Antique Rug Maintenance

Source: Passion of Persia – passionofpersia@yahoo.com.

Customers frequently ask us how best to care for their rug to avoid the damage that continued wear and tear can inflict. There are certain components of rug maintenance or care that we recommend only having performed by a Master Weaver or rug expert. A fine handmade rug should be professionally cleaned about every three years. Although, rugs that receive less wear and tear, such as wall mounted rugs, can be cleaned less frequently than rugs in high traffic areas.
Please keep in mind that simply because a rug does not “look” dirty, does not mean that it shouldn’t be cleaned.  Accumulated dust and dirt will start to eat away at the internal foundation of a rug, resulting in significant repair costs.  As well, essentially any type of damage to or unraveling of a rug needs to be repaired by a professional.  But there are many actions a rug owner can take to preserve their rugs and extend their lifespan, many of which are very simple.

Regular Maintenance

Rugs should be rotated every year to maintain even wear (similar to what you would do for a bed mattress). Otherwise, you will end up with a rug that has discernible lower pile or lighter colors in some areas than others. Also, in originally placing your rugs consider the rug and the room’s use. An antique or silk rug should be placed in a room with lower traffic, like a bedroom, or even hung on the wall for best preservation. Try not to place furniture on rugs, or use pieces of cut-up padding under the furniture’s “feet” in order to reduce the amount of friction and wear on the rug. A piece of furniture, like a couch, can create enough friction over time to literally burn holes in a rug.

Consider things like how much direct sunlight the rug will receive, as the sun can eventually dilute the colors or even burn the textile if the sun is strong enough.  As you can see in the picture on the left, sun faded the rug’s border from a vibrant red (still seen on the back of the rug) to a pink.  Also consider whether the room has a lot of humidity (like a bathroom or solarium) that may cause your rug to mildew.
Most important of all, check your rug for wear or damage regularly. We have one customer that placed a potted plant on an antique rug, and it was years before she realized that moisture from the pot was leaking onto the rug and eating away at the internal foundation. If the damage had been caught sooner, she could have saved a lot of money in repair costs.

When you vacuum your rug, do not use the beater bar or raise the level of the vacuum’s bar high enough that it’s not eating into the rug. You will feel the lack of resistance on the vacuum when you push it. For antique or silk rugs, we highly recommend only using the vacuum’s hand attachment to clean the rug, or the vacuum with no beater bar.

If you have a cleaning or housekeeping service, you will need to instruct them on how to properly care for your fine rugs. We have seen many damaged rugs who suffered at the hands of a well-intentioned house cleaner. Recently, we have also seen multiple cases where the housecleaner got tired of the vacuum catching on the fringe and cut the fringe off, de-valuing and damaging the rug. Fringe should be only vacuumed, if at all, with the hand tool, and should only be removed by an expert weaver. Otherwise, without the fringe, there is nothing to prevent the rug from unraveling.

Stains

Do not spot-clean a stain.  This will freeze in the stain and make it difficult for even a Master Weaver to remove.  At most, blot at the stain – do not scrub at it.  Do not soak the rug.  We had one customer where the baby had an accident on their silk rug and they soaked the rug in the tub.  Soon, the entire rug had a blue overcast because that color had bled.  Luckily, we were able to get most of the bleeding out, but it was a lot more work (and money) than just taking care of the original stain.  We always encourage our customers to call us for advice on how to handle a stain.  But, our general rule of thumb is that if you’re not sure what to do – do nothing.

With stains involving acidic liquids, such as a pet accident or wine stain, it is very important that you have it professionally cleaned immediately.  Acid will quickly eat away at the wool or silk fibers of the rug.  Do not roll the rug up and put it away to have it cleaned later – unless you want to pay for a portion of your rug to be re-woven.

Prolonged Water and Smoke Exposure

First of all, almost any rug can be restored. We have been involved in many insurance cases involving floods or fires where the customer was sure his or her rugs were ruined. But this is another situation where speed is imperative, particularly with water damage where the rug can begin to mold or rot. Many people want to settle things with their insurance company prior to sending in their rug – this is a big mistake. Your rug’s damage will increase while you wait, and we can help you navigate the insurance process. We have years of experience working with insurance companies, and know how to make sure that your rug is either restored to its original condition or replaced with a rug of equal value.

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