Rugs obviously come in a range of styles, materials and decorative finishes. Some are machine made and others are made by hand. Often machine made rugs closely resemble handmade so we must be careful. Each type has its place but it is clear that we cannot treat them all under a generic title of ‘rugs’.
Rugs have been made from the early days of civilisation. First they were manufactured from animal hides. Presumably for warmth and shelter and later being woven from reeds. Pile rugs, made of wool, as we would recognise today, were being made as early as 2000BC. In 1949 the Pazyryk rug was found in Southern Siberia. It dates from 500BC is the oldest known example of its type.
Rugs continue to serve a practical purpose although they are often chosen entirely for their decorative appearance.
A modern rug which is made of 100% polypropylene is a safe bet for cleaning. They will not shrink, being made of plastic, and typically provide hard wearing floor coverings. Wool rugs may be modern or old and the processes and quality of finish can vary greatly.
Look underneath the rug. Is there a label? Often this will tell you exactly what the rug is made of. Does the rug have a cotton sheet sewn onto it? If it does, is it there to provide a tidy, durable finish or is it to hide poor quality work?
How dense is the pile material? What is the pile made of? What are the warp and weft threads made of? How many colours are there and are the dyes stable? All of these factors will have an impact on the cleaning process.
Testing the dye is stable is very important and each colour must be tested separately. On a handmade rug it is definitely worth testing each colour in numerous places in case the wool has been dyed in different batches and exhibits different properties.
Turn the rug over and vacuum as much dust and dry dirt out as possible. Pass the vacuum North/South and then repeat East/West. Turn the rug back over and vacuum again. Keep going until satisfied that no more dry dirt or debris can be removed.
If a pre-spray is to be applied then add it now and treat any individual stains or marks. Leave for the time judged sufficient for the cleaning action to take place. Whereas a carpet is cleaned with a large cleaning head allowing large areas to be covered quickly rugs are a slower process. A cleaner will use a much smaller cleaning head allowing finer control of moisture and vacuum removal. This is likely to be a ‘hands and knees’ affair. A conscientious cleaner will use towelling to dry the rug as it is cleaned. This removes excess moisture and minimises the risk of dye transfer and wicking.
Trim may also be cleaned at this point if there is any. Cotton trims are often damaged by the manufacturing process and each rug must be treated on its merits. Machine made rugs will have these trims added after manufacture. In a handmade rug they are the means of tying off the fibres to stop them unravelling. Best to know which before you apply a process to them.
Finally, once your rug is clean it must be dried. Fans and dehumidifiers can be used to dry the rug evenly and quickly. This is of critical importance if a rug is to be rolled up for transport or storage. Any moisture will allow mould or bacteria to grow causing smells and irreversible damage to some fibres.
This picture shows a modern, good quality (and expensive) rug with some staining. The owner has tried to remove these and others with an off the shelf cleaning product from the supermarket. As well as not removing the stains the dye has been rubbed from the black pile into the white. Unfortunately this proved permanent. If you wish to try a DIY solution read my advice in a previous blog or call me, Neil Worsnop, on 01926 492696 or email email@example.com