The exquisite beauty of the handmade natural fiber rug makes it one of the world’s treasures. If properly cared for, your rug can last for generations and be an endless source of pleasure in your home. Here are a few basics to ensure your rug is afforded the best protection:
Why Wash Your Rugs?
Oriental rug experts agree: the proper way to clean a rug is by hand, in water, without harmful chemicals and machines. This hand cleaning is the same method used for thousands of years. It is time consuming, but preserves these beautiful works of art and is thus worth the time and effort.
Washing your treasured handmade rugs is the best protection you can give them. Careful washing will save your rugs from destruction by accumulated dust, lint, dirt and sand.
Continued use of a rug that contains common household soils and grit accelerates the wear of the rug by literally cutting the fibers and encouraging mildew and pests. In-home topical cleaning of these rugs does not remove the particles from deep within the foundation of the rug, and is only maintenance cleaning. We recommend a complete washing at least every three years, and more often if you have high traffic, children and/or pets.
These are the steps we take when we accept your rug for cleaning:
1. Extensive, thorough inspection and documentation. The inspection will reveal whether a rug is machine- or handmade, what its likely country of origin is, and its fiber content. These factors are important to a determination of the rug’s suitability for washing. Visible pre-existing conditions such as tea-washing, old spotting attempts, tears, sun-fade, residue from past cleanings, unraveling, excessive soiling, stains, and other damage will be noted and discussed with the client prior to cleaning. Each rug is digitally photographed and the photo is saved in the client’s file.
2. Dye Testing. “Bleeding” of dyes is caused by many factors, made more complicated by the fact that weaving techniques are being imitated by rug producers in many countries. It is not possible these days to look at a rug and determine by inspection alone that the dyes will not bleed. This is why we test every rug before cleaning. If your rug has twenty colors in it, we will do twenty tests. If we determine that your rug’s dyes are likely to migrate, we will discuss alternative cleaning methods with you.
3. Dusting. Particulate matter is removed from the rug prior to washing. After the rug has been washed and is dry, we dust again.
4. Washing. Your rug is next washed with flowing water and given a gentle bath by hand washing. This bath thoroughly cleanses refreshes and brightens the rug. The rug will also be conditioned in appropriate cases for urine or smoke damage. As a final touch, all rugs are given a final rinse of pure rainwater that we collect in our cisterns.5. Drying. The water is removed from the rug by hand – no wringers or rollers. Once as much water is removed as possible, the rug is allowed to dry naturally. This usually takes 24 to 48 hours. In some cases, we may determine that it is safer to dry your rug flat.
6. Grooming. Your rug will be inspected, dusted again, brushed and prepared for return.
7. Results. You will be delighted by your rug’s fresh, bright appearance!
Remember that soil and dust particles are acting like tiny razor blades sawing away at the fibers of your rug when you walk on it. Try to vacuum often, and avoid the fringes. (The fringes in most cases are an extension of the foundation of your rug. You want to avoid damage to the fringes). DO NOT use a Dyson Vacuum Cleaner or any other aggressive Vacuum Cleaner on your wool rug. The beater bar will pull the wool fibers off of the rug, until the rug is bare. We have had clients call and complain that they have vacuumed their rug after it has been returned, only to get a dirt cup full of "dog hair". The "dog hair" turned out to be wool fibers from their rug! Vacuum with the beater bar off, or if it cannot be turned off, then raise the vacuum to it's highest setting.
Rotate Your Rug
It is important to rotate your rug to avoid continually walking over the same spots (remember the soil and dust are acting like tiny sandpaper). You should also be on the lookout for sun fade, which can be mitigated to some degree by rotation.
Try to Avoid Sun Fade
Sun fade is very difficult to correct, if not impossible. When you move, or when you purchase a new rug, you should be conscious of how the light from your windows will affect the rug. Be particular about skylights. Also be aware that you may not see a full day’s effect if you are not home during the day to observe how the light falls at different times.
We advocate UV coating for your windows which will block much of the harmful rays. If this is not possible, consider curtains and shades. Once the rug becomes faded unevenly, it is virtually impossible to even out the color.
Particularly if any part of your rug is under furniture or in a dark area, you should inspect periodically for moths. Moths will generally be evident by their casings, which look like grains of rice. You should look at the rug carefully for evidence of insects.
Address Emergencies Immediately
All oriental repair work is expensive because it is time-consuming and very labor-intensive. It is therefore important that any damage to your rug be addressed sooner rather than later. It is safe to say that time is the enemy of oriental rugs. The longer a damaged area goes un-repaired, the longer a spill or animal accident remains on the rug, the longer your rug goes with moths eating away at it, the harder it will be to correct, and in some cases, the stains will not come out and/or the repairs will be very costly.
Never Put a Potted Plant on Your Rug
If you place a potted plant on your rug, you are asking for certain trouble. We have seen many rugs sustain major damage from this practice. It is virtually impossible to ensure that moisture will not make its way to the rug, and the rug will rot out from this moisture. This is an extremely expensive repair. If you value your rug, never ever put a potted plant on it.
If, due to a move or remodel or some other reason, you need to roll your rug up for storage, you must have it cleaned first. Then the rug should be wrapped in a breathable, archival type paper – never plastic – for storage. The practice of rolling up a dirty rug and placing it a garage or some other dark spot is like advertising a free, open bar rock concert to moths. They love dirty wool in dark places. They will eat holes throughout the rug. This is also a time-consuming and costly repair.
Most of the damage we see to oriental rugs comes from puppies and young dogs. There is a very short window period in which to address urine on a rug before it turns to a permanent stain. Also, we have seen many rugs damaged by chewing on the corners and the fringe. It is therefore our strong advice that if you get a new puppy, or if you get a new rug when you have a young dog, that you store the rug away from the dog’s reach until it is old enough to be house-trained and out of the chewing stage.
Although this advice may impart the feeling that your rug is fragile and requires a lot of care, the opposite is true. Oriental rugs are extremely durable and will last a lot longer than wall-to-wall carpeting if you take care of them. But this is essential: wash them periodically, vacuum, and keep them away from harmful sunlight, moths and your young animals. You will be able to enjoy your rug for your lifetime.