04 PM | 20 Jan

Why some rug dyes bleed.

There are a variety of reasons a rug might “bleed” on you. Let’s go through different scenarios for a wool rug like this one, where the red dyes have migrated into the neighboring off-white areas:

What could create this type of dye migration? Several things.

FUGITIVE DYES – if the red is shown to not be colorfast during your dye test, it could bleed from improper exposure to water from a flood or a poor cleaning attempt. Your dye testing process will show you this potential risk, and you can determine what dye stabilizing solution to use and which shampoo.

EXCESS DYE or OVER-DYED APPLICATIONS – if the rug has never been cleaned before, there might be a bit of “excess” dye in the fibers that may wash out on the 1st cleaning, just as with a new colorful shirt in the laundry. Or, if additional color has been ADDED after the rug was woven to make it brighter (or to make it look older, such as with a tea-wash antiquing application) this additional dye or ink could bleed during a cleaning.

With excess dye, using the proper dye stabilizing solution you can protect the neighboring areas to keep the transfer of the “extra” dye from landing on the wrong areas – it just washes away in the bath.

With over-dye applications, especially inks like India Ink, you cannot protect the neighboring areas so you need to identify these rugs before cleaning to avert a disaster. Often these rugs crock color with a dry towel alone, and transfer a sizable amount of color with the dye test itself, so know when you need to turn down cleaning. Dye stabilizers work on DYES not inks.

HIGH HEAT or HIGH ALKALINITY – a colorfast dye may bleed even with the proper application of a dye stabilizing solution IF it is improperly combined with high temperature during cleaning or high alkaline cleaning solutions (such as traffic lane cleaners). If you plan to clean the rug outside of recommended pH and temperature ranges, then always test the dye with that temperature/alkalinity to make sure you do not create dye damage.

PAST IN-HOME CLEANING OF RUGS – the biggest problem with having a rug cleaned in your home using wall-to-wall carpet cleaning equipment and solutions (or a home-owner Bissell or Rug Doctor) is the amount of residue left behind in the fibers after the “cleaning.” This chemical residue buildup tends to be on the alkaline side, and over time can affect the acid dyes of especially wool rugs and can create a “bleeder” out of these rugs. It might clean up fine one or two times in the home, and on the third the dyes may bleed all over and you have no idea why. It’s because of the extended build-up of all of the residue NOT removed in the past.

If you have a rug of any value at all – never clean it in the home. Natural fiber rugs are meant to be washed.

REPEAT PET STAINS – pet urine starts off as an acidic stain, and then turns alkaline over weeks and months. If it is not cleaned up right away off of a rug this will create long term permanent dye damage that devalues your rug. A rug may have colorfast dyes, but all of the areas with urine exposure will bleed no matter what steps are taken to stop that. This is why pet urine is the most dangerous “spill” on rugs, and why you need to jump on cleaning it up as soon as you see the puddles especially if you have valuable rugs.

The more time you take to inspect the rug before the cleaning begins, the more problems you can avoid.

Happy cleaning!

– Lisa

09 PM | 02 Jan

Don’t water the rugs!

If you have plants anywhere near your rugs in your home – or if you are a rug cleaner and see plants near rugs you are picking up to clean – you want to watch out for this particular problem that often is not discovered until it’s too late.

Even the most careful person spills at times. Either spraying the leaves, or putting water in the planter, there are spills. Small ones over time.

There is also condensation around the bottom of the planter, especially if it’s heavy and is not moved often.

The rugs may feel dry to the touch

…but you don’t know what’s happening INSIDE the rug.

Those fringe tassels you see on your woven rug are the foundation warps of that piece. One strand runs all the way through the middle to the opposite side of the rug, and the wool (or silk) fuzzy knots are wrapped around those warps.

Here’s a rug cut open to show you the white warps inside – which on most woven rugs today the warps and wefts are COTTON.

Thick cotton warps with wool fibers twisted around them.

Cotton is absorbant.

This means with a spill on a wool rug (or silk), you can blot the area with a towel to “wipe up the spill” and a little moisture has already likely seeped down into those inside cotton fibers, and have made them damp.

You won’t be able to “feel” if the inside of the rug is dry. Only a moisture probe can poke inside and tell you that.

Every rug cleaning professional has moisture probes handy to make sure every rug is 100% dry before it is put on the “ready” shelf or placed in storage, because moisture can lead to mildew growth like this:

Mold damage on rug corner under a potted plant.

