Silk by any other name is NOT the same.
Are you in the market for a new area rug? Has your designer suggested an expensive bamboo silk rug that will work in your space perfectly? Bamboo silk rugs have become incredibly popular with consumers and designers. They are beautiful and very soft, with the look and feel of authentic silk as well as a price tag of genuine silk, but precious little else resembles the real silk fiber.
What is Bamboo Silk?
Bamboo silk is just the name given to a blend of viscose and fibers from bamboo stalks. Viscose is rayon. It is a fiber made of wood pulp and cellulose. The fibers are put through a highly aggressive chemical process to make them soft and shiny. In fact, the process of manufacturing rayon is so toxic that it was outlawed in the United States. (read the FTC release) Rug makers now source this material from India.
What About Banana Silk, Art Silk, or Luxcelle?
Some rug manufacturers are pulling the wool or, shall we say, silk over the eyes of consumers and design professionals. Bamboo silk is sold under several different names. Marketing rugs as silk or silk blends such as bamboo silk, silk art or gives the illusion of high quality and durability of real silk. But these rugs are all the same or a blend of several artificial fibers. The various names that this fiber comes under can be confusing to the consumer, but they are all VISCOSE. While there are different production methods, these rugs are all essentially the same. Bamboo silk comes under a variety of different names, including:
· Art Silk
· Banana Silk
· Bamboo Silk
What’s Wrong with Viscose?
If you are looking for viscose, understand the characteristics of a viscose rug, and you are paying a fair viscose price, then nothing. But most consumers are not knowledgeable about fibers in the rug they are purchasing. They trust their designer or salesperson to steer them in the right direction.
Where silk is strong and can last decades, viscose is prone to shedding, distorting, fading wearing very quickly. It also can not get wet. A simple spot cleaning with some soap and water will ruin this rug. Because it is made of cellulosic materials, which are plant and wood-based, water that is not dried quickly out of this rug will turn the rug brown.
Even professional cleaners can find cleaning these rugs a challenge on two levels. The first, for all the problems listed above with these faux silk fiber rugs such as browning, shedding, lack of resilience of the pile, etc. The second is managing owner expectations.
Education is the best practice here. We have found that a conversation with the customer prior to cleaning their viscose/bamboo silk rug goes a long way. Honesty is the best policy, even if it means advising our rug cleaning customer that replacement will be the best solution.
How To Tell if You Are Being Sold Real Silk?
There are several ways to test the fiber to tell if it is real silk. Before purchasing the rug, get a sample. Take tweezers and pull out a fiber to test.
1. BURN TESTING- Hold the fiber in the flame of a lighter. Silk is a protein fiber that smells like burning hair or feathers. The flame will go out on its own, and the ash will crumble in your fingers. Viscose will burn like paper. It will carry not go out on its own until there is no fiber left. It will smell like burning paper. The ash crumbles like burnt paper.
2. BLEACH TESTING- Drop the fibers into a small amount of chlorine bleach. True silk will dissolve, synthetic fibers will not.