10 Things every rug owner should know to protect the value of your rugs.
Fine rugs are an investment and when properly cared for, you can get decades of enjoyment from your hand made works of art. There are two general concerns that lead to damage and shorten the life of every rug. The information in this article will teach you the common mistakes that rug owners make that cause rugs to wear out prematurely and loose their beauty and value.
Wool is a resilient fiber and good quality wool rugs are rather durable and will endure a far amount of foot traffic and use. However, periodic maintenance is needed to combat the first general rug concern, which is wear. The second general concern for rug owners is improper care. Below, you will learn to avoid the common mistakes that most rug owners make and be more educated than many carpet cleaners.
1. Vacuum your rugs frequently to remove soil from your rug before it gets into the foundation where it cuts the fibers like a knife. Vacuum your rug across the width with the brush bar turned off to avoid catching the fringe or distorting the fibers. The use of upholstery attachments are necessary for thinner and more delicate rugs. If your rug has a pile, pull the attachment in the same direction as the pile. The pile direction can easily be determined by “petting” the rug and finding the smooth direction that causes the pile to lay down. This is similar to petting a cat or dog in the direction of their fur.
In addition to vacuuming the front, the back of the rug should also be vacuumed periodically. If you have a thick sturdy rug, it can be vacuumed with the beater bar on. Remember to go across the width and stay clear of the fringe. This process will create a vibration in the rug and help shake out deeper soil. Click here to see our full video on proper vacuuming.
2. Use a quality rug underlay pad to give your rug dimensional stability and provide cushioning against foot traffic. A good pad should sufficiently grip the floor and the rug to reduce creeping and slipping. The quality and price of pads can vary. Generally, the performance of the pad increases with the price. Non-slip waffle pattern pads are inexpensive, but often fail to keep the rug from wrinkling and creeping. When placing a rug over carpet, you want a pad that is somewhat rigid. Many retailers simply suggest flipping over a pad designed for hard wood. While these pads will help to grip the rug, they do not provide the dimensional stability that is needed over a soft surface.
3. Rotate your rugs every 12 months. Rotating you rug will ensure more even wear on the rug. It also gives you a chance to thoroughly vacuum the entire rug, even under furniture. Furthermore, rotating your rugs give you a chance to inspect areas under furniture for insect damage. You may want to consider rotating your rug in the springtime when insects are more likely to lay their eggs. Vacuuming and moving the rug are good ways do disturb insect and help prevent damage. Click here to learn more about moth and insect damage.
4. Hire a firm that has specialized training specific to natural fiber textiles and rugs rather than a carpet cleaning company that offers rug cleaning as a convenience. Carpet cleaners are trained in to clean wall to wall carpet which is almost always a synthetic fibers. Rugs, even less expensive ones, are commonly made of wool, cotton, and other natural fibers. Treating these natural fibers the same way as synthetics, which are essentially plastic, can cause texture change and texture distortion, discoloration, and bleeding. Click here to learn more.
5. Avoid placing potted plants on your rug as this often causes dry rot and may lead to a hole in your rug. It is inevitable, if you have a potted plant on your rug, at some point it will be over watered. So if possible, move the plant off the rug entirely. Dry rot becomes a problem, because the foundation of most rugs are cotton, which is more absorbent than wool or silk. Spilled water quickly is absorbed into the cotton foundation and because it is wrapped tightly with wool or silk fibers and lays flat on the floor, the water evaporates very slowly. Elevating a plant off the rug will help to create more are flow, but is usually still not sufficient to prevent dry rot. If your rug does get wet, turn back the edge so that both the top and bottom of the rug have air flow. You may also want to consider having the rug professionally cleaned since the soil from the potted plant that gets into the foundation will expedite dry rot.
6. Some rugs are very susceptible to sun fading. All textile can possibly fade with exposure to direct sunlight, but some rugs and specific colors will fade faster than others. If possible, avoid placing your rugs in direct sunlight. If you do, however, you can decrease fading with tinted windows, drawing the shades, or having a professional apply a UV protection to your rug. The red tones are usually the first colors to start fading. Some rugs are chemically washed after the weaving process to achieve a softer hand and more luxuries look to the wool. This process is often referred to as luster washing, antique washing, or strip washing. Many rugs are initially washed in this way, particularly, rugs from China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. Cotton rugs are also very susceptible to fading, especially, artificial silk rugs (commonly refereed to as art silk). Art silk rugs are commonly made out of mercerized cotton, which is essentially a mild bleaching process to make the rug feel and appear as real silk. Any rug chemically washed will fade much faster and wear out much sooner than rugs that have not been treated in this manner. There are some ways to correct fading, including tip shearing and redyeing.
