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…)
The biggest fear most rug cleaners have regarding rugs is that the rug might bleed while in their care.
Bled Afghan rug.
The fact is, with proper training and the right tools and solutions, even the most fugitive dyes in a rug can be successfully cleaned…
…you just need to know what you are doing.
And interestingly enough, the biggest bled rug disasters I’ve seen in my career have been when cleaners have brought me rugs that they should have not cleaned in the first place, and they could have avoided their disaster through the simple step of doing a proper dye test.
If you do not know know how to do a proper dye test, here is how I do one.
I use hot water for my test, but you can also use a high pH spotter. And if the dye bleeds when you test with either of those items, you need to test with your DYE STABILIZER solution to make sure you can safely clean the rug. If it bleeds with your stabilizer, you are in trouble.
My latest article in Cleanfax Magazine on Why Dyes Bleedis down below. I’ve linked to the entire PDF article so that you can print it out to reference. All of the photos of bled rugs are real rug disasters from cleaners who did not know that the way they were cleaning the rugs was going to ruin them. Unfortunately they were all very expensive mistakes… much more expensive than paying for proper rug training would have been.
Hopefully this helps explain any past dye migration challenges you have had, and gives you some insight to avoid disasters in your rug cleaning business.
Happy Rug Cleaning!
P.S. Looking for more rug care training? Jim Pemberton and I have the most comprehensive real-world textile program in the industry for oriental rug and fine fabric care. If you want to be a Textile Pro, take a look at the details on our Textile Pro page.
Cleanfax – Why Dyes Bleed
The rug may be colorfast in CERTAIN situations. For example, with a regular cleaning or wash, with a neutral or acid side cleaning solution, the rug could be perfectly fine. No dye migration (aka “bleeding”).
But, under different circumstances, it could absolutely have dyes migrate and bleed out. Some possible culprits – using high heat, using high pH solutions, keeping the rug wet too long (or in a flood), or exposure to pet urine stains.
True or false – A dye fix/lock/stabilizing solution used by cleaners “sets” a wool rug’s dyes?
The solutions available in our industry for professionally cleaning rugs do not “set” the dyes. They STABILIZE them. This means with wool or silk rugs that are NOT colorfast, but test “stable” with the intended stabilizing solution, that you have a WINDOW OF TIME to clean them. (FYI – with silk rugs that window is MUCH shorter than with wool rugs. You better know what you are doing if you are handling silk, or subcontract the work to a rug plant with silk rug expertise.)
I hear many “salespeople” sharing that you “set” the dyes with this or that.
That is not only inaccurate…
…it is downright DANGEROUS.
A cleaner sent me photos from a job where he applied dye fix on two identical rugs for cleaning. He no problem with the first rug cleaning, using his truck mount. (Which, by the way, you should not use truck mounts to clean oriental rugs period… but I’m not going to get into that right now.)
The heat began kicking in after the first rug was done, and so the matching rug with the same dye fix and the same rug cleaning solution EXCEPT now with added much warmer water – you got this…
Heat is bad for natural fiber rugs.
…red dye bleed.
The danger with well-trained professional carpet cleaners deciding to add “rugs” to their services is that their experience with installed carpeting does not transfer to natural fiber oriental and specialty area rug cleaning.
And the solutions, tools, and techniques they own don’t transfer well either.
In the home, heat, alkaline solutions, and the best tools for getting the installed synthetic carpet the cleanest possible, can absolutely ruin natural fiber rugs.
The most common rug problems I’m asked for help with from professional carpet cleaners are 90% due to applying the wrong cleaning techniques to rugs that they do not have the right knowledge about.
And one of the most common results are, dye migration or dye loss or discoloration.
I hope you found these reference items helpful. When you know what to look for, and really get the basics of rug cleaning down pat, you can avoid most of the pitfalls that result from the lack of good information (or misinformation) about properly cleaning rugs.
P.S. If you want to learn some of the most common mistakes made by carpet cleaners when cleaning rugs, in the right column of this blog you can opt in for my Rug Disasters Report. I lay out the top 10 most common mistakes I see when handling all of the “help me!” emails that come my way week after week. This is also the way to be on my list for announcements of my upcoming training programs and workshops. (Don’t worry, I HATE SPAM… so you will not hear from me very often, your email will never be rented or shared with anyone else, and it’s super easy to opt-out.)
