Weekly Tips for Maintaining, Restoring and Preserving Your Estate Sale Purchases & Personal Treasures

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December 15, 2014

~CARING FOR YOUR ORIENTAL RUG~

 

A genuine hand-knotted Oriental rug will last a very long time if you take a few precautions to protect it from premature wear and the most common kinds of damage: water damage, pet stains, vacuum cleaner damage, sun damage, and uneven wear.

Water Damage

Most varieties of Oriental rugs have wool pile, but many have cotton warp and weft (the warp is the foundation upon which knots are tied to create the pile; the weft runs over and under warp strings between rows of knots to strengthen the rug from side to side). This cotton foundation can be weakened, and sometimes actually rotted, if the rug is wetted repeatedly and not properly dried. A common cause of such damage occurs when potted plants are placed directly on a rug. The plant is watered regularly, the pot leaks, and the rug under the pot stays permanently damp. Within two or three weeks the foundation of the rug can become so weak that chunks can be torn from the affected area by hand. If you use planters near a rug, try to place them on a slim legged stool, or a caster-based support that lets you see under the pot and allows for ventilation. After watering the plant check to be sure the rug under it is completely dry.

 Vacuum Cleaner Damage

In almost all instances, regular vacuuming of an Oriental rug with an electric vacuum cleaner is good for the rug--a dirty rug wears prematurely and regular vacuuming helps prevent dirt on the surface of the rug from filtering down into the pile. Still, be careful with a cleaner equipped with a power brush or "beater bar"; these powered brushes in the vacuum head help the vacuum do a good job on machine-made carpeting, but they cause a raking effect on the top layer of an Oriental rug's pile if used too strenuously. If your vacuum cleaner has a power brush, use it only occasionally and lightly on your Oriental rug. For routine cleaning, use just the plain vacuum nozzle. This is especially important for fringes; try not to run an upright vacuum or a power brush attachment over fringes. The brush shreds the fringes and causes rapid wear. Frequently fringes get caught and chewed up by the rotating mechanism of the brush.

Food Spills/Pet Urine

Always try to work on the spill so as not to increase the area of the spill. In case of a food spill or urine on a rug, the problem is much more easily handled if the spot is treated promptly, before the spill is allowed to dry. Blot up as much liquid as possible with paper towels or a clean, white cloth. Try to rinse out as much of the spill as possible. A smaller rug can be taken outside and rinsed with a hose and cool water (try not to saturate the whole rug--it will take much longer to dry if you do). With a larger carpet, the corner or edge can be laid in a plastic dishpan and saturated with cool water or, a bucket can be placed under the wet area of the carpet and cool water poured through the rug (make a hollow in the carpet over the container before you pour, and don't exceed the capacity of the container under the rug!). Add about 1 cup of white vinegar per gallon to the rinse water--vinegar helps prevent colors from running and will help neutralize the urine odor.

After the rug has been rinsed, blot dry and sponge with rug shampoo. Let dry thoroughly (drying a wet area of a larger carpet can be hastened by arranging the carpet so that air can circulate both top and bottom--drape the end of the carpet across a lawn chair, or put a sawhorse or painted bench under the rug in the area of the wet spot).

Pet Stool, Regurgitation

If a pet regurgitates on a rug, you are faced with removing a complex mixture of foodstuffs, saliva, and stomach acids. Depending on the foods involved, this mixture can actually work as a dilute dye to stain the pile a different hue. If a pet regurgitates or defecates on a rug, clean the area immediately by picking up as much material as possible with paper towels or with a clean, white cloth. If necessary, use a tablespoon to scrape up all the foreign material. Blot the area dry and immediately sponge several times with rug shampoo or with the cleaning solution listed below. Don't scrub hard--too much manipulation of the pile can spread the stain. Sponge in the direction of the nap.

Spot Cleaning Solution

1/4 cup white vinegar*

1/2 tsp liquid dishwashing detergent

2 cups tepid water

*Most Oriental rug dyes are acid-fast. By adding a little white vinegar to the wash water you make the wash water more acidic, and this reinforces the bond between the dyestuff and the wool in the rug, and so helps prevent the colors from running.

