A Guide To Area Rug Care
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How to care for your area rugs especially if they are antique
Owning an area rug, especially a fine antique one, is not just a pleasure, it is also a responsibility. Owners of antique rugs and Persian rugs should actually think of themselves as “the current owner”, one in a series that spans from the distant past and well into the future. How to care for your area rug and maintain it is perhaps the most important, and simplest, aspect of owning a rug.
What types of damage is an area rug susceptible to?
Area rugs, especially handmade rugs and even more so the finer woven area rugs tend to be pretty resilient and able to withstand quite. But just like superman had his weaknesses, so do all the varied and different area rug types.
The 6 main rug damages tend to be related to:
- Wear – due to foot traffic, constant furniture moving back and forth, and / or rough vacuuming.
- Damage from bugs – due to moths and other insects that get into the rug pile and can literally eat your carpet pit of existence.
- Stains – from spills, animals, people, kids, food and / or beverages.
- Burns – from smoking, fireplaces or god forbid – an actual house fire.
- Water Damage – water leaks from plumbing / potted plants as well as large spills.
- Sun fading – the sun can bleach and cause some colors in rugs and textile and even art to fade.
Why should you attended to rug damages quickly?
What starts out as a relatively small and insignificant carpet and rug damage, if left unattended, can become a major problem.
Examples of why you should be vigilant about caring for your rug’s damages:
- Wear and unraveling – You must be vigilant of a carpet if it begins or wears, especially if the wear has gone down to the rug foundation. If damage is left unattended, the carpet will continue to deteriorate further. As time goes on, worn low pile areas will become actual holes or tears and this will require much more time and money to restore than if you had taken care of the issue right away. That said, unfortunately, at some point, some rugs may not be salvageable.
- Unraveling – Unraveling is something that generally occurs at the ends of the rug. If left unattended, it will continue to unravel and “eat” away at the rug. Ss time goes by, the loss will become more and more significant which will require far more time and money to correct (it that is at all possible).
- Water damages – Water damages can affect the rug in different ways but the biggest issue can be rot. If the rug foundation begins to rot, there is no real way to “save it”. That area will need to get removed and recreated / resorted. The more time the rug is left unattended to, the worse the rot can be come and even spread throughout larger and different areas / parts of the rug.
- Moths / larvae – If you see moths or larvae you must attended to the rug as soon as possible. These critters may be small, but they can literally eat your rug out of exitance. In addition, the longer you wait, the greater the chance the the moth will spread to other areas of the house and closets and before you know it, not your bedding and half your clothes have moth damage.
- Sun-fading – Better and more high-end rugs should take longer than cheap area rugs to fade. But sun fading is a gradual thing, it simply does not happen over night. Usually when you actually notice it then the damage is probably quite significant. Adjusting colors is not easy and sometimes it is impossible to match the colors. This can result in rug repairs that will be obvious and noticeable – something no one wants!
At the end of the day, one of the biggest factors in establishing the value of a rug is the condition of the rug. As the condition deteriorates, as there are more areas of restoration and damages, the value will inevitably diminish and quite quickly at that. So know how to care for your area rug may prove to be a wise financial decision.
How to minimize the risks of damages to your rug
Caring for rugs is kind of like caring for loved ones. Just like we take precautionary measures to mitigate the chances of damage or injury to those we love we can also to do for “those things” we cherish as well.
Here are some tips for protecting your rugs from future potential damage:
- Watch-out for wool eating moths – If you see a moth flying around then there is a good chance that your rug is already infested and you should consider seeking professional help. Check both the top pile and the underside of your rug periodically. Look for evidence of moths, especially the white silky cobwebs of the larvae. Some residences tend to have moths. If you fall into this category use moth spray periodically, even on the reverse side of rugs in active use.
- Storing your rugs – If you store rugs folded or rolled, use moth balls or cedar shavings and check the rugs every month or two. Make sure to have the carpet fully wrapped in (and sealed) so that water and humidity will not enter. We also suggest not having the rug sitting directly on the floor of your storage facility. If a leak does occur, it might be days before you find out and you surely would not want your rug “sitting” in water for the entire time.
- Burns – Make sure that you have something placed under a candle or incense. This way the hot wax and ash wont fall directly onto the carpet’s surface.
- Flower Pots – Make sure you have something under the flower pot where the water can pool, but not overflow onto the rug. As long as the area where the flower pot is located remains dry, you should not have any issues.
- Sun fading – Make sure to close the blinds and not expose the rugs to direct sunlight. You may also apply a UV film over the windows to block just the UV rays – no UV rays – no fading.