Mildew damage more visible on back side of rug near planter.

The problem with long-term moisture on cotton foundation fibers is that they begin to rot. And when dry rot sets in, the fibers literally fall apart.

If you are not careful when you move a rug that has water damage from a planter, you could literally create a hole in the damaged area. It will fall apart in your hands.

Potted plants are not the only source of moisture that can create damage secretly to your rugs. Other sources are water coolers, condensation from HVAC units, any leaks from a home that may affect walls or floors, and of course – pets. (Though pets have the added damage-causing element of creating stains that cannot be removed, added odors, and contamination from the waste – that’s why you need to clean up pet puddles right away.)

Help reduce the risks by keeping the house plants away from the rugs. When spills do happen, clean them up right away AND elevate the rug longer than you feel you should, just to make sure the INSIDE of the rug is truly dry. (I’ve used a hair dryer on warm to dry a spill from the back side of the rug just to make sure it was completely dry. Warm air helps the evaporation process.)

You may be super careful with your plant watering process, but not everyone in your home may have your same care. And you cannot keep the condensation from having a long term risk to your oriental rugs.

If you are worried about possible moisture risks, then flip your rugs over and see if you have any areas of concern. Cotton fibers experiencing mildew activity and dry rot will feel stiffer than the rest of the rug when you handle it. And because the foundation fibers are often white cotton, unless there are other colors being used in the wefts, you can often see when there is mildew activity due to discoloration visible on close inspection.

You also will often see dye migration visible from the back side as well, because even colorfast rugs when exposed over a long period to moisture, can bleed in those affected areas. You will see the signs if there is a problem – and if there IS a problem, make sure to stop the source of the water exposure, and handle that rug with extra care.

Dry rot damage is not reversible. Take care to make sure your rugs do not experience it.

– Lisa

P.S. Thank you Rug Chick readers for another wonderful year! I hope you and your families have an amazing 2011.

07 PM | 27 Dec

Hidden danger – bleeding rug wefts.

Every professional rug cleaner knows how to test a rug to see if the dyes are colorfast or not. At least they should know how to. Especially since a good percentage of new rugs today have dye colorfastness “issues.”

I walk through the steps in my post on dye testing, and the video on how to do it is down below.

Click here How To: Dye Test

I mention in the video to dye test the front AND the back – why?

Because you are not just testing the fuzzy face fibers to see if they may bleed during cleaning, you also want to see what the INSIDE foundation fibers may do when wet.

You remember the loom of a hand woven rug, and how every knot is twisted around two warps threads, with weft threads used to hold the rows of face fiber knots in place? Here’s a loom photo to remind you:

It can take months, even years, to weave a large rug.

The construction basics come down to this (NOT to scale here):

Diagram of cotton warps and wefts with wool symmetrical knots.

With many rugs the warps (which end up being the fringe tassels on rugs) and the wefts are cotton, often white cotton – which you can see peeking out of rugs from the backside.

See white horizontal wefts peeking through the back.

When the warps and wefts are white, or a very light color, there are no worries. But sometimes the wefts are NOT white. They might be blue, gray, black, red, purple – and they may bleed on you.

Here’s a hand woven rug with light gray wefts (will not bleed) next to a machine-made rug, which has knots wrapped around the wefts so you do not see them at all. (By the way, this is how you identify the difference between hand woven and machine woven rugs – knots wrapped around the warps are hand woven, around the wefts are machine – we will touch on that another time in more depth.)

Hand woven next to machine woven.

Here’s a photo of a Pakistan rug that was recently sent to me, and the side had torn away a bit to expose its pink weft threads. In fact, some long time pet urine exposure had caused the rug to bleed pink into the edges of the rug.

Loose weft threads have pulled away from this rug.

You can see where is has bled pink into the usually white edge design of this rug.

Pink line where it should be white.

Normally these pink wefts are not a problem with washing. In fact most rugs are not a problem under regular circumstances. These conditions though of long term wet exposure from pets made them bleed. If this had been a rug with no pets around, and washed regularly, that pink would never be visible on this rug from the front.

But some rugs are in fact a problem even under normal circumstances. They have DARK wefts. Here’s a potential problem:

Red wefts on a new Gabbeh.