Finally, sponge the area with cool, clean water to finish. Use absorbent towels or a firm, non-shedding sponge. Don't use a brush so stiff that it pulls fibers from the pile. Don't scrub hard at the pile. Place some towels under the spot to keep floor or pad from getting wet. Dry thoroughly. When the nap feels dry, check the back of the rug to be sure the area is completely dry.

Sun Damage

Most rug dyes are quite resistant to sun fading or bleaching. Still, ultraviolet rays are a powerful force of Nature, and a rug will likely fade over time if used for years in a very sunny area. Consider sheer drapes to block some of the direct sunlight, and try to turn the rug end-for-end once a year to even out possible color changes.

Uneven Wear

A rug should be turned end-for-end once every year or two to even out wear and color change. Try not to use a rug on a very uneven floor. An area of the floor that is raised (a loose floorboard, a transition strip from one flooring material to another, etc.) causes the part of the rug that covers it to wear much more rapidly than the rest of the rug.

To Move a Rug

When you move a big rug to adjust its position, a simple trick is to rapidly wave the edge of the rug up and down a foot or two close to the floor while pulling. This ripple effect sends a cushion of air under the rug, making it very easy to move.

To Lay a Rug Flat

If a rug has been folded for shipping, there may be wrinkles or creases when you lay it down.  To flatten them out, first determine which way the nap lays (rub your hand across the pile in the direction of the fringe: the pile will feel smooth one way and will roughen up when rubbed in the opposite direction). Stand at the end of the rug with the nap running toward you. Roll the rug up from this end as tight as you can, then slowly unroll and smooth it down along the way. Persistent wrinkles in the same spot can be pressed from the face of the rug using a steam iron on "wool" setting (be sure to iron the pile in its original direction). Persistent wrinkles should be attended to, as premature wear along the ridges made by the wrinkles can result.

Rug Pads

Pads under Oriental rugs can prevent sliding, prolong the life of the rug by cushioning the impact between shoe sole and hard floor surfaces, and provide comfort under foot. To determine if you need a pad, the rule of thumb is:  a heavy, thick rug does not necessarily need one, whereas a thin, soft rug does, as does an older rug or a rug that has been rewoven or patched or which has a weakened foundation. A pad should be about an inch smaller than the rug all the way around (not counting the fringe) so that the pad will not show beneath the rug.

Pads can be made of materials like rubber, felt, polyester, or one of a number of synthetic foams. The preferred pads for larger rugs is made of a polyester felt about 3/8" thick. This material is quite dense and is mechanically strong. Rubber pads crack and crumble around the edges with time, and occasionally will become gummy and stick to an older floor finish or even to the back of the rug.

Storage
When a rug is to be stored for more than a few months it should be cleaned, sprayed with insecticide, and wrapped in protective plastic or a tough synthetic paper like "Tyvek"® building paper. Don't use newspaper or common brown wrapping paper. These materials are not chemically stable (they are usually quite acidic), and do not provide the protection from insects or moisture the stored rug needs. Make sure the rug is completely dry. Think twice about using moth balls or flakes--these materials have little repellent effect, and the odor they impart to the rug can be difficult to remove. Cedar scent is useless in moth control. Store the rug in a clean, dry place out of the reach of squirrels or other rodents. Periodic inspection of the rug is strongly recommended.

Summary
Vacuum your rug often--both front and back sides, and turn it end-for-end once in a while. Although many kinds of damage can be repaired, prevention is much easier (and cheaper) than repair, so avoid placing potted plants on the rug, and keep an eye on your pets. Inspect the entire rug periodically for signs of wear or damage. Have your rug cleaned only when it really is dirty.  When you see something wrong with your rug that is beyond your ability to rectify, don't hesitate to call a reputable Oriental rug dealer for advice.

© JACOBSEN Oriental Rugs, Inc.    http://www.jacobsenrugs.com/clean.htm