how to steam clean a rug made of viscose

How to Steam Clean a Rug Made From Viscose

Viscose rugs are “a terrible beauty”

Before you steam clean a rug made of viscose, please read this article, it might just save you a whole lot of money and stress. Viscose rugs are becoming more and more popular but they do have very specific care requirements you should be aware of.

Viscose rugs have the super, soft luxurious look and feel of silk rugs, but unlike silk it is a man made fibre. Viscose can be used to create beautiful rugs, however to quote Yeats, it is “a terrible beauty”. Viscose has a beautiful soft sheen, however it is also a very weak fibre which does not stand up well to foot traffic (pardon the pun!). It is this inherent weakness that makes Viscose a poor choice for floor coverings as well as being very difficult to clean.

What is Viscose?

Guide on how to steam clean a rug made from viscose

Viscose comes from a natural source; usually plants such as wood, cotton or bamboo, however it is a cellulose only fibre. This means the original plant material used to make viscose, goes through a chemical process to remove everything except cellulose. This chemical process often uses highly toxic chemicals such as Carbon Disulfide to separate the cellulose from the rest of the plant material. The toxic waste created by this process is difficult to dispose of and therefore the manufacture of rayon/viscose was banned in the USA and Europe many years ago. Thailand and India are now the main producers of viscose.

The cellulose is then spun to form a fibre which can be used to make fabric as well as carpet and rugs. The fibres are either woven or glued onto a backing material. Viscose is an incredibly soft fibre and looks and feels a lot like silk. However viscose is also, an extremely weak fibre and very fragile. In fact it has much more in common with paper than it does with traditional fibres used to make floor coverings.

A rose by any other name…..

Viscose is sold under many different names and trademarks, depending on the manufacturing process and the intended use. Some of the more common names for viscose are;

  • Art Silk
  • Bamboo Silk
  • Rayon
  • Viscose Rayon
  • Acetate rayon
  • Fake Silk
  • Faux Silk
  • Banana Silk
  • Tencel
  • Lyocel
  • Manmade Silk

But do not be fooled by the fancy sounding titles, they are all viscose and in spite of their “eco friendly” sounding names and the fact they come from plants, none of these fibres are sustainable or environmentally friendly. The water waste in the manufacturing process and toxic waste created are extremely harmful to the environment. Also these fibres are not long lasting and you cannot usually steam clean a rug made of viscose, so they often end up in landfill.

Why Viscose is not a suitable fibre for rugs or carpet

Fibre strength

Steam clean a rug made of viscose weak fibre

The weakness of this fibre is it’s biggest downfall when it comes to using it for floor coverings. In fact some would argue that viscose is nothing more than expensive glorified paper. In a fibre strength test, wool fibres can be bent and stretched 10,000 times before they break, silk fibres, about 2,000 times and viscose, only 70 times!

When viscose gets wet, it loses approximately 50% of its strength, making it almost impossible to clean without causing damage. Breakages caused by cleaning leave the fibres looking dirty and discoloured, losing its brilliant sheen. Therefore it is not recommended that you steam clean a rug made of viscose.

Just walking on this type of fibre can cause dull discolouration and fibre damage in a very short amount of time. Viscose rugs are beautiful to look at but should be hung on the wall and enjoyed as art rather than walked on. They are not suitable for everyday use.


Carpet cleaning maintenance

Viscose rugs can shed quite significantly. Fibre pulls are very common, even just vacuuming can cause damage. Vacuums with strong suction and beater bars or power heads, should never be used on viscose rugs or carpet.

Colour runs

risk colour bleeds if steam clean a rug made of viscose rayon
Rug bleeding

Viscose does not hold dye well and often moisture can cause the colour to “bleed” or run. When you steam clean a rug made of viscose, you often see colour bleeds.

Cellulose browning/yellowing

risk of yellowing when steam clean a rug made of viscose
cellulose browning

Any amount of moisture from spills, cleaning or even humidity can turn viscose yellow or brown from oxidization. It is very important to attend to spills quickly and not leave the fibres wet for any length of time. This is an important consideration when you steam clean a rug made of viscose.


