Why do Moroccan wool rugs shed? Everything you ever wanted to know about wool, shedding, Moroccan rugs, and more.

One of the more common questions we receive is do the wool rugs artisans list on Anou shed?  If so, how much? And lastly, is there anything that can be done to minimize shedding? Since we’ve launched the Atlas Wool Supply Co, we’ve invested an immense amount of time researching and testing various wool samples from across Morocco to find actual answers to these questions.

The first thing to know is that most natural fiber rugs will shed and all wool based rugs will shed to some extent. This is normal. Wool is a great fiber because it has a natural crimp, which the enables the wool fibers to interlock with each other and limits the rate in which individual fibers to be pulled from the yarn. The crimp and spinning technique with other natural fibers may increase or decrease the shedding of a rug, but wool is always a great option.

When it comes to a wool rug, the most important factor to consider is how the rug was made. Most cheap rugs are often mass produced using machine tufted techniques where wool is punched through a latex base. Initially these rugs may not shed but as these rugs get older (starting at about a year or so), the latex begins to crack and the shedding will increase over time until every thread of wool falls out. In incredibly rare cases a company that produces machine made rugs, like Stitch in Casablanca, will use quality tufted bases made from natural materials that will extend the life of the rug immensely and minimize shedding. Again, such companies are few and far between.

All of the rugs artisans list on Anou’s marketplace are woven by hand which ensures that wool yarns are integrated into the very structure of the rug itself and not just tufted. This substantially reduces the rate of shedding and outright eliminates shedding over time. Moreover, the wool yarn Anou artisans use is also spun by artisans from the Anou community. This ensures that each thread is inspected and the integrity of each thread is considered and spun just right to limit shedding.

What You Need To Know About Moroccan Wool

When considering a handmade Moroccan rug, there are important things to think about when it comes to shedding. The first is that you must absolutely know where the wool that was used to make the rug came from. The sheep breed and the location where the sheep live all have an effect of the quality of wool in Morocco. For example, sheep in lower altitude areas (like Marrakech) have minimal crimp, have a higher likelihood of containing kemp (hairs that can’t be threaded into wool), and feature a very short fiber length. This is important because if the wool has minimal crimp and or fiber length, it will shed incessantly. And if kemp is present, the amount of shedding will push you to throw away the rug.

All rugs made and sold in the Moroccan medinas (old cities) or by middlemen, use wool from local markets. And unfortunately, local market wool comes from sheep from the plains of Marrakech, known as Sardi sheep. Sardi sheep have high proportions of kemp, super short fibre length and don’t take dyes very well. Often times Sardi wool quality is so poor that it can’t be mechanically spun so mills in Marrakech/Casablanca will mix in cotton, synthetics and actual plastics to make the wool thread functional. Because of all the these impurities and improper cleaning (and dye chemicals used in local dye markets), local wool is more likely to attract moths and larvae.

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Marrakech wool we had stored at our office for testing became infected with moths and larvae after a couple of months. The larvae completely ignored properly cleaned wool we sourced and cleaned ourselves that was stored in the same area.

The reason why this wool is so frequently used in Morocco is because it’s cheap, accessible and is the only wool that exists on the market.  When the only incentive is price (and not even paying artisans an actual wage) there is no incentive to change anything. Anthropologie, is a great example of just how pervasive this problem is. They work with middlemen in Marrakech and therefore it should be no surprise that their Moroccan rugs not only fail to pay artisans well, they routinely get poor reviews for massive shedding problems. Check it out for yourself. And to answer NYCmom15’s question: no, the shedding won’t ever end.

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Customers leave complaints about shedding on Anthropologie Moroccan Rugs.

 

Wool Types: Middle and High Atlas Wools

Fortunately, there are sheep in Morocco that produce high quality wool that is equal or exceeds the quality of internationally known gold standard of New Zealand wool. These sheep live throughout the Atlas Mountains in higher altitude areas. Prior to starting Atlas Wool Supply Co, many of groups within the Anou community used their own flock of sheep, but this didn’t guarantee quality and we began to notice infrequent inconsistencies with rugs that they produced and we started these removing them from the site years ago. This is because it is becoming more common that villagers in the mountains will keep a Sardi sheep or two in their personal flock and just mix in Sardi wool into their materials. Most cooperatives that work with middlemen simply buy market wool spun with poor quality Sardi wool and explains why you can find dirt cheap rugs on Etsy, Ebay and in Marrakech. This is why we’ve had to build out the entire supply chain ourselves as it’s the only way to ensure the best quality wool for rugs that the Anou community produces.

