A Guide to Rug Care and How To Maintain Rugs
How To Maintain Rugs – Owning an antique rug, especially a fine antique one, is not only a pleasure, but a responsibility. Owners of antique carpets and Persian rugs should actually think of themselves as “the current owner”, one in a series that extends from the distant past and well into the future. Antique rug care and maintenance is perhaps the most important and simplest aspect of owning a rug.
Maintaining an antique rug is vital to protecting the condition and as a result – the value. The basics of rug maintenance are also covered in our Articles About Antique Rug Services
Rugs are mainly susceptible to the following:
- Wear – due to foot traffic and/or rough vacuuming.
- Damage – due to moths and other insects
- Stains – from food or beverages.
- Burns – from smoking or fireplaces.
- Damage – leaks from plumbing/potted plants.
Why carpet damages, if left unattended, become a major problem:
You must be vigilant of a carpet if it begins to unravel or wears down to foundation. If left unattended, the carpet will continue to deteriorate further. As time goes on, worn out areas will become actual holes or tears. Unraveling, which generally occurs at the ends of the rug, will continue to “eat” away at the rug and as time goes by, the loss will become more and more significant.
Any such losses to the fabric – holes and torn/unraveled edges or ends – must be repaired as soon as possible to prevent them from getting larger and then requiring more extensive and expensive repair.
One of the factors for establishing the value of a rug is the condition. As the condition deteriorates, as there are more areas of restoration, the value will inevitably diminish.
Water damage and flower pots:
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. This type of damage is easily avoidable and the restoration can be quite expensive, which may affect the future resale value of the rug.
Damages due to leaks can affect the entire rug. If a rug “sits” in water for a long period of time, the colors will 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 minimize the risks of damages to your rug:
- Watch-out for wool eating moths – If you see a moth flying around then you should realize that there is a good chance that your rug is already infested and you should probably seek 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 could pool, but not overflow onto the rug. As long as the area (of the rug) where the flower pot is located remains dry, you should not have any issues.
*If you have a good carpet then regular 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 red wine or food.
How to keep your rug clean and well preserved:
Rugs will become dirty over time. This is a fact – no matter how careful the owner is. The accumulation of dust and dirt may contribute to wear and/or damages. With that said, here are a few things you could do to keep your rug clean and healthy over time:
- Washing and cleaning your rug – As routine maintenance, every four years or so, a rug should be professionally washed and cleaned. Urban environments will deposit airborne grime and soot in your rugs and textiles. Rugs can also dry out from central heating and washing not only cleans the rug, but re-moisturizes the wool.
- Spot cleaning – This may be necessary in the case of stains from spills. NEVER use chemical cleaners or stain removers – if not used or applied correctly, they may damage the rug irreversibly. Red wine, tea, coffee, milk, and pet stains should require immediate attention. Such spills should be blotted up and then flushed with warm water. This can be done by putting a disposable towel or cloth under the rug and pouring water through it until the stain is rinsed out. Test the rug first to make sure that the colors do not run before flushing extensively with water. To “test” the area, simply rub a damp white colored cloth over the affected area and then see if any of the colors transferred over to the white cloth. If the actual rug colors transferred onto the white cloth, then we would strongly urge you to seek professional assistance.
- Red wine spills can also be treated by putting table salt on the stain after blotting and flushing, but the salt should be fully removed after five minutes or it will bleach the rug.
- If you soak an area on the rug – As a result of a leak, spill or if done on purpose, a damp rug should never be left flat on the floor. Make sure that it is lifted from the floor’s surface to allow air circulation on both sides until it is thoroughly dry. You do not need to lift the entire rug off the floor. You can lift the carpet by putting things under different areas of the rug. By doing this, you will allow the air to circulate and the moisture to evaporate. A damp rug left laying flat on the floor may lead to dry rot. Major washing and even spot cleaning are best left to the professionals. A professional cleaning service can do wonders as far as getting out stains, especially if one has the rug attended to quickly.
Mitigating any potential damage from foot traffic:
Even the finest rug will wear down if subjected to repeated foot traffic – that is a fact. That said, if you follow these simple steps, you can protect 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.
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 wool by weakening the fibers. This is true of vintage rugs 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 to block the light, but will need to reduce it somewhat.
- UV films and filters – Applying UV Filters to your windows is strongly advised. While you will not see an actual 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:
- Do not store rugs in a closet or attic without checking every month or so for moths and humidity.
- 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.