So you make sure to test the BACK of the rug for colorfastness. If it tests fine – you can clean stress-free.

You also need to pay special attention to any existing spills (especially pet accidents) to identify existing dye migration that might wick up and be visible in the cleaning. The dye may test strong, but in these damaged areas (by the pets) the dye will release and bleed out – that is what happens when pet urine damages rugs over time.

Many rugs are washed before being exported for sale. It’s the ones with cut corners that present the problems today… problems that can averted through thorough inspection of the front and back of each rug, and dye testing both sides, BEFORE the cleaning begins.

Simply making your wash quicker, and using the proper dye stabilizing solution will keep the lurking danger from rearing its ugly head. But the worst thing to happen will be when you test the top side for colorfastness, it tests fine, and then you wash as normal and some UNEXPECTED color rises up from the base of the rug to scare the heck out of you because you did not test the back.

Seeing rising lines of red, blue, or black dye in stripes all over a rug appear as you clean is a frightening experience. One that is entirely avoidable with the right pre-wash inspection skills.

Happy cleaning – and HAPPY New Year!

– Lisa

P.S. Those of you who are professional cleaners, my training schedule is coming out soon, so if you are interested in working with me this year be sure to opt in to the Rug Disasters Report in the right column of this blog. Then you will get notified as soon as openings are available. Looking forward to working with you!

05 PM | 28 Oct

The dark side of the rug.

Pet your rug. Go ahead – pet it!

All pile rugs, just like your pet pooch or kitty or gorilla (hey – we have ALL kinds on this blog!) – the fur has a direction to it. You can tell when you are petting with the grain…

…or against it.

The grain points toward the bottom end of the rug. This is the end where the weaving process began, so as those knots are twisted around two warp threads, they end up pointing downward.

Weaving a rug on a loom.

This means that when the rug is on the floor, its wool (or silk) pile is pointing toward one fringed end, and pointing away from the other.

Because the pile reflects light differently, you end up with some very distinct LIGHT and DARK “looks” to every pile rug. Take a look:

View from bottom end, looking INTO the pile.

View from top end, looking WITH the pile.

Now…if you happen to take a rug out for its regular washing, and you were to lay the rug down in the opposite direction, with it suddenly looking quite different to its owner…

…could you understand how there might be a problem?

Technically, no problem at all. No damage per se.  But, the “look” of the rug they live with day in and day out would suddenly be different.

It’s important to note which end (top or bottom) is where in the room before you remove it, and to open it in the same direction again when you return it so you can avoid any comments like “what happened to my rug?!?”

Especially if you are dealing with SILK rugs, which reflect light much more dramatically than wool does, you can have a very vibrant difference in the look of the rug.

This is why when you spill anything on a silk rug and try to dry it, and the pile gets tussled or matted, it can look like soil because it can appear very dark afterwards. (By the way silk is a horrible choice for a floor rug, because foot traffic will always make it look blotchy. Though silk is a strong fiber, I recommend hanging and enjoying the pieces rather than stomping on them and having them always look “a little dirty” even when they are not. Plus, with any spills silk is a dangerous beast to try to correct spill damage, many tend to have dyes that will bleed with spills.)

So, remember to PET the rug and determine the direction of the rug pile before you remove it from the home. I like to roll the rugs from the bottom end, which makes for a tighter roll.

And after they are thrilled with your cleaning then you can recommend that they rotate the rug for the upcoming year to help even out any traffic wear and sun light exposure.

Happy rug cleaning!

– Lisa

04 PM | 26 Sep

Watch out for Tea-Washed Rugs in the home…

Tea-washed rugs are rugs that have had a brown “tea-like” dye solution applied to the rug to make it appear darker, older, or to hide some underlying flaws (like past dye bleed damage).

The “tea wash” solution, tends to be on the basic pH side, so that it will “hold” to the acid pH original rug dyes better. This can make things tricky if you need to put the rug on the acid side to “stabilize” the original rugs non-colorfast acid dyes, because this leads to even more “removal” of the after-weaving application of the “tea wash.”

This makes cleaning tea washed rugs a challenge for rug cleaners, and a problem for any owner of a tea washed rug who ever spills ANYTHING on it.

Here is a photo of a tea washed rug – notice how the fringes are more beige, just as the field of the rug is:

Obviously tea dyed fringe is a telltale sign of a tea washed rug.

