ARCS's First Quarter News Letter 2024

Rayon AKA ‘Art Silk’ and Water

Pat Slaven

An ARCS member recently noted in the Rug Washers Forum that he observed that rayon (those ‘lovely’ art silk) rugs hold more water and are heavier when wet. But he found that some rayon rugs did not seem to not have as much of an issue. 

Well, there is a short fiber chemistry explanation for this. Rayon has shorter cellulose chains than cotton(1). This means that there are more ‘ends’ with hydrophilic groups that attack water. Rayon is interesting stuff and merits a bit of explanation. However, as with most things textile, this is intertwined and textural…. 

Know that rayon is my least favorite ‘natural’ fiber. Well technically, it is a ‘manufactured fiber’ but that distinction seems to elude the advertising executives making marketing claims. Anything you make by dissolving ground-up cellulose plant material in a strong base with Carbon Disulfide (which is just plain nasty stuff, more on that later) then dewatering it out from solution with sulfuric acid is just not ‘natural’ in my not-so-humble opinion*. Even though rayon can be promoted as natural and even ‘organic,’ this is a stretch. Again this is my opinion. Yes, it is cellulose. Yes, it is usually originally sourced from wood pulp, cotton linens, bamboo, and even sustainably harvested beech trees. There was some research focused on using rice as the cellulose source - but it really wasn't efficient. However, the research funded a few colleagues through grad school. The ‘natural’ claims are often attached to viscose rayon made from bamboo cellulose. Sorry, that is a stretch. Know that many consider bamboo an invasive weed.(2)

There are several types of rayon and varying qualities- viscose, cuprammonium (no longer produced in the USA) Tencel and Modal are also among the types of manufactured cellulose fibers but these are generally seen in fashion rather than in rug production.

Again the member noted that some rayon rugs did not seem to absorb as much water. There are a few possibilities to explain this. Higher-quality rayon, better quality viscose along with tencel and modal have more crystalline areas which means the fiber is stronger and has less accessible molecular regions for water to access. Also, these versions have longer polymers than cheap generic viscose rayon, again fewer places for water to attach. There are also finishes that can make the fiber more hydrophobic (hates water). Even stupid stuff like plain old fabric softeners and generic fiber finishes used for yarn spinning and processing can reduce water absorption. 

Back to rayon manufacture, the caustic soda (the strong base) and Carbon Disulfide are used to dissolve the cellulose. Carbon Disulfide is a neurotoxin.This substance has the unfortunate history of causing high rates of sickness and death among rayon manufacturing workers. (3) 

Manufacturers looked for other means of rayon production and OSHA in the USA and the EU- OSHA pushed for worker protection. The carbon disulfide is only part of dissolving the cellulose and is long gone by the time rayon fiber exits the spinneret and is spun into yarn. (3)

While most, if not all of you can run a quick fiber ID test to differentiate silk from rayon and proceed accordingly. I’ll offer an example from a few weeks ago. 

I volunteer with a craft supply recycling organization. A lot of the yarn donations are originally sourced from Joanns or Michaels. But not all, my colleagues were sorting some recently donated yarn and pricing it at a dollar or two. Something caught my eye as possibly not the typical acrylic or rayon-poly. Luckily a colleague actually had a lighter in her bag and guiltily fished it out for me. A quick burn test confirmed the yarn was indeed silk, the fiber smelled like burning hair, and the soft bead crumbled. Rayon smells like burning paper and forms ash(4). We labeled the yarn as silk and priced it considerably higher. 

Reminder - I look for themes, trends, and member concerns that likely affect many, and pick one or two for the column. If you have an idea, my email is listed below. 


  3. Blanc, Paul David (2016). Fake silk : the lethal history of viscose rayon. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 328. ISBN 9780300204667.
  4. AATCC method 20 Fiber analysis: Qualitative

Pat Slaven

Red Rocks, Blue Skies! 

This past November, several of our members had a great time in Santa Fe, New Mexico, courtesy of ARCS small group travel! We had a unique, “up close and personal” opportunity to learn about Southwestern textiles. Our “home base” for the trip was the Native American-owned Hotel Santa Fe, conveniently located in downtown Santa Fe.

The first day of our trip included a stop at the School for Advanced Research (SAR). SAR houses over 12,000 items of Native art including textiles, pottery, jewelry, paintings, and much more. ARCS was invited for a personal, inside look and tour of the facility led by textile conservators Jeanne Brako and Laura Eliff Cruz, and our “own” Robert Mann. This afforded us the opportunity to see how these Navajo (Dine’) textiles are handled, cared for, and stored. It was an extremely impressive facility that is dedicated to studying and preserving our knowledge about the people of the American Southwest and their culture.





Another rare setup that is used at Pettyjohn’s is their rainwater collection system. They have two giant silos outside the building that collect runoff from the roof. Water stored there is then filtered before it is used in the wash tub. This cuts down on their water bill by a significant amount! This water is naturally very soft which helps get rugs even cleaner.

After we were “stuffed” at Casa Chimayo for lunch, the tour continued with a quick stop to check out the antique textiles, jewelry, and furniture at Shiprock Gallery. A quick walk took us to our last stop for the day at the James Compton Gallery. Jamie has a rotating stock of early textiles and other unique, sometimes eclectic items! Jamie was very generous with his time and explained his reasoning and opinions on pieces in his inventory. He definitely has a great little shop!







