Wool rugs are woven to last HUNDREDS of years. In our industry a rug today is not considered to be “antique” unless it is woven before 1900. They are made to last, and many of them do when properly cared for.
However, you put a rug in the wrong conditions, with the wrong bugs, and you can lose that rug in under a year. Eaten away by moths, carpet beetles, or other bugs feeding on other contaminants the rug fibers are holding on to. (more…)
That’s what happened to this runner. The moisture from a potted plant was absorbed by the cotton foundation of this rug, all underneath the pot, and it began to mildew and then rotted from the inside out until it crumbled into a big hole:
Hole created from a house plant.
This damage is not reversible, or correctible. If you’ve ever seen drapes that have been so exposed to sun for so many years that they just begin to fray in your hands like paper, then you can recognize how deterioration like that is not correctible.
If the rug is an investment textile, you might consider paying thousands to send the rug to a company – perhaps in the country of origin – to reweave the area… but it will never be the same. You cannot truly “restore” a rug back to its original condition when it’s had this type of structural damage.
What you may consider doing is to have the damaged area patched. This would entail removing all of the damaged and mildew affected areas completely, and securing a patch into the hole to allow the rug to be strong and useable again. This is typically the repair choice for rug owners who uncover significant dry rot in their rug.
Another option is to do what was done to the runner shown above with the big hole, which was to shorten it in a way that made it look as if it were meant to be the size it ended up being.
Runner was taken from 6 medallions down to 5 – but it looks like it was meant to be 5 in this photo after the repair.
To see the steps taken to shorten this plant-damaged rug, visit this post => Runner Repair Post
If you are a cleaner picking up rugs to take to your facility, pay special attention to the rugs near plants. You want to look for signs of dye bleed, the sign or odor of mildew, or any stiffness to the area that you feel. These are all warning signs of water damage.
If you are an owner of rugs, you want to take care to keep the plants OFF your rugs, or at the very least elevated, and that the rugs are folded away from the plants during watering time.
As you are inspecting the rugs for any planter water damage, take a look also for any bug activity, especially with rugs that have been undisturbed for months. For tips on how to spot bug activity, and how to keep the moths and carpet beetles away, read this post => Bugs Don’t Eat My Rugs!
The damage – whether it’s from plants or bugs – only gets severe when it’s left unattended for months. If you make it a habit to check your rugs regularly, you can catch it before it becomes too expensive to repair.
P.S. If you are a professional rug cleaner looking for second-hand large rug cleaning equipment, I’ve been asked to locate interested cleaners for a 16-ft roller wringer ($13,500 – or best offer) and a 24-pole electric wrench dry pole system ($11,500 – or best offer). These machines are located in southern California. Wringers are hard to find second-hand these days, and to get a new centrifugal spinning wringers instead, only up to 14 ft. long, will run you around $50,000 from U.S. suppliers. A bit less from the European suppliers. The dry racks are selling for around $10,000 new for only a dozen poles. If you are seriously interested (i.e. you have the funds to purchase and ship to your location), then send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. These will go fast, so if it’s sold by the time you write me, I apologize in advance.
For rugs, there are several steps you can take to keep the bugs from digesting your oriental rugs.
These bugs like nice, quiet, undisturbed places. You will generally find them doing their dirty work under the corner of your sofa, behind a drape, along the cracks in the planks of your wood floor, or on the back side of a rug hanging up still on your wall.
You do not need to “beat” the rug with your vacuum, just give it a good once over on the front every few weeks, and flip over the corners to see if there is anything to be wary of. Moth larvae looks like sticky lint and they do their damage when they emerge from those cocoons HUNGRY.
I like to run my vacuum upholstery tool over the back of the corners of my rugs, just to be safe, and once a quarter I completely vacuum the back side of my rugs to make enough chaos to have bugs look for another place to feast.
For rugs hanging on the walls, at least once a quarter take them down to vacuum. If they are delicate you can use the upholstery attachment instead of a beater bar or super-sucker type vacuum. Because of this needed maintenance for hanging textiles, this is why we like to suggest using velcro to hang rugs – it makes it easy to take down and put back up.