Sometimes you can grin open the fibers and visually see that a “tea wash” dye has been applied:

Grinning open the fibers can show the tea wash application.

But to be safe, you need to dye test these rugs to see if they are in fact “tea washed” because these rugs often lose that additional dye in even the most gentle cleaning.

If a tea washed rug transfers brown on to a DRY white towel easily when you brush the towel along the fibers, then you WILL lose this brown color during cleaning no matter what you do. Even low-moisture and dry-compound cleaning methods will remove dry that easily crocks onto a dry towel.

If a tea washed rug transfers brown to a damp towel, or in a hot water test, then you will lose color during cleaning as well.

You might even not be cleaning the rug, and accidentally remove this dye, like this cleaner who was cleaning a sofa and over-sprayed the solution on to this tea washed rug…

The cleaner should have put a tarp UNDER the sofa to protect the rug. Very expensive mistake.

…and ended up having to buy the client a whole new rug.

These rugs can be identified easily through proper pre-inspection and dye testing. And then you can choose to turn away the job, or get a release of liability to proceed with the cleaning.

This is a TEMPORARY application to the rug in about 95% of the cases. This means it will clean off.

Clients who buy these rugs should be told this BEFORE the purchase, so that they know that this rug will not look exactly the same after its first cleaning. It is a manufacturing flaw the buyer should be made aware of.

There are a lot of these out in the market right now – so keep an eye out.

And if you want to see some other common Rug Disasters to watch out for, here’s my latest report on exactly this topic of the most common Rug Disasters.

The strongest skill any professional rug cleaner can develop is the skill of pre-inspection. Most “ruined rugs” I am asked to inspect have come from not paying really close attention to the textile they have in their hands.

A specialist knows that the more time you spend BEFORE the wash inspecting the front and back of a rug very closely…

…the less time you will spend AFTER the wash fixing rookie mistakes.

Happy rug cleaning!

– Lisa

12 PM | 22 Sep

Viscose, rayon, faux silk, art silk rugs = PROBLEMS

I received this comment on my “Viscose Rugs are Garbage” post from a reader who was advised by her interior decorator to have a custom rug designed using “faux silk” (aka viscose or rayon or mercerized cotton):

“Unfortunately I had an area rug made that has large off-white parts made of faux silk, and the other part made of great wool. I did have a water spill on the faux silk part that left a horrible brown stain – as you’ve described. I read your Cleanfax article, got a recommendation through Cleanfax for a reputable cleaner in my area, and they took the rug to their facility to clean. They cleaned the stain pretty well, but all the off-white faux silk areas are now more of a beige color. Any help for these parts? A designer recommended that I use the faux silk when I had the rug made. I’ve showed her your article, and she says she has a hard time believing that it’s true! Any help is appreciated. – Terri”

First of all, I’m sure the designer was not intentionally misleading her client Terri into a poor rug purchase.  I find that most simply do not understand the “cons” of these fibers.

Before I post recommendations for the browning problem to Terri, I want to lay out the reasons why Art Silk, Faux Silk, Viscose Rugs, Rayon Rugs are simply poor choices in rugs that will be in areas with ANY foot traffic or any chance for spills (like Terri’s rug had happen).

1) Viscose/rayon fibers YELLOW with moisture and light exposure. This means a simple spill of water on the rug will create what looks like a pet urine spill instead. This is from cellulose browning (these are cotton byproducts, which tend to yellow/brown when wet).

Fading, matting, and yellowing over time.

2) Because these are incredibly weak fibers, these rugs shed easily, matte easily, and get a shaggier look over time as the nap of the fibers gets more and more distorted from walking on it, cleaning it, and just simply using it.

Sheds staple fibers. Looks as if a cat clawed at it.

3) Releases dyes easily, especially on its first cleaning, or if ever exposed to water from a flood.

Red dye bleed from flood.

And when you have a combination of “bad cleaning choices” – using high heat on a viscose rug, with the wrong highly alkaline cleaning solution (traffic lane cleaner), and too much agitation – you get a result like this:

Rayon rug ruined by carpet cleaner cleaned in the home.

This was cleaned in the owner’s home (by the way, woven rugs should always be taken to a rug cleaning plant to be properly washed, and not done in the home.)

You can see the extreme browning from the wrong cleaning solution and moisture used, the loss of dye from the heat and solution choice, and the distortion in the field from the tools used.

