What is a rug's pile and why is it important?

Date Posted:9 December 2016 

Round & Round Kids Rugs, Bright Pink from BugRugs

Deciding what rug to buy can be an overwhelming process.  Along with all the different fibres (also called yarn) available, there are a array of sizes, shapes, and colours.  And then you start to add in the rug industry jargon….pile, tufting…what?!?!  The more you start to research, the more confusing it can get.

Here is a little information regarding a rug’s pile that you may find helpful.


What is a rug’s pile?

Let’s start with the basics.  The pile of a rug is the top side of the rug that you walk on and gaze at lovingly.  It is the fibres that stand up from the backing cloth.  The pile of a rug can be made of many different fibres – acrylic, cotton, wool, polypropylene – to name a few.


What are the types of pile?

There are two main types of pile that are used for a rug’s construction.  They are cut pile and loop pile.


Cut Pile – A cut pile means that the yarn has been cut and the individual tips of yarn form the top side of the rug.  Rugs with this type of of pile are sometimes referred to as “plushes” because they feel soft and dense.  There are varying types of cut pile.

Cut pile rug fibres

Loop Pile – A loop pile means that the top side of the rug is made from uncut loops of yarn.  It has a more condensed appearance and firmer feel than cut pile.

Loop pile rug fibre


Cut-and-Loop Pile – If a rug is made with both cut pile and loop pile, it is called a “cut-and-loop” pile construction.  A mix of the two pile types is generally used for visual purposes.
Cut and loop pile rug fibre


What is pile height?

The pile height of a rug is the length of the fibres (or yarn) used on the topside of the rug and it creates the thickness of a rug.  A rug’s pile height is measured from the top of the rug to its backing cloth (manufacturer stated heights should not include the backing cloth, but it is always safest to check).  Pile heights are generally referred to as low, medium or plush (over 1.27cm).

Rugs with a plush pile height have a noticeably soft feel.  They are perfect for making hard floors comfortable and warm.


What is pile density?

A rug’s pile density refers to how closely together the fibres are tufted (stitched) together onto the rug’s backing cloth.  Generally speaking, the higher the pile density of a rug, the more durable it will be over time.  This is because the fibres are placed closely together which prevents them from flattening through repeated wear.  A high pile density also gives weight to a rug to minimise slipping on the floor and creates a softer cushion under foot.


What is fibre tuft-twist?

When the fibres for a rug are made, the multiple tufts (or strands) of fibres are twisted together to form one single thick strand.  While the strands are twisted together, they are heated to permanently set them.  It is kind of like curling your hair.

Generally, the tighter the strands are twisted, the more durable the rug will be and it will look new for longer.  This is because fibres with a low number of tuft-twists start to untwist at the tip more quickly.  This gives the rug a fuzzy or smashed down appearance.  Rug fibres with a higher tuft-twist will maintain their appearance for longer and will be much more durable over time.

Tuft twists typically range from 3.0 to 7.5 tufts per inch (2.54 cm).  This can very easily be measured on a rug.  Take a piece of yarn from the rug that measures 2.54cm (or 1.27cm if the pile isn’t that long) and count the number of twists – they are visible to the eye.

Fibre tuft twist of yarn on a rug

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