Four Corners Rugs - Handwoven Rugs of Distinction

Rug care

Oriental rugs have earned their reputation of being magical in part because of their sheer endurance. When they are dirty, they can be washed. When they are damaged, they can be repaired. Their dyes resist fading and running, and their wool, full of natural oils, keeps many potential stains from penetrating and setting. Rugs are, as they say, forgiving.

Still, rugs will benefit from a little attention to help combat their several natural enemies: sunlight, moths, carpet beetles, grime and moisture/spillages.

How to Keep Your Oriental Rugs Clean

Rugs gradually wear as they are walked on. That can’t be avoided, but you can lessen the problem by turning or rotating your rugs from time to time so they don’t always get walked on in the same places. Walking on a dirty rug shortens its life prematurely. Dirt and sand fragments act like sandpaper as you grind them into the surface of your rug. How often should you have your Oriental rugs washed? On the average of every four or five years, but the real answer is that you should wash them when they are dirty and not before or long after. You can tell whether your rug is dirty by testing it with a white, wet cloth. Rub the rug’s pile vigorously with the wet cloth and check to see how much dirt is transferred to the cloth. Dirty rugs may not look especially dirty, but typically they look flat and lustreless.

Thorough rug cleaning is best left to the professionals. They do a better job and are better at dealing with colour-run prone dyes.

It is possible to freshen the surface of an Oriental rug without washing it. Simply sponging the pile with cold water will brighten it. Do not use anything except water and a little white vinegar and/or a little dishwashing soap, no optical brighteners. You may clean a rug’s fringe with soap and water, but don’t bleach it.

Do not shake or beat a rug. You may use a vacuum cleaner, but avoid turbo heads, and be careful not to catch the fringe in the vacuum. Whatever you do to an Oriental rug should be appropriate to its condition. 

Direct Sunlight Can Harm Your Oriental Rug

Constant direct sunlight can fade a rug unevenly and the wool and cotton dry out and become brittle. In areas with indirect sunlight, it is prudent to monitor your rug, which you may do by periodically comparing its colours on the front to those on the back of the rug. They should be the same. When colours are softer or lighter on the pile side of the rug than they are on the back, it’s time to take action.

You can eliminate or prevent the problem by keeping the curtains/blinds closed or by having your windows professionally tinted. If your rug has already suffered fading by the sun, there is still hope that it can be improved. If the fading is merely on the very tips of the pile (and you can determine that by looking closely at it), then washing the rug (professionally) may help the problem by simply abrading the faded tips of the wool. I recommend a rug is rotated annually to maintain an even finish.

Moths & Beetles

Rugs and carpets that are in regular use are rarely infested. Moths & beetles prefer to be undisturbed, and they seek out rugs that are stored or are under furniture. They also appear to prefer dark places. So a rug that is walked on and vacuumed or swept is hardly at risk at all, except parts of it that may be under a never-disturbed bookcase or bed.

Rugs or portions of rugs covered by furniture must be disturbed from time to time to prevent moths from settling in. That means moving furniture off rugs every several months or so and vacuuming or sweeping. When inspecting your rugs, remember that most damage is to the back. So periodically examine the back of the rug. If, after all your efforts to prevent moth damage, damage still occurs, don’t despair. Your rug can be repaired.

Ends, Edges and Holes

Ends and edges are often the first parts of rugs that need attention as rugs age. It is critical to maintain them in good condition because problems with them soon lead to more expensive problems with the body of a rug. Fringe can be replaced, though, often, new fringe on an old rug looks inappropriate. Many people who are accustomed to old rugs simply get used to seeing eroded fringes and they don’t worry about it. Fringe is not structural, and your rug will suffer no harm from its absence. On the other hand, worn fringe is a sign that the end finish of the rug may be threatened by wear. Rugs are bound on their ends in a number of different ways, but each is designed to keep the foundation threads intact. When the foundation is frayed, a rug begins to lose its pile, and that requires expensive work.

Likewise, the edges of a rug, called selvages, need to be maintained. Selvages are wrapped with wool or cotton to protect the edges of the rug, and eventually this wrapping wears out and has to be replaced. This is routine work and not terribly expensive.