Currently, we’ve tested and built two supply chains of wool from the High Atlas and the Middle Atlas, and you’ll see these listed on Atlas Wool Supply Co. High Atlas wool generally comes from sheep in higher altitudes, which creates a longer fiber length to the wool, and decreases the amount and duration of shedding. Further, cooperatives in the High Atlas Mountains traditionally use 2 ply, or double spun wool for their rugs. Pile knot rugs (or Beni Ourain rugs) with double spun High Atlas wools actually yield minimal to minor shedding that clears up after around a month after purchase. Moreover, these types of rugs tend to hold form and their look does not change over decades and can tolerate heavy foot traffic.

Groups that make 2 ply yarn rugs with High Atlas Wool are:

Association Timdokkals

Cooperative Talsanant

Cooperative Imelghaus

Cooperative Ixf N’ghir

Cooperative Tifawin

 

The alternative is Middle Atlas wool. With Middle Atlas wool, the fibre length is slightly shorter than High Atlas wool. Further, weavers in the Middle Atlas tend to use 1 ply, single threaded wool. With these two factors combined, rugs from the Middle Atlas tend to shed a little more than rugs produced with High Atlas wools. Why then continue using Middle Atlas wool and not encourage groups to always use 2 ply High Atlas wool? First, because it is traditional and artisan leaders from this area felt that this was worth preserving. Second, and more important to customers, is that single threaded, Middle Atlas wools tend to age into those classic vintage, shaggy rugs over time. The moderate shedding is a part of that process and can take at least 3 months for shedding to clear. This look is very important to a lot of supporters of our community as well and is why we’ve prioritized such wool.

Groups that weave 1 ply yarn rugs with Middle Atlas Wool are:


Association Nahda

Association Tithrite

Cooperative LFarah

Cooperative Azta

 

Rug Maintenance

We understand the importance of having a rug with minimal shipping immediately after a rug arrives. As such we’ve begun importing rug rakes and have made them available for artisans within the Anou community to purchase. We encourage artisan groups to use the rug rake to remove any excess wool and accelerate the shedding process before we send it out. If a group does not do so, the artisan team will rake the rug at our HQ as part of our quality control process so the rug arrives with minimal shedding. This won’t prevent shedding out right, but will make having a Moroccan wool rug a great experience from day one.

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Members of Association Afous G Afous, Association Tithrite and Association Nahda use techniques we’ve developed to remove excess wool and minimize shedding upon arrival at a customer’s home.

After your rug arrives, there are more things you can do. First, is to ensure that you clean it often as we described on a previous post about how to clean your rug. Cleaned rugs mean less damage to the wool fibers and in turn results in less shedding. Second, we’d recommend purchasing a rug pad. This will help reduce any damage to the fiber so broken fibers don’t fall out over the course of the rugs life. This is in addition to how a rug pad makes a rug feel even more soft. Lastly, we recommend getting a rug rake of your own and brush the rug once a week until the shedding stops. Even after the rug stops shedding, an occasional comb over with a rug rake can keep the rug plush and prevent it from matting. 

Picking the right rug with authentic materials from your preferred region, combined with these proper cleaning as described above, will minimize unwanted shedding and ensure that your rug outlives your great great grandchildren. 
This is admittedly a lot of information so if it feels a bit overwhelming just give us a shout at hello@theanou.com and we’ll help you make a great decision based on your needs.  We’ll look forward to hearing from you!

Want a Custom Made Rug or Craft? Learn How With Anou!

Custom orders on TheAnou.com are easy. All you have to do is find any product that you love on the site and look for the “Request Custom Order” on any product page.

Request Custom Order Anou

You’ll be given the option to change the dimension or the quantity of the item. The site will then use the prices the artisan has listed on their store to provide you with an estimate. (NOTE: The estimates for currently listed products are accurate. Previously made products may have updated prices — we’ll let you know if this is the case.)