In Terri’s case, the faux silk (viscose) has turn “beige” rather than brown. The rug was taken to a rug plant to be cleaned properly, but these fibers inherently have this long list of problems, so avoiding no “issues” at all is very difficult.

Some possible tips to see if this beige look can be reversed would be this:

1) When a rug with viscose is cleaned, you can dry it out flat after extraction, and face down (fuzzy side down on a CLEAN surface), so that any browning/yellowing that occurs will wick toward the BACK of the rug rather than up to the front top tips. This will make the BACK of the rug more yellow over time, but that is better than the front.

If the rug is TUFTED instead of woven, you cannot dry the rug face down, there will not be enough air flow, so you need to dry the rug as quickly as possible. (I use an Airpath to make that happen.)

2) In this case, if we were only talking about one small area, here is a little home remedy I would recommend.

Mix in a bowl a 50/50 mix of household white vinegar, and cool water. Take a small brush (toothbrush will work) and brush on the tips of those beige fibers the mixture – just get them damp, not wet. Use a hair dryer on cool to dry – and see if there is any improvement in the area.

If it does look better – do the rest of it.

Vinegar (acetic acid 6%) helps counteract browning. This is why many rug cleaning operations do a vinegar rinse of rugs, to remove shampoo residue, and keep the fibers on the acid pH side, to help alleviate browning/yellowing and to also help stabilize rug acid dyes during the drying process.

In this case, where ALL of the faux silk areas have turned beige, a stronger acidic rinse is required to try to correct the browning. So if this was my rug I would contact the rug plant, and ask what the fee would be to simply give the rug an acidic rinse, and then dry it face down in their facility – to see if it improves.  Since it was recently cleaned – the cost should be supplies (the acidic rinse) and labor, but not as much as the full cleaning was.

This is a flaw based on the fiber choice. Silk is more expensive for a reason.

If the issue cannot be corrected, then I would recommend to Terri to look at requesting a refund on the rug itself, because if she was sold something that cannot be maintained and look the way it was sold to her – she should have been informed of that BEFORE she paid for it. If the designer did not give her a choice between the real stuff and the fake, then she was selling a job based on her own choice and not allowing Terri to make an educated buying decision.

If Terri saw the pros/cons of silk versus fake silk, and still chose to go the less expensive route…then this would just simply be the consequence of that. Knowing that it’s going to yellow/brown over time.

So that’s the question – was she provided complete information.

Designers choose viscose because it is inexpensive, and at least in the very beginning, it looks good too – but this will cost more in maintenance and corrective work and end up not being a “good deal” to their customers in the long run.

If any designers come across this post PLEASE…

…STOP selling faux silk rugs. Viscose and rayon are truly horrible choices for rugs.

– Lisa

07 PM | 18 Sep

Look…MAGIC from my mom!

Remember the rug that was torn apart by the Rug Badger? (By the way, that was NOT an equipment problem…it was a TECHNICIAN problem. He clearly had not been properly trained to be gentler with this woven Turkish rug.)

Take a look at these BEFORE and AFTER photos of the repair work by my mother Kate Blatchford, who is a kick-butt rug repair specialist – one of the very best in the business:

Torn by a competitor's equipment

Fixed by Kate at San Diego Rug Cleaning Co.

Here’s another (there were EIGHT significant torn areas…):

Torn by a competitor's equipment.

Fixed by Kate at San Diego Rug Cleaning Co.

And another:

Torn by competitor's equipment.

Fixed by Kate at San Diego Rug Cleaning Co.

At our rug shop our motto is:

"We can do it!"

We saved our competitor’s butt…which is what we do – the right thing for the RUG, no matter who brings us the job.

And I don’t think the rug’s owner will ever know what happened…

…unless they read this blog and recognize their rug.  =)

The REAL DIRT on Rug Cleaning

Those of you coming to the Piranha Marketing Conference next month, on the Wednesday “Real Dirt Training” Day and Trade Show, I will be having a workshop called the Real Dirt on Rug Cleaning.

In the workshop we will be covering:

– How to set up a rug shop successfully no matter what your budget is. (I’m going to blast away the BS that you need to spend hundreds of thousands on building a large plant with BIG machinery to be the best rug cleaning operation in your town. That’s a lie. We started out scrubbing rugs by hand on our back antique rug gallery…and I’ll lay out the best ways to get the job done well without mortgaging away all of your kids.)

