjunction to the discovery of white powder include a rubbery odor emanating from the rug.  washing a tufted rug which has deteriorating glue will do nothing: in fact, it may even create more problems as most tufted rugs are not meant to be fully submersed in water or even washed at all.  Perhaps the only real preventative measure which may be taken is to keep the rug off and/or away from radiant floors.  Heated floors may not only accelerate deterioration, but also accentuate any odors which may be coming from your tufted rug.  If you have no choice, at the very least opt for a pad to place between your floor and the reverse side of the rug.

Tips for Potential Buyers of Hand Tufted Rugs

There's nothing wrong with purchasing a tufted rug, but you should know what some of these rugs are about.  Not all tufted rugs are going to have odor, not all will deteriorate immediately.  However, the point is to stay away from hand tufted rugs in a high investment bracket which appear to have outdated designs, cracking backs, or white powder already showing through on the reverse side of the rug.  Unless you can purchase these types of tufted rugs "for a song," these are all signs of problems down the road.


Considering or already have a hand tufted rug?  For more information, take a look at some of these other helpful entries:

Pros and Cons of a Hand Tufted Carpet

Everything you Need to Know About Hand Tufted Rugs and Carpets

Our Rug Smells!

How Can I Tell if my Rug is an Oriental Rug or Other? Oriental Rug/Tufted/Machine Made



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