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What are Zapotec Rugs?

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If you’ve been searching for a wool rug, you might have come across Zapotec rugs. They are foot-woven rugs from a region of Mexico and are associated with one of the country’s earliest indigenous civilizations.

Zapotec rugs aren’t just floor rugs. They are also frequently used to decorate walls. Because they are specialty imports and require a lot of craftsmanship, they can come with a stiff price tag. So, you’ll want to know as much about them as possible before investing your money.

What Are Zapotec Rugs?

Zapotec rug

The Zapotecs were one of the early indigenous civilizations in Mexico. They lived in what today is Oaxaca in the southern part of the country. They were farmers and weavers. By the 15th century, they had developed a weaving technique involving a foot loom that gives us Zapotec rugs.

Zapotec rugs use a local wool that is softer than other wool. They wash it, make it into threads, and then use natural dyes to color it. Zapotec rugs are not only known for how they’re made, but for their colors. The dye used to color them are from plants and animals from the surrounding area.

The weaver draws the desired pattern on a piece of cardboard to follow as they use a foot-loom to make the rug. The design often incorporates animals and idols from Zapotec culture.

How Do You Clean a Zapotec Rug?

Zapotec rug on the floor

The first step to cleaning a rug is always preventing damage to it. There are a few things you can do to help prevent any damage.

If you use your Zapotec rug on the floor, make sure you place it on a pad. Not only will this minimize damage from foot traffic, but it will also reduce the chance someone will slip if your rug is on a smooth surface.

Make sure you place the rug where kids and pets are likely to stay off it. Not only can they damage an expensive rug, but kids and pets are more prone to accidents that can cause stains.

Periodically vacuum the rug and treat it for moths and other bugs. You’ll want to also inspect it to look for signs of an infestation since natural rugs are always a favorite target for insects.

If something gets spilled on it, clean it immediately. The faster you clean it, the less likely that the stain will set. Use a cleaner that is safe for wool, and try to go with something natural.

Try to keep the rug dry and air dry it immediately if it gets wet. This will prevent mold. We also recommend not placing a planter or anything that might involve sitting water on it.

Periodically get it deep cleaned. Look for someone experienced in the care of wool rugs. Don’t get it dry cleaned or steam cleaned. Those techniques can damage Zapotec rugs. Finally, if it gets damaged, get it repaired as soon as possible by someone experienced with wool rugs. Don’t let a frayed end remain.

What Are Zapotec Rugs Made Of?

Dying threads for zapotec rug

Traditionally, Zapotec rugs were made from local wool in Oaxaca. It became common practice as the years progressed to incorporate cotton. The sheep whose wool is used are bred up in the mountains where cooler temperatures produce thicker, softer wool.

Today, while an actual Zapotec rug will still use mostly wool, you can find examples of the style that use cotton, silk, and other kinds of thread.

What Is Zapotec Weaving?

Weaving a zapotec rug

Zapotec rugs are traditionally woven with a foot loom and based on a design that is drawn out. Today, most weavers map out their design on a piece of cardboard and follow it like a map.

Today, if you visit the region of Mexico most closely associated with Zapotec rugs, you can find looms in many homes. While individual families have their own twist on how to make rugs and might use different kinds of thread, they still use traditional techniques.

Are Zapotec Rugs Mexican?

Multiple colorful zapotec rugs

The Zapotec people lived in what today is Oaxaca long before the Spanish arrived, so whether you call their rugs Mexican depends on your view of history and culture. The Zapotec people maintain their own culture and speak their own language.

It is accurate to say that the rugs come from a part of what today is Mexico, however. If you want to import a rug, it will come from Mexico. If you wish to visit the area where the rugs are woven, you will need to go to Mexico.

What Sizes Do Zapotec Rugs Come In?

Colorful zapotec rugs

Because you can use Zapotec rugs for either the floor or a wall decoration, there are no standard sizes. Be aware that the bigger the size you want, the more work it’ll take. So, those will be the most expensive.

Zapotec weaving techniques are used to turn out other products like coasters and table runners.

How Much Do Zapotec Rugs Cost?

Piles of zapotec rugs

While you can find knock-offs for just a few bucks, a real Zapotec rug will cost you a lot of money. The cost will go up depending on the rug’s size, color, and design. You’re paying for craftsmanship.

Bear in mind that the price will vary depending on whether you are buying an import or one in Mexico. But, a good basic price range is between $75 and $600.

Are Zapotec Rugs Worth It?

Weaving of zapotec rugs

Value is in the eye of the beholder, so it’s hard to say that Zapotec rugs are or aren’t worth it. What we can do is tell you how to shop for a Zapotec rug so you’re getting the most for what you pay.

Look for a rug that is tightly woven, 20 threads per inch is about right. Also, look for one that isn’t folded against the grain of the weave. That will permanently crease it.

How Do You Bring Zapotec Rugs to the US from Mexico? How Much Does It Cost?

Zapotec rug close up

If you buy a Zapotec rug from Mexico, you’ll just need to declare it at the border when bringing it into the United States. There are no restrictions on bringing them back with you.

But, you don’t need to go to Mexico to buy a Zapotec rug. You can purchase them online. We recommend doing a little research into the vendor first, or else you might get a mass-produced knockoff.


If you have an open space with bright colors, a Zapotec rug might be a great option to cover the floor. If you have a lot of open wall space that is white, they also make great tapestries. They bring natural warmth to any room they’re in.

Making them requires a special technique. The craftsmanship draws from centuries of expertise and tradition, so they are likely to be expensive. However, that doesn’t mean you should pick another style; the right rug is always worth the cost.

If you feel better informed about Zapotec rugs, or have your own insight, feel free to leave a comment. We also invite you to share this article on your social media networks. 

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