7. Properly store your rugs to avoid damage commonly caused by insects, pests, and moisture. It is recommended that rugs be thoroughly washed, moth-proofed, and wrapped in a breathable material if storing for more than a month. Kraft paper is acceptable to store your rugs for a short time period (less than a month) since it allows the wool to breathe. However, it only provides limited defense against insects and pests and very little protection from moisture. Plastic is also not recommended for long term storage, but is acceptable for short time periods such as delivery after cleaning. If a rug is placed in plastic, always perforate the plastic to allow the rug to breathe. For long term storage (more than a month) we recommend using a breathable material that is both water repellent and provide better protection form insects and pests. You also want to avoid storing your rug in attics, basements, garages and closets which are typically dark, moist, and have limited air flow (insects love these conditions). If you do not a suitable storage solution, check with your local rug cleaner. Some cleaners will store off season rugs for a fee.
8. Never use household cleaning products on your rug. Some cleaners may cause risk of color loss, discoloration, permanent yellowing, fiber damage and dye bleeding. Most home owners have a small inventory of cleaning agents under the sink and choosing the wrong cleaner for your application could be disastrous. Even cleaners that are marketed as carpet cleaning agents could ruin your rug. Remember, roughly 99% of wall to wall carpet is synthetic (a form of plastic) and most rugs are made primarily out of natural fibers. If you are uncertain if a product will work on wool, silk, or cotton don’t take the risk. Some commonly use cleaners with potentially damaging results include Folex, Resolve, Oxyclean, Simple Green, Woolite, Salt, Ammonia, Baking Soda, and Bleach. For more spot cleaning information, visit WoolSafe.org
9. Unless you live in a metropolitan area where there are sufficient number of rug galleries, it can be difficult to find someone to do quality repairs for hand made rugs. Many cleaning companies perform rug repairs on hand made pieces, much the same way they would repair a piece of wall-to-wall carpet; with glue and machine stitching. While these types of repairs are not proper, they can provide a cheap and easy alternative if your rug does not have much value. A good rule is that if you have a hand woven rug, repairs should only be performed by hand sewing. A weaver can gently slide a needle between the warps and wefts where as a sewing machine, punches through the foundation yarns compromising their integrity and making them more vulnerable to breaking. The use of glues and machine surging can negatively affect your rugs value and may cause permanent damage.
10. One of the most frequent problems we see with rugs, are pet stains. There are several contributing factors that make pet stains difficult to remove and damaging to the fibers. First, when urine first comes into contact with the rug, it is a warm acid based dye. These are the same conditions that were created to dye your rug in the first place. Hot acid based dyes were applied to your rug because it helps the dyes better adhere to the wool and become more permanent. As a result, the yellowish staining can be difficult to remove. As mentioned above, some rugs are luster washed which strips the outside of the wool and makes it even more vulnerable to staining.
As urine ages, its pH levels change and it goes from an acid based solution to a high pH solution. This is damaging, because wool is essentially hair and high pH solutions are damaging to wool, silk, and cotton fibers. You have to be cautious with using carpet spotters because many have a high pH level. Likewise, carpet cleaning solutions for wall-to-wall carpet, used by many professional carpet cleaners, also have a higher pH level. An uneducated carpet cleaner may not even realize that their cleaning solutions are damaging to wool.
To avoid this pH shift, blot the spot using pressure to absorb the liquid out of the rug. Treat the spot with distilled white vinegar, which will neutralize the pH level. Be cautious to apply enzymatic deodorizers to wool and silk rugs. Enzymes are a good bacteria that break down the protein in the urine to destroy it. However, wool and silk are also made of protein and some enzymes will destroy both.
Finally, as mentioned in the issue of potted plants above, the urine will be absorbed into the cotton foundation of the rug. Urine has salts in it and these salts continually draw moisture from the air. Because of these salt crystals, the foundation will never actually dry out and dry rot will eventually occur. You can easily tell if urine has made it’s way into the foundation, by bending the rug in that area. A cotton foundation that is swelled with moisture will be noticeably stiffer than the rest of the rug. The only way to remove this contamination is by submersion washing performed by a qualified rug cleaner.