Expert answers about rug cleaning plus how to care for the carpets you love.
If you’ve held off with rug cleaning because you weren’t sure how to take the first step, you’re not alone. I spoke recently with a woman who said she had never sent her rugs out because she simply didn’t know who to call, what to ask, or how to determine whom to trust. Here are the questions to ask, and some answers you should be getting in order to make an informed decision.
How do you clean Oriental rugs?
The best method for Orientals – in fact, all area rugs, is wet washing by hand. The ability to completely rinse a carpet is the key to achieve superior results.
The first step in professional cleaning is to “dust” (vacuum) on the front and back to loosen dirt embedded deep in the pile.
The wash process begins with a pre-treatment for spots, then wetting the rug thoroughly & applying shampoo.
After lathering, the rug is rinsed to remove all traces of dirt the shampoo has released. If a rug is exceptionally dirty, this process should be repeated several times.
We utilize a pulley system to hang rugs after they are washed to allow them to dry thoroughly (first photo). Warm air is circulated throughout the room, which guarantees they are 100% dry, and allows for cleaning year round. In the photo, my brother Gary Tulanian preparing to hoist the pulleys used to hang rugs to dry.
What problems can arise with my type of rug?
There are inherent problems with certain types of rugs. For example, Afghan rugs are often woven too tightly and can buckle even more after getting wet. Moroccan, Navajo and Kilim rugs are notorious for poor dyes. Silk rug fibers may change appearance in texture.
Will the dyes bleed?
Bleeding occurs for various reasons. Dyes can break down from sunlight and animal accidents. Rugs that have been touched up with a non-colorfast dye can bleed. Improperly dyed wool and even poor quality wool will release color at cleaning time. Although many dealers suggest using a damp white towel on a rug as a reliable test to see if the dye transfers, I disagree. A rug may consist of wool dyed in separate batches. Testing one area will not tell you how stable the color is in another. A trained eye and years of experience cleaning rugs are the best defenses in assessing dyes. If a rug is judged to have dyes that are not colorfast, ask which alternative cleaning options are available.
What is the cost?
This is often the first and only question asked. It should be one of the last — and only after you establish a rapport with, and have confidence in the dealer. Charges are determined using a flat square footage rate, or a flexible rate by the type/style/condition of your rug.
How often should rugs be cleaned?
Many dealers recommend cleaning every 3 to 5 years.
Can I wash a rug myself?
That’s something I never recommend. The points outlined above are just a few of the obstacles we encounter with rug cleaning. Professionals have experience washing every type of rug and know the characteristics associated with each and, more importantly, how to deal with situations that can arise.
My customers are always amazed at the color and life that is restored to their rugs after washing. In fact, a few have been so astonished, they insisted I was giving them the wrong rug. I’ll always remember the gentleman who was adamant that the blue rug I was returning to him could not be his, as his rug was brown. Indeed it was. And underneath that sea of brown lay a beautiful blue surprise.
Three Basic Rug Care Must-Dos
1. Vacuum – Essential for removing fine dirt and dust. Use a vacuum with a good beater bar that will agitate the rug and loosen particles. Dirt that settles between the fibers becomes abrasive, like sandpaper, each time you walk across the carpet.
2. Check under furniture – There, and in other dark spots, the danger of moth infestation is always present. Any area your vacuum doesn’t reach is vulnerable. Moths work in dark, undisturbed spots and will gravitate to dirty rugs. Rugs hung on the wall are also susceptible.
3. Turn your rugs – It is best to rotate rugs by 90 or 180 degrees to even out wear patterns and to prevent uneven fading in areas exposed to sunlight. This is vital to keep your rugs looking wonderful and wearing properly.
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