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 puddlesespecially if you have valuable rugs.
The more time you take to inspect the rug before the cleaning begins, the more problems you can avoid.
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.
P.S. Thank you Rug Chick readers for another wonderful year! I hope you and your families have an amazing 2011.
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 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!
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!
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.
1. PET PUDDLES
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.
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.
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.
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.
3. BAD LATEX:
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!!!
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....
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.
Pet activity may happen on your favorite rugs this season. Guests in the home, or you away from home, restless pets can end up doing things they should not.
With an inexpensive tufted rug, this can be a blessing because it is protecting a much more valuable wood floor underneath it.
With an oriental rug (hand woven), this can be a curse because pet urine on a rug is one of the most dangerous spills on a textile – not only for the rug itself, but for the occupants if you allow the accidents to happen over and over.
With woven rugs, the foundation fibers are typically cotton. This means the wool fibers are tied around cotton warps. So pet urine (or vomit or #2) will penetrate the wool fibers – because this accident is hot and acidic – and will become absorbed by the cotton interior fibers. This means the accident you see is only the tip of the sewage iceburg.
This Chinese rug has much more urine absorbed within its foundation fibers.
Ideally, when you notice an accident has happened – you jump to action. These are your spills steps:
1) If there is anything to scoop up – scoop it up. Blot up what you can with a cotton towel.
2) Pour some club soda (or if you have no soda water – a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and cool water) into a container. Use a sponge, wringing out the excess, and DAMPEN the affected area. Then blot with a cotton towel to pull out the urine or vomit or fecal matter.
3) Blot until you see nothing coming into the towel. Then take a hair dryer on warm (not hot) and dry the fibers. Ideally raise the rug up in this area so air flow is along both sides.
WARNINGS! If you see the rug dyes transfer into the towel, you need to stop getting the rug damp, and blot and dry as quickly as possible. If you get a woven rug too wet you will risk potential mildew and mold problems, so do not get the fibers WET, just damp. If you SCRUB wool instead of blot, you can potentially create fiber distortion/breaking.
The bigger problem with rugs comes when you allow repeated pet accidents on your rugs. The stains will be permanent, the odor strong, and long term exposure can lead to mildew and dry rot of the rug.
Besides of course the fact that this becomes an open pet toilet in your living space – which is not good for the health of you or your family.
Mildew growth on back of Persian rug with repeated pet urine activity - this is the stage before dry rot sets in.
The only way to remove the urine from the inside of these rugs is to have them completely immersed in a plant specializing in washing rugs. The rug needs a thorough bath.
Cleaning rugs like these in the home only surface cleans them. It gets the top fibers cleaner, but does nothing to the inside fiber contamination.
They may spray some disinfectant, or deodorizer on the rug to make it smell “good” – but smelling good does not mean it is CLEAN. This is not any different than spraying fragrance on a diaper, and then expecting it to be used again. It may not smell bad – but you know that would be completely unacceptable and unhealthy.
Proper cleaning presents a catch 22 though, because what is needed is a good thorough soak for an extended period of time. You soak it first in white vinegar (acetic acid) to penetrate the inside of the rug to liquify and help remove the urine salts from the inside of the rug – many times you can see the water literally run gold from pet problems.
However, pet urine stains, if they have sat on the rug for longer than a week, can create a break in the dye bond to the wool and can make even very colorfast rugs “bleed” during the wash.
The catch 22 is that because there are pet urine stains, the rug needs to be soaked completely… but because there are pet urine spills the dyes will likely bleed if the rug is washed, no matter what a professional cleaner does to stabilize dyes during cleaning.
It is important, if you are a rug cleaner, to inform your client of this, and to make sure they are informed of these four things: 1) the rug must be given a wet wash to remove the odor causing contaminants from the inside of the rug; 2) that pet urine stains are permanent; 3) that even though white vinegar will be used to remove the urine salts, and stabilize dyes during the wash process, pet affected areas are likely to bleed despite all of your best efforts; and 4) that pet urine causes damage to rugs that devalues them permanently.