– The do’s and don’ts of the rug cleaning craft. (What you REALLY need to know, and what is simply “spin” by some industry figures to peddle more of their classes and “wool-safe” chemicals.)

– The biggest rug disasters – and how to avoid them. (The biggest mistakes I see continually in this business that are ruining rugs…and some of my own BIG DUMB MISTAKES and lessons from growing up in this business.)

– How to deliver the BEST work and service to your rug owning clients, and how to really become the “go-to” expert in your town.

This industry needs MORE rug specialists, so if you have any interest at all in the craft, this Wednesday October 13th “Real Dirt on Rug Cleaning” session is free to everyone who is coming to the Piranha Marketing Cash Creation Conference on October 13-15 in Phoenix, Arizona.

See you there!

– Lisa

12 AM | 23 Jul

A silk tufted rug – now what?

I was sent some photos of a relatively “new” type of product hitting the market – a tufted rug using silk as highlights.

Now…tufted rugs are of course not new to retail shops. I’m sure you’ve seen them, rugs with a material backing, like this:

Tufted rug - cloth backing.

Tufted rug - cloth backing.

Tufted rugs are what I refer to as FAKE rugs, because they are a cheaper, quicker way to create the look of a woven rug without the quality and longevity of a real woven rug.

Tufted rugs are essentially hooked rugs, looped into a cotton mesh, then latex is poured over the back to glue the fibers in place. They most of the time cover the back with a cloth, because the latex is ugly and can sometimes crumble or yellow the floor/carpeting underneath it. Then they shear off the top loops so it is straight fibers like a “real” rug.

Tufted rugs by and large are cheaply made, and have a life of several years, versus decades (or centuries) like quality hand woven wool rugs.

A real hand woven rug can take months - or years - to craft.

A real hand woven rug can take months - or years - to craft.

I am a fan of real rugs – WOVEN rugs. Especially wool rugs.

That said, most consumers do not know the difference, and many buy tufted rugs, so you need to know how to clean them.

Because tufted rugs have a lot of corners cut to allow them to sell for cheaper prices, you have a number of concerns:

1) The latex, if poor quality, can crumble and the face fibers can pull loose during vacuuming or cleaning.

2) The designs, if stenciling is used that is INK, can bleed out when wet and wick up to the top (this is a manufacturing flaw, because they should NOT be using ink to do this).

3) The latex, if it has gone bad and soured, can create a HORRIBLE odor (smells like a cross between dirty socks and rubber) that will get WORSE with any moisture from cleaning. If the rug is new, and smells, tell your client to RETURN the rug immediately to exchange for another one or to get their money back. This is flawed merchandise.

4) Because of the latex construction, these rugs can take up to 4 times as long to dry as woven rugs do. So you need to boost air movement and dehumification to boost your drying results for tufted rugs.

There are some other issues, but those are the biggies.

And I don’t want to imply ALL tufted rugs are crummy. There are some high-end, very nice tufted rugs, for example Edward Field’s rugs are VERY expensive wool tufted rugs that are high quality.

Back to my story… I was sent a photo of a TUFTED rug with wool face fibers, but also SILK highlights throughout it. And the cleaner wanted to know any tips or concerns he should have. Here’s two photos of the rug in question:

Wool and silk tufted rug - front view

Wool and silk tufted rug - front view

Wool and silk tufted rug - back corner

Wool and silk tufted rug - back corner

Now, considering this is a tufted rug, the odds of the highlights being good quality silk are not high. In fact, it is likely rayon or viscose or mercerized cotton (all used as artificial silk).

To determine if it is real silk versus fake silk, you take a tuft from the rug (use tweezers) and drop it in a small cup of fresh Chlorox bleach.

If it is real silk, it will begin to bubble and slowly dissolve.

If it is fake silk (mercerized cotton, or rayon/viscose which is cotton by-products), it will do nothing. By the way, rayon/viscose is the WORST fiber on the planet for rugs.

There are many high quality rugs from Persia, and China, that are hand woven wool oriental rugs with silk highlights around the floral designs. They are beautiful.

Silk is a natural protein fiber, like wool, and in these cases where the amount of silk is not large, you can follow the same guidelines you do for cleaning wool and safely clean the silk as well. Same shampoo, same dye stabilizing solutions, same vinegar rinse to remove the residue.

