Secrets of Rug Care
Hi! My name is Richard, owner of RugMasters of Durango. In this page, I’ll explain some important facts about the construction and care of your fine area rugs, and give you six questions to ask a rug cleaner when choosing whom to trust with your works of art.
I’ve provided this message because more and more people are choosing fine area rugs as a beautiful accent for their wood or tile floors. Many of these rugs are wool, and hand-woven ones may have hundreds of hours of artisan labor (as well as thousand of your dollars!) invested in them. The knowledge of proper care and cleaning is essential to getting as much life as possible out of your rug.
Woven area rugs are extremely durable and can last for generations if properly cared for. Frequent vacuuming is the best preventive maintenance that you can provide at home, along with spotcleaning using only a product that is safe for wool fibers – it should carry the “woolsafe” seal on it. Never use “off-the-grocery-shelf” cleaners designed for synthetic carpets, as they may contain oxidizers and optical brighteners that could damage the rug, or be made with an unsuitably high pH that could damage the dyes.
Now, in spite of vacuuming and spotcleaning, dirt and sand from our mountain environment will eventually get down in the pile of the rug, deeper than your vacuum can reach. As you walk across the rug these soils grind away at the fibers like sandpaper, gradually wearing it away from within! Also, oils from cooking and pets will build up on the fibers, dulling the colors and holding dusty soil. And especially if you’ve added a spill or two, it’s time to get your rug professionally cleaned – and it will need to go to an in-plant cleaner for the proper care.
Oftentimes, people will ask me, “Can’t you just “steam” them when you do my carpet?” Although my truckmounted steam extraction units provide your wall-to-wall carpet with the best possible cleaning, woven area rugs are a different story. On-site steam extraction is appropriate only for synthetic area rugs – but they, too, will benefit from being thoroughly dusted and vacuumed in-plant prior to cleaning.
You see, when high temperature, high-ph cleaning processes are used on delicate wool, it degrades the fiber and may cause the dyes to bleed. And even if it has been cleaned that way by another cleaner in the past and looks OK, it may be a ticking timebomb. Sometimes dyes will remain stable the first time it is cleaned, and then bleed the second or third time due to residue build-up in the rug. (For this reason, always inform your in-plant cleaner if the rug has been subjected to improper cleaning in the past.)
Some rugs, particularly Native American and Indian examples, have slightly unstable dyes to begin with. A good cleaner will test a rug first, for crocking or bleeding, and can still often clean a rug effectively using a dye-setting solution first to stabilize the dyes before cleaning.
Now, I know that in-plant cleaning can kind of be good news and bad news. The bad news is, you’ll need to be without your beautiful rugs for a week or so. But the good news is, they’ll come back much cleaner than if someone tried to do just a “brush-off-the-surface” cleaning in your house…not to mention saving the potential spills or overspray on your wood or stone floor.
Remember the gritty deep-down dirt I just talked about? This deep soil requires the use of a special machine called a RugBadger before cleaning the rug, to loosen and remove the deeply embedded dirt. Otherwise, it may remain at the base of the fiber through the cleaning process, continuing to wear away the pile! Unfortunately, not everyone uses these (they’re expensive, after all) so be sure to ask how your cleaner will remove dry soil before cleaning. If they don’t know what you’re talking about, or hesitate to show you their facility and equipment, you’d probably better find someone else.
The next step is to wash the rug – a process that may vary slightly from rug to rug, but usually includes hand-shampooing with a special rug detergent, fringe detailing (on rugs with a cotton fringe) and cold-rinsing with pure soft water. Afterward, the rugs are speed-dried with high-volume fans, to return them to you as soon as possible.