Rugs under normal to heavy use should be washed annually.
This means sending them out to be washed in a rug cleaning plant, and NOT having them just surface cleaned in your home. (BIG difference, especially if you are trying to avoid bugs.)
If you have moderate traffic on your rugs, and you vacuum at least every other week, that wash time can be extended to every 18-24 months. But longer than 2 years, you are asking for trouble. Not only from the abrasive grit that gets lodged into the base of the rug fibers (which is what causes areas to wear down faster), but also in regards to insect activity.
Washing helps dislodge bug activity and remove it. And for rugs with a big problem you are looking to solve, and you do not want to soak the rug in pesticide poisons, washing and giving the rug a vinegar rinse will help physically remove the bugs and their problem-causing ways.
FOR STORAGE – ALWAYS WASH BEFORE WRAPPING UP
Rug cleaners rarely offer “mothproofing” these days because those solutions are pesticides that kill things, and for something you may have your kids or pets rolling around on, that’s just not safe.
Even the odorless insect repellent solutions that professional cleaners have available and are not poisons still have some irritation risks. (Always read the MSDS to evaluate whether you want to use a particular product that requires leaving residue behind.)
But if a textile is going into storage for years, it is best to make sure you are not going to open up the package and find a rug disaster, so using a repellent is wise unless you are putting the piece in a cedar chest, or using other items that tend to discourage moths.
When I put something into storage, I don’t want to worry about it, so I use a repellent.
The most important step though is the wash and making sure you are not wrapping the rug up with any unwanted pest guests.
If your rug does have a visible insect problem right now, while it is out to be professionally washed you will need to bring in a professional cleaner to tackle your wall-to-wall carpet or your hard floors, wherever the problem rugs were, so that you can remove the rest of the problem.
Hot water extraction (“steam cleaning”) can take care of the problem in your carpeting – something the EPA lays out guidelines on for how often you should have this done as posted on the IICRC website.
To sum up, rug-eating bugs are kind of like unruly teens. They like to go hide in their space, and they don’t want you to bother them.
So you need to pull open the curtains to let fresh air and sunlight in, clean up their surroundings so they escape the fright of it all, and make a routine of that so you don’t end up with bigger problems down the road.
Your teens will come back (hey, they need to eat…), but the bugs will move on to another place with a less attentive rug owner in charge.
Our last post was on bugs – something to definitely be wary of when you expect to keep rugs in storage for months or years.
Several years ago we had a semi truck pull up with an ENTIRE storage facility of rugs brought to us. The property was on some low lands (not uncommon) and the units were flooded.
Besides of course the expected problems with dye bleed in rugs improperly exposed to water, we also opened up rugs eaten by bugs because they had been stored dirty and left alone for YEARS.
If rugs are going into storage they MUST be washed, and ideally treated with an insect repellant, or packed with cedar chips, or (my least favorite) moth balls.
When wrapping a rug for storage, use PAPER not plastic. Wool has a moisture content, and with temperature changes it can “sweat” and create a mildew problem or musty odor. The rug needs to be able to breathe. We use Tyvek paper when we wrap rugs – it’s tear-resistant (to keep rodents out) and water-resistant.
Tyvek (white) for long term wrap, Kraft (brown) for short term.
We use Kraft paper for short term wrap, and Tyvek for long-term. We buy Kraft paper at any Grainger, and we order rolls of Tyvek at Material Concepts.
If you have multiple rugs to store, it is easy to write on Tyvek with a Sharpie pen or other permanent marker, and we like to put photos of the rugs on the ends as well so you can SEE which rug is which. This is very helpful if you are moving and a number of rugs in your big moving truck.
Photos or text on wrapping let's you quickly identify your rugs.
A few final storage tips: elevate the rugs on chairs or boxes in your unit (in case it floods), and have photographs and measurements on file (in case they are stolen).
Hopefully these tips will help you protect your investment rugs when they go into storage.