One difference is that the silk will get matted and stiff when fully dried, and this requires some grooming to loosen those fibers up again. Very slow hand brushing is required (similar to the grooming needed for velvet when it is cleaned, except you use a hand brush instead of a carding brush). This additional time needed is why it usually costs more to clean silk rugs than wool rugs, because more time is required. (By the way, grooming is required for FAKE silk also, so even cheap viscose rugs cost more to clean than wool rugs because it takes more time.)

With this tufted rug in particular, because these rugs are made quickly and not with the highest quality ingredients, I would pre-inspect for a few things. I would want to know: are the dyes colorfast? are the fibers strong or do they pull away easily? is there any stenciling? is the silk actually RAYON? is there any latex strong odor?

I would test the dyes. If they test colorfast, and the rug is fairly soiled, then I would wash the rug. Give it a bath.

If the dyes test as fugitive, then I would surface clean the rug with an upholstery tool section by section carefully, to clean it. I would use an Airpath air mover to speed dry.

I would test the fiber strength. If they test strong, and the rug is fairly soiled, then I would wash the rug.

If they test weak (easily pull away from the rug), then I would surface clean it with the upholstery tool, and if needed, place a screen over the rug sections as I clean them to keep fibers from being pulled away during extraction strokes.

I would inspect for stenciling. If I see none when I grin open the fibers to look, then I would wash the rug.

If I do see stenciling, and the rug is fairly soiled, I would STILL wash it… because the rug is dark and so ink bleeding out will not be visible on the front, but I would let the client know ink marks will show on the backing material. (Most clients don’t care what the back of the rug looks like, and I always prefer to give rugs a bath versus surface cleaning because it is the difference between taking a real bath or having a sponge bath.) Just in case the ink might bleed into the white silk highlights, I would use an Airpath to speed dry it.

I would test to see if the highlight fibers are RAYON instead of silk. If they are in fact rayon, then I know I need to be careful about scrubbing the rug, and to be extra careful when grooming after it’s dry. Rayon is a very weak fiber, and will break apart with even the gentlest cleaning.

I would pre-inspect for the horrible odor found in some tufted rugs. If the rug has that odor I would NOT CLEAN IT. This is a manufacturing flaw, tell the client to return it to the store they bought it at.

As long as you are VERY good at pre-inspection, and VERY good at carefully cleaning a rug, this should not be a problem rug to clean.

If you have any questions for me on this rug or others, please post them in the COMMENTS.

Thank you for reading the Rug Chick blog, I am always happy to see so many come to visit me here. 🙂

– Lisa

05 PM | 06 Jul

Rugs That Stink.

When rugs come in our shop that are gosh-awful smelly, the usual suspects are: PETS, FLOODS, or BAD LATEX.

Rugs shouldn't smell like farm animals.

Rugs shouldn't smell like farm animals.


With pet urine, this hits a wool rug, penetrates those face fibers, and gets absorbed deep into the innermost cotton warp and weft foundation threads. Ever run for hours and take off those sweaty cotton socks?  Then you know how much moisture cotton can hold.  A LOT.

So lots of urine absorbed into the middle of your rug, it’s not good news.

Specifically, besides the odor, pet urine can create dye migration or loss that is permanent, as well as yellowing that often is permanent damage as well. (Rug owners are shocked when I explain their $10,000 rug is no longer worth that because of some puppy puddles. They would never pay full price for a bridal gown with a urine stain on it… yet they seem unaware of the devaluation from urine stains on their rugs.) It also, if left unaddressed for months, can lead to dry rot and a nice big hole where the problem is.

Surface cleaning a rug in the home with a portable or truck mount is only cleaning the surface and not the MIDDLE where the problem is. (By the way, cleaning rugs in the home, especially wool rugs, is a huge NO-NO. We will get into that in detail in a future post, right now we are talking odors only.) 🙂

Rugs with odors, especially pet odors, need to be WASHED.

Urine contaminated rugs need to be soaked and washed.

Urine contaminated rugs need to be soaked and washed.

Repeat rinsing and squeegeeing to remove the urine.

Repeat rinsing and squeegeeing to remove the urine.

If you do not use thorough rug washing methods, you will not remove the source of the odor. You will lessen it. Maybe some will use a fragrance to try to cover it up (ever get a whiff of a sweaty man using cologne to hide it? yeah… it’s not much better having a “floral” pet urine smell in your rug…). These are not solutions to the problem.

