Authentic oriental rugs with a luxurious, hand knotted pile are a thing of beauty. One inherent characteristic of oriental rugs is known in the trade as ‘white knots.’ These are small white or off-white spots that appear at random in a few or sometimes many places on the rug surface. These ‘spots’ are actually knots from the rug’s cotton foundation yarns that have worked their way up to the surface of the rug, sandwiched between the pile fibers and thus exposed as part of the pile. If you look more closely, you can also find them in the lighter colored areas as well.
How and why do these ‘white knots’ occur and why are they more noticeable after a thorough professional cleaning? The rug’s pile or fuzzy surface is actually hand knotted onto a foundation of warp and weft yarns. In most oriental rugs this foundation is composed of off-white or light colored cotton yarns. Because the cotton comes in short lengths, several pieces will be knotted together to make the appropriate length. Inevitably during the weaving process, some of these yarns will break and need to be spliced together, creating additional knots.
When a rug is new, the white knots can be obscured by the full length of pile surrounding them although they can be close to the surface. These knots are bulkier than the surrounding face fibers, and ordinary foot traffic will force them to the surface at the same time that the pile fibers are wearing down. Since they are a different material and color than the face fibers, they may be a cause for concern. However, their appearance is normal and careful inspection can often find them in almost any oriental rug.
Immediately following completion of the rug or during distribution and retailing, the more obvious knots may be colored over with a slight tint or dye marker. As the rug is used the knots will darken and become obscured due to surface soiling. Following a thorough cleaning, the soils, grime and possibly the tint are removed making the knots more prominent now. This is neither a defect in the rug nor a problem with the cleaning but rather a normal result from the use of the oriental rug.
The trained professional can do a minor repair to retouch the most noticeable of the knots. A set of dye sticks or indelible markers, especially suited to oriental rug coloration’s, are used to recolor the tops of the ‘white knots’ so that they either disappear or become much less noticeable. This can also be done with appropriate permanent markers. These knots should never be cut as you can make a hole in the foundation of the rug that could lead to a larger hole and the loss of face fiber. Given normal foot traffic and soiling, the ‘white knots’ will also become soiled, darkened and disappear until the next thorough cleaning.
White knots are a normal consequence of wear and an inherent characteristic of beautiful, hand made oriental rugs. It is a feature of these unique rugs whose face and foundation are both made by hand. It’s all part of the mystique of oriental rugs.