Day Two of our trip brought us to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. Its current exhibition was titled “Horizons: Weaving Between the Lines with Dine’ Textiles.” The textiles and related items that were displayed were spectacular, ranging from extremely rare pieces to everyday items that resonated with the local weavers who assisted in selecting the items. We had the added treat of going down into the “basement” of the Museum for a behind-the-scenes look at the care that is taken with their pieces. AND many of us were able to check out all the cool stuff in the Museum gift shop!

After a lunch at Maria’s New Mexican Cuisine, we had an in-depth visit with Joshua Baer at his gallery. Joshua is one of the most active dealers in top lee Navajo blankets today. WOW! He has a diverse collection of Navajo blankets, jade, pottery, lamps, and other one-of-a-kind items from all over the globe. Truly a singular location!






This brought the official portion of our trip to a close; however, many of our member were able to spend another day or more to visit:

  1. Centinela Traditional Arts in Chimayo. Emily Trujillo, an 8th-generation weaver, gave us an informal tour of their workshop and store. She’s extremely passionate about her art and heritage!
  2. Espanola Valley / New Mexico Fiber Arts Center in Espanola. This center holds classes to teach weaving; they also sell supplies such as indigo and cochineal for dyeing, As well as looms of all sizes. It’s a unique place and well worth the visit!
  3. Shopping and restaurants in Taos
  4. It was also relaxing to spend some time at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa. Highly recommended!

All in all, everyone had a great time! Special thanks go to Robert Mann, Jeanne Brako, and of course, Ann Marie Thompson for arranging such a special event! What a great mix of fun, food, friends, and learning…we hope to see you at the NEXT event!

Upcoming Class Schedule

Discover Rug Cleaning (Palm Desert, CA)

Dates: February 24, 2024

Location: The Rug Salon by Spot Out

The Rug Salon by Spot Out, Inc. is Coachella Valley’s premier state-of-the-art rug washing facility. Located in Palm Desert, CA, The Rug Salon has been cleaning area rugs and high-end upholstery in our cleaning facility since 2014. During this class, you will have the opportunity to put on your wash boots and see how to wash rugs. Whether you’re just starting out with very little equipment, or you are a little more seasoned and want to see how to use a tumble duster, wash tub, and centrifuge, this class has something for everyone. All skill levels are welcome. This is a great opportunity to see how a medium-sized rug plant runs and operates. The Rug Salon has two Master Rug Cleaner certified staff members as well as an area-only Certified Rug Specialist. This is a hands-on class so, BYOB (bring your own boots) and come see what rug washing is all about.

Member Registration

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Advanced In-Plant Rug Cleaning (Indianapolis, IN)

Dates: May 15-17, 2024

Location: Oriental Rug Cleaning of Indianapolis in Indianapolis, IN

Jordan King and Andrija Malbasa lead this intensive 3-day, hands-on rug washing and dye correction class including a full day spent on advanced rug spotting & finishing techniques used in top rug plants across the country.

This class introduces chemicals and techniques used to remove dye migration and stains commonly used in wash plants around the world, exploring with firsthand experiences, their benefits and learning to understand their limitations. Participants receive ample time to experience hands-on wash floor rug washing, dye stripping, fringe color correction, and urine stain removal with reducing agents and oxidizers. The third day we will spend time teaching to evaluate a rug’s ‘after wash’ condition and assess what final finishing procedures it takes to deliver top quality with your rug cleaning service! As a bonus, attendees leave with a Formulation Guide to the reducing and oxidizing products used during the event and a list of various suppliers to purchase from.

Member Registration

Non-Member Registration 

Intermediate In-Plant Rug Cleaning (Dallas, TX)

Dates: October 2-4, 2024

Location: Oriental Rug Cleaning Co., Dallas, TX

The class consists of three intensive eight-hour days taught primarily on the work floor of an operational wash plant. Topics covered will be cleaning chemistry, spotting, rug identification, learning to ‘read’ and identify rug construction, rug intake assessment, rug washing, drying theory, and finishing after wash. Hands-on portions of the class will demonstrate the practical application of all that theory on an active wash floor in real time. The hands-on training will focus on wet cleaning; students will wash a lot of rugs and have the opportunity to try a range of techniques and observe the results. More than just an opportunity to work and learn on a high-production wash floor, students will gain a broader understanding of the cleaning process and how it applies to their own businesses. The fee for the class includes lunch for the three days, handouts, and all teaching materials. A short test will be given at the end of the class session. You will need to bring wash boots.

Member Registration

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Official Announcement!

Join ARCS November 1st – 16th, 2024 for a dream trip to Turkey! Great food, wonderful people, beautiful fall weather.

Enjoy a guided tour through Istanbul, Bursa, Izmir, Usak, and the beaches of Antalya.


Private tours of rug washing and ‘antiquing’ plants, restoration facilities, wool spinning mills, rug museums, collectors, dealers, and an ongoing discussion of the rug industry as it is today with the people in that industry.

Immerse yourself in Turkish culture while visiting big cities, small mountain villages, ancient ruins, and busy markets.

Stay tuned for more details and registration.

 If you are a member of ARCS, please join our ARCS Member page on Facebook!

For great information and sharing!