Moral of the story is – pet problem, wash the rug.  And use a professional for it, otherwise the rug could have more damage done than the puppy did to it.

If you have a pet accident – some tips on what to do right now.


Rugs that get improperly wet can get a musty, moldy odor as mildew sets in. We see this mostly with rugs not prepared properly for storage, and the unit gets damp, or has a flood.  Or, an unskilled cleaner does not verify the rug is 100% dry (by using a moisture probe) and rolls up a rug that feels dry, but isn’t.

Neighboring planters that leak are also a BIG creator of water damage to rugs, because again that innermost foundation is made up of absorbent cotton, and it sucks up that water you spill over sometimes, and it leads to mildew, dye bleeding, and over time dry rot.  I’ve seen a rug literally have a big hole crumble apart from long term water exposure. In fact, here’s one:

Rug got wet in a storage unit, and fell apart.

Rug got wet in a storage unit, and fell apart.

Rugs improperly exposed to water need to be properly washed to remove the contaminants from those foundation fibers and the face fibers. If you step in a puddle, you don’t wring the sock, wipe it off, dry it, and it’s clean enough to wear again. (At least I hope you don’t do that!) You wash it.

Same with rugs. You need to soak the rug in the proper sanitizing solution, and then thoroughly clean it. This needs to be handled by professional rug cleaners who are experienced at handling flood-affected contents, and bringing them back to pre-loss condition.


With some tufted rugs (these are the rugs that you do NOT see the same design on the back as the front because instead you see a material backing) – there can be some odor issues.

Due to a lack of consistent quality control, some latex used to hold these cheaply made rugs together can end up souring, and not be properly cured. This gives off a VERY bad smell that is best described as a combination of sweaty old socks, rubber, and livestock.

Nice, huh?  Here’s one of these culprits, a tufted rug from India:

Smelly tufted rug from India. RUN!!!

Smelly tufted rug from India. RUN!!!

When you are looking at a new tufted rug, and it smells bad when you put your nose to it, then just RUN! It is a “Rug To Run From.”

When you try to clean it to make it smell better, it will get WORSE. The water activates the odor-causing elements more.

I would say about 10-15% of the tufted rugs we see from India have this problem. And I always tell my clients to take the rugs IMMEDIATELY back to the store they bought it and demand a replacement (that doesn’t smell) or their money back. This is a manufacturing flaw.

I have read some comments from retailers that say the odor is nothing to worry about. It’s not “dangerous.”

Do you think someone might say this in order to keep people from getting refunds?

Yeah, I think so too.

Here’s what I know… when something smells really bad, my natural instinct is to move away quickly and make a really ugly face.

kinda like this....

kinda like this....

Your body does that to PROTECT you. If my nose tells me to “get away” – then I know it is harming me.

What is really scary is that many of the tufted rugs I see on the market today are made for kids. They have goofy designs on them, and some are cute… but the ones with the odors, I certainly would not want any kids around those.

Cleaning does NOT improve this odor. So watch out.

There you have it – 3 typical smelly rug sources, and a little insight on what can and can’t be done with them.

I think I’ll go out now and get some fresh air…

– Lisa

07 PM | 26 Jun

Rug Repair Training – You interested?

Hello Rug Chick readers!

I’ve been getting a few questions about rug repair, and my mother Kate and I recently spoke at the San Diego Weavers Guild meeting speaking specifically to rug repairs and our philosophies on them.

Here’s a simple little rug repair of field wear. Not reweaving, but selective embroidery stitching (to protect the original foundation fibers) and a little dye work to blend it in.

Field wear in an older Hamadan rug.

Field wear in an older Hamadan rug.

Tada! The Hamadan gets a facelift!

Tada! The Hamadan gets a facelift!

Several years ago we had a few sold-out hands-on rug repair clinics to train the basics of rug maintenance and specialty repairs. Not reweaving and reknotting rugs, but the most requested repairs: ends, sides, and field wear work (including patches).

After our presentation at this workshop we wondered – is it time to have some more Rug Repair Workshops?

So – if you are interested, let me know by posting down below in the COMMENTS. If there is enough interest then we will work together a curriculum, set some dates at our rug facility in San Diego, and let you know how to register.

Enjoy your weekend!

– Lisa