If you have a good carpet, then normal stains from food and beverages will most likely not cause long term damage. Therefore you should feel free to use and enjoy the piece and not worry if your guests spill. But you should learn how to care for your area rug is something unexpected were top happen.
How to care for rugs and protect them from water damages
How do potted plants create water damage in rugs?
If you have a leaky flower pot sitting on top of a rug, the water will seep into the rug and over time, the damp / moist area will develop dry rot. Once the foundation of the rug has dry rot, there is no way of fixing it – that area would need to be completely removed and subsequently rewoven and the foundation recreated.
How to avoid water damage to your rugs from flower pots:
This type of damage is easily avoidable and the restoration can be quite expensive, which may affect the future resale value of the rug.
How to deal with more wide spread water damages due to leaks that affect the entire rug
If a rug sits in water for a long period of time, the rug colors may begin to run / bleed. The rug may also start developing dry rot throughout. Please note, the rug does not need to be fully submerged in water for this to happen. Since the wool will absorb the water, once it is wet, it will need to be opened and dried fully. Long term damages can only be assessed once the rug has been fully dried out.
How to mitigate damages to your rug if it got submerged in water:
If you had a flood in your home and your rug got soaking wet then you need to act quickly if you would like to protect it. Basically you need to make sure to get it fully dry and do so quickly. You can spread the rug out in warm sun and make sure to flip it over a few times to make sure it gets all the moister out. If it is not summer or you do not have a back yard, you can always spread the rug out in your home, put some objects underneath it in different places to prop it up (this allows the air to circulate) and have fans blow air on it for as long as is needed.
***As a side note, when water damages occur, you may want to have the rug professionally cleaned and inspected to make sure there are no left over and potentially lingering issues.
How to mitigate any potential future damage to your area rugs from foot and vacuuming traffic:
Even the finest rug will wear down if subjected to repeated foot traffic over a long period of time – that is a fact.
That said, if you follow these simple steps, you can protect your rug from foot traffic and increase the longevity of your rugs:
- Rotate the rug – It is important to rotate the rug every two years. This should be done so that the foot traffic is spread evenly over the entire surface of the rug.
- Vacuum your carpet – Frequent vacuuming is essential to remove dust and grit, which will wear the pile down under foot traffic. That said, it is important to note that vacuums with long and harsh bristles may damage the rug. So it important to use a vacuum that has a suction only or that has very soft and short bristles.
How yo keep the colors in your rug from fading:
Contrary to popular opinion, vegetable dyes may fade substantially when exposed to UV light. The synthetic dyes will fade extensively and this will happen far quicker than with the vegetable dyed rugs. Prolonged, intense sunlight is not good for textiles of any type. Intense and direct light might also dry and oxidize the rug’s wool by weakening the fibers. This is true of vintage rugs , modern rugs and especially and antique rugs.
That said, by following these simple steps, you can easily keep the colors in your rug looking great:
- Shade the rug – If you have rugs in a very sunny room, it is advisable to use shading (especially during the sunnier hours of the day). You do not need to block the light, but reduce it somewhat.
- UV films and filters – Applying UV Filters to your windows is strongly advised. While you will not see a physical difference, the filters are quite effective. They are quick, easy, and inexpensive to implement so it is highly recommended to have them installed.
Things you should avoid doing to ensure your rug will have a long and happy life:
Everything we do in life has an affect. Our mere existence will affect the world in some ways just by us being here. So to do our actions carry consequences.
Here are a few tips of what not to do in order to care and protect your rugs
- Do not store rugs in a closet or attic without checking every month or so for moths and humidity.
- Do not subject your rugs in direct sunlight for long period of time.
- Do not store rugs in a basement, the damp environment could lead to irreparable dry rot (due to humidity always being present in such places).
- Do not leave a rug that is damp or wet directly on the floor surface. Moisture that cannot escape or dissipate from under the rug and may also cause dry rot – make sure to prop a damp rug up, letting the air circulate.
- Do not use vacuum cleaners with harsh bristle roller bars, unless the roller feature can be turned off. Roller or beater bars can cause the ends and sides of the rug to fray, leading to extensive loss. The long bristles may also damage the pile of the rug itself.
- Do not attempt to treat stains with chemical cleaners. These may make things worse and prevent a professional cleaner from removing the stain later on.
It is important to note that in life, things happen. No matter how many things we do, how much we try to protect and care, sometimes fate comes into play and nothing we did worked. So do not beat yourself up if something happens to your rugs that you feel was avoidable. Do not dwell on what happened but rather focus on what should be done next. And, like anything else in life, we learn from our mistakes and from our experiences.