Tip #1: When changing quantity, the site will automatically calculate bundled shipping savings for you! For example, ordering two items will likely cost less than just one due to savings in shipping. Note: This only applies when purchasing from the same association/cooperative.

Once you perfect your custom order, enter in your e-mail and submit the request.  Anou’s community supporter will follow up with you to confirm your order and answer any questions you have. If all is good, the community supporter will submit your request to the artisan who will then provide their official quote. If the artisan’s quote is different than the estimate we provided, we’ll let you know and you can confirm whether you’d like to proceed with the order or not.

If you’re happy with the artisan’s official quote, we’ll ask that you provide the full payment upfront via a Paypal invoice. TheAnou.com will hold your payment as a deposit until the artisan completes the order.

Tip #2: If you’re in Morocco, you can send the payment directly to our account at any Moroccan Post Office so you don’t have to pay any credit card/Paypal fees!

Once the artisans begin we will provide you with weekly updates on the status of your custom order via e-mail. The artisan will do his or her best to take progress photos as they make your custom order request and we’ll e-mail you when they are submitted.

Tip #3: Artisans add progress photos via the community’s Instagram account. Follow the community’s account if you want to the progress photos as soon as they are posted!

Once the artisan finishes the custom order, they will post the item on their store on TheAnou.com for you to review. If you’re happy with the custom order the artisan will send it directly to you! If there is a problem with the order, we’ll promptly refund you your order!

Custom Orders for Products Not on Anou

If you have an item that you’d love to have but isn’t listed on Anou, we might be able to help. Send us an image or description of what you would like at hello@theanou.com. Anou’s community supporter will see if the the design matches up with any existing cooperatives skill sets, designs and/or materials. If there is a match, we’ll submit it to the artisan and get a quote.

Keep in mind that artisans do not create copies of images submitted from other websites. Depending on the situation, we may forward images to artisans so they can serve as inspiration for a new product, but we will never ask an artisan to recreate an item unless it is something that they designed.

Tip #4: Have a product idea that you’d love to see on TheAnou.com? Add it to the community’s Pinterest research board! All items listed on the community’s board serve as inspiration for future products.

Read more about custom orders on Anou: 

Making Custom Orders Work For You And Artisans

The Perils and Promise of Artisan Custom Orders

Are you a retailer? Want to support the artisan community in Morocco?

Through Anou’s online store, you can expand your business all while making a real impact in the lives of artisans across Morocco. Learn more about the exclusive benefits of becoming an Anou retail partner.

Exclusive Benefits of Becoming an Anou Retail Partner

Bundled Shipments Multiple orders from the same association/cooperative can be bundled into one shipment to reduce the listed Anou price anywhere from 9-60%. Anou’s artisan leaders will provide added support for your orders to ensure that you get the cheapest (or fastest) shipping option for you!

 White Labeling Create added value for your products by white labeling all of Anou’s information and pictures for each product on your own marketing collateral.

Invoicing Select the products you want to purchase and pay via a single digital invoice.

Order Support Anou’s artisan team can provide added support throughout the custom order process or larger orders for added peace of mind.

 Meet Artisans In Person If you have plans to travel to Morocco, Anou’s artisan team can help arrange your next visit and provide you with on the ground support.

Exclusive Shipping Rates Anou has been able to negotiate reduced shipping costs via DHL and we pass these savings on to you!

Alternative Payment Options You can pay via multiple payment options, even via Transferwise (www.transferwise.com), which can reduce the listed price substantially.

Why Source Products Through Anou?

 Artisan Verification Nobody knows artisans better than artisans themselves. Artisan leaders in Anou’s community travel to the village or workshop of each artisan on Anou to ensure that they are the ones who make the products they sell. Learn More.

Know Who Made It Every product purchased on Anou is tagged with information about the artisan who made it. You can now confidently tell your customers exactly where a product came from and the story behind it.

Transparency Through Anou’s innovative technology, your payment will go directly to the artisan who made it and not the hands of middlemen or other organizations. Learn More.

Artisan Owned  Anou is a registered cooperative in Morocco whose board is entirely comprised of top performing artisans that use Anou. All decisions regarding Anou are made by the artisan board and all profit (which comes from a ~6% fee from each sale) is reinvested into the artisan community.