This fibre can be prone to matting and crushing after getting wet. The nap will dry in all different directions instead of drying to a smooth finish like silk does. Because the fibres are weak, they do not spring back up and sit as they should, so gentle grooming after cleaning is very important.

So how do you steam clean a rug made of viscose?

The short answer is – you don’t! Once you clean viscose, it will never look as good as it did beforehand. Viscose sheds, breaks, distorts, yellows, fades and wears away in a very short amount of time. Silk is strong and can last for decades, whereas viscose is more of a “disposable fibre” and is not made to last. Viscose is like paper, you can’t wet it, clean it, repair it and replacement is often the only option.

A small spill on a viscose rug can ruin it permanently and even the most experienced rug specialist cannot always restore viscose. To steam clean a rug made of viscose is asking for trouble! We suggest contacting an experienced specialist rug washing facility for advice on cleaning your viscose rug.

How to protect and care for your viscose rug

So you have gone ahead and purchased a viscose rug, now what? All is not lost, you can still enjoy the beauty and softness of your new rug with a few precautions to get extend the life of your new floor covering.

Apply Fabric Protector IMMEDIATELY! Fabric protection should be applied by a professional cleaning company and not left too wet. It might mean that a few light applications are applied over an extended period of time rather than all done at once, so that the protection solution can dry in between applications. This will prevent distortion and colour issues. Fabric protection will buy you some time to clean up liquid spills before they cause damage. It will not prevent damage if liquid is left on the rug for extended periods.

Dry vacuuming is one of the most effective ways of keeping your rug clean and soft, however a gentle approach is necessary. Do not use strong suction or beater bars/power heads on your vacuum cleaner or you may start to see runs and pulled fibres in the rug.

Viscose which becomes saturated through steam cleaning, over wetting, flood damage, pet urine, etc. will probably require replacement. Large amounts of moisture will cause cellulose browning and structural damage to the rug and usually replacement is the only viable option. Vomit cannot be removed from viscose and replacement is definitely the only option.

Do NOT use spot removers! If the spill is water, then use a clean white cotton towel to soak up the liquid. Fold the towel and place it over the spill, then place a heavy weight on top and leave it for 24 hours before removing and inspecting the area. The idea is to draw away as much moisture as possible without rubbing the fibres and damaging them. If the fibres are stiff, brush gently with a soft brush. If the spill is coloured, mix 2 parts water to one part white vinegar and dip a light coloured sponge into the solution. Wring out the excess moisture and gently dampen the area with the sponge. Blot with a clean dry towel – never rub or scrub the fibres! Lay a folded clean white towel over the damp area, place something heavy on top and leave for 24 hours.

A final word of advice

Some unscrupulous sales people will try to sell you a viscose rug at the price of a silk rug. They will tell you it is silk – “eco friendly bamboo silk” or “art silk” or any other name they think will confuse you into thinking you are buying silk. Please do your research before buying a “silk” rug. Is it real silk? Real silk lasts for many years, hence the high price tag. Viscose looks like silk, feels like silk but it is not silk. It is much weaker and will not stand up to daily wear and tear. The other thing to be aware of, is that sometimes viscose is blended with wool or silk and still sold as silk. Always check the label and ask plenty of questions before purchasing a rug containing viscose.

We do not offer any cleaning services for viscose rugs, the risk of damaging the fibres is just too great. However we can steam clean many other types of rugs. We can come to you and steam clean rugs in your home to save on pick up/delivery charges. Contact us for advice or a quote.

Special Mention: The Rug Chick

I would also like to give a special mention to Lisa Wagner AKA The Rug Chick. I went to one of Lisa’s workshops when she was in Melbourne a few years ago. Her vast knowledge of rugs and what to look out for has been invaluable to my business. Much of the information in this article has been sourced from Lisa’s Blog  Please follow the link to find out more about viscose rugs.

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