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What are Tea Washed Rugs?

Tea washed rugs are very common nowadays. “Tea washing” gives rugs an antique sepia toned effect, where they have been over-dyed with a brown or golden dye or treated with a chemical to darken the rug and make it look older. This treatment can also be referred to as “henna washed” or “antiqued”.

Traditionally this effect was achieved by packing rugs and tea leaves together, but today it’s almost always done with chemical treatments or dyes but these treatments can come with their own issues.

Three Problems with these Treatments:

  • 1. The chemicals used to tea wash the rugs can stink. This isn’t always the case, and higher quality tea wash rugs should have no odour at all. But, sometimes lower quality tea washed rugs can smell pretty bad.
  • 2. Some people find they are sensitive to the chemicals used to create the tea washed effect. This problem seems to occur more frequently with lower rugs, but if you or someone in your family is chemically sensitive this is something to keep in mind.
  • 3. The tea wash treatment is not permanent, meaning it will wear off and wash off over time, and when it does the treatment will come off unevenly.

Higher quality tea washed rugs shouldn’t have odours and most people won’t have a problem with the dyes used in high quality tea wash rugs. However, even a high quality tea washed rug will eventually lose its colour, although not as fast as a lower quality rug. When rugs are tea washed, they can be soaked in the chemical or dye solution or this solution can be sprayed onto the rug. These different methods of application will affect how the rug looks when it starts to lose its tea wash treatment.

As tea washing changes the appearance, it can be used to hide previous colour bleeding or stains in a rug. Sometimes unethical rug dealers will tea wash a rug to hide existing damage. As the tea wash wears off, the original damage is often revealed. Over the counter household spot removers are too aggressive for wool, and will almost always take some amount of the tea wash treatment off. However, even gentle washing can take the treatment off as well and when it comes off it unfortunately won’t come off evenly.


The important thing to know about tea washed rugs is that the effect is not a permanent part of the rug. In most cases, this dye will wash off, wear off or fade over time. When this colour loss happens, it doesn’t happen evenly, especially on lower quality rugs. The chemical treatments stick to wool better than cotton so cotton fringes can lose the tea wash effect fairly quickly followed later on by the body of the rug.

If you have any questions about tea washed rugs, or any other rugs, give us a call on 01269 842497 or send us an email to

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