Artisan Managed  All the operations of Anou, with the exception of customer service, is handled by the artisans themselves. From trainings, to follow up visits, to troubleshooting, stand out artisans in the Anou community fulfill all the core operations of the site. This provides artisans with the opportunity to gain advance skills and work outside of their cooperative, which they can reinvest back into their local communities. Learn more. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does TheAnou.com offer wholesale pricing? TheAnou.com itself does not offer wholesale pricing because we have no control over the prices artisans set for their products.  However, some artisans have provided discounts to customers buying in bulk. If you see an item that you would like to purchase in bulk, submit a custom order request and select the quantity that you want (or if you have something more specific in mind, e-mail us at Hello@theanou.com). The artisans will submit their price for the order, which may or may not include a discount.  TheAnou.com will calculate the estimated shipping cost for your request and combine it with the artisan’s price. Note that bundled shipping products can make items cheaper than a wholesale discount.

I would like to purchase from artisans I know, but they do not use TheAnou.com. Can the artisans I know join the Anou community? Of course! As a retailer, you should encourage any artisans not within the community to join so they can benefit from being a part of the Anou community and so you can be assured that your money is going to the artisans transparently.

There are three requirements to join the community and sell on Anou’s online store. First, the artisans must make the products they sell. Second, they must be motivated to sell their work independently.  Three, they must agree to use TheAnou.com’s transparency tools. If they meet these requirements, all they have to do is reach out to an Anou artisan leader and let them know they are interested. They will then be added to the artisan leaders’ training list.

How Do I Clean My Moroccan Rug?

When we were first asked how to clean and take care of Moroccan rugs, we simply asked the artisans who made them. “Well,” they said, “every month or so just take the rug outside and shake it, rinse it off in the river, then place it over a small shrub to let it dry.” This works so amazingly well that artisans have been doing this for centuries.

But what do you do if you don’t have a fresh, mountain spring-fed river in your backyard, much less in your apartment in New York? The answer, like many things when it comes to best care practices, is preventative care.

Preventative care doesn’t mean you have to tackle anyone who wants to walk on your rug or hang it up on a wall so it is never touched. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. What surprises many customers is that it isn’t exactly heavy foot traffic that ruins a rug, it’s the dirt that accumulates and embeds itself in the rug over time as a result of the foot traffic. On a micro level, dirt shreds the fibers of the rug and causes it to degenerate over time. The longer the dirt is left in the rug, the deeper it becomes embedded, which exponentially increases the damage.

The key then is to regularly clean your rug so dirt doesn’t have time to make your rug its home. The easiest way to do this is to take your rug outside and shake it out at least once a week. As the artisans always suggest, shaking out the rug frequently is their go-to technique and is a large reason why the rugs they keep in their homes last decades. If this is impractical, you can clean the rug on a weekly basis with a canister vacuum side to side (not end-to-end) with the beater bear set high. This can be equally if not more effective than shaking out a rug. Combining these techniques on a routine basis is ideal.

After several years though, we recommend getting the rug properly washed, particularly if you have pets in your home. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find a lot of advice on DIY rug washing. We simply can’t endorse many of these simply because each rug is so different. If you spent a significant amount of money on a rug from an artisan, it’s best to continue to protect that investment in it with a professional cleaner who can dial up the perfect way to wash your rug to make it new again and ensure it lasts.

When we looked for a professional cleaner to recommend, we tried to find someone who was truly passionate about what they do. It didn’t take us long to find Lisa at RugChick, who has an amazing blog about rug care and maintenance. No really, the blog is so good that it landed her in the New York Times. Lisa, who runs trainings for professional rug cleaners, personally knows an extensive network of cleaners and has an extensive list of cleaners she endorses and we are certain you can find one near your home. Take a look at her endorsed rug cleaning directory.  

Lastly, for any questions that this entry doesn’t answer e-mail us or take a look at Lisa’s blog. Here are some of our favorite posts of hers:

Buying Rugs: Tips for the Nervous Rug Shopper

Shag Rugs: What You Need to Know

How Do I Vacuum My Rug?

Moths, Bugs and Rugs: What You Need to Know

Pottery Barn: Rugs to Run From