New Rug, Old Look
Many of today’s newer hand knotted, woven, and tufted rugs are being made to look older, more antique, than they really are. One way to do this is to wash the rug in a tea bath to achieve a darker, muted appearance.
Tea washing is not a permanent treatment. Eventually, the tea will break down in the heaviest traffic areas and become mottled looking. If anything spills, or if pets have an accident on the rug, the tea may dilute and pool around the edges of the wet stain, possibly creating a ring around the area. If the tea washed fringes start to wear or bloom open at the tips, the white cotton inside will show through, creating a two-toned appearance. Often, a tea wash will be used to hide run colors or other damage. Having your rug cleaned may also cause further breakdown of the tea wash.
How can you spot a tea washed rug? Check to see if the color of the rug on the back is the same as the color of the rug on the front. Is it brighter on the back, different (brown, yellow, faded) on the front? Check the fringes. Are they brownish or mottled with white tips? If any of these conditions appear, chances are the rug has been tea washed. When in doubt, ask. Your retailer should be able to tell you.
Photo used with permission: Ruth Travis, Rug Lady Seminars