If a rug can be cleaned properly soon after any significant pet accident, you can avert permanent damage. If a rug cleaning cannot happen quickly, then the steps outlined in this post can help you minimize the damage.
It might be a good idea to either toss some cheaper rugs over the top of your valuable ones during the hectic holidays, or roll them up until your company – and happy chaos – passes and your pets get back to being wonderfully well-behaved.
There are several reasons someone may want to display their rugs on the wall.
It may be a fine silk rug, or an older collectible piece in some disrepair, that they don’t want foot traffic on.
It may be that they have some dogs prone to accidents, or cats marking their territory, so they want to save their textiles from abuse (or save their pocketbooks from having to clean the rugs every other month!).
Whatever the reason, here is what we recommend: using Velcro for hanging rugs. (This is also what is recommended by the Textile Museum, along with their how-to instructions courtesy of George Washington University website. Though they show a machine stitch example, all handwoven rugs must be worked on with hand stitches, NOT by machine.)
Velcro hand sewn to the rug for mounting on the wall.
What I like about using Velcro is that unlike a sleeve and rod, this allows a rug to hang smoothly and evenly against the wall. The weight is evenly distributed along the strip, and because ALL rugs have some unevenness to them, you can adjust them in spots where needed.
It also makes it very easy to take the rugs down for regular dusting, or if there is a wildfire fast approaching (something I’ve experienced myself in San Diego) you can run through your house and grab your old rugs quickly and jolt for the car.
Fringe can hang loose or be tucked under.
The rug sets smoothly against the wall.
It is important that the Velcro strip is attached BY HAND on a handmade rug. Using a fine, strong needle and upholstery thread, you can slide your stitches in between the warps and wefts of the rug so you are NOT structurally altering the rug in any way.
A sewing machine cannot move in between foundation fibers so it powers THROUGH them, and causes damage to the foundation of the rug. If you go hogwild with the sewing machine you can almost perforate the rug, leading to the edge tearing away and off over time.
It is a rule of thumb that machine repairs should NOT be executed on hand woven rugs.
New fringe, sidecord serging, or velcro – all should be done by hand not machine on real rugs (i.e. hand woven rugs). Commodity area rugs, like tufted rugs, or machine made product, then there is no risk of devaluation with machine repairs because there is not much “value” there to take away. And, some have such a heavy construction (sometimes using latex and adhesive) that the ONLY way to repair them is by machine (or a glue gun).
Speaking of glue – do NOT attach Velcro to rugs with glue either. Pretty please. 🙂
If you want to enjoy looking at your rugs up on the wall – then this is the way to go! Velcro!
Most women have at sometime in their childhood tried a little needlepoint. (Perhaps some men also, but I can only speak for the “girls” I know right now.)
You have a little round frame that segments and holds tight a section taut of the cotton mesh (with a design imprinted on it) so you can do a series of stitches. It is almost color-by-numbers, where you use wool to stitch your little piece of art.
If you remember, it did not lay perfectly flat when you were done. Most of the times you made it into a pillow to help smooth this unevenness out. Or perhaps you framed it. If it was small this might not have been very noticeable, but as you tackled larger pieces it was trickier to keep the tension even in your stitching. A natural characteristic of a hand made product, the tension is never even.
There are needlepoint rugs on the market. Some quite large. Some done by hand, and some by machine, and they bring with it their own unique characteristics and a few “challenges.”
Needlepoint rug from China
This is a typical new needlepoint rug. Attractive design. Nice colors.
Do you notice though, that it is a little uneven along the edges? That if you were to lay it out and measure it, that there would be some differences in the width and length?
Let’s take a closer look:
Front corner of the needlepoint rug.
Back corner of the same rug.
See along the edges of this rug, that even before its very first wash, when it is BRAND new, there is some buckling along the edges. Just like with your little needlepoint pillow way back when.
Can you also see the stitching, and how there needs to be some colors tied off, and some areas doubled-over, so that it does not give the rug a completely smooth back?
Characteristics like these lead to a couple must-knows about needlepoints.
They are rarely perfectly stragith or symmetrical.
They rarely lay flat on a floor.
They are easy to kick up the edges if they are over wall-to-wall carpet.
They are easy to slide on if they are on a hard floor.
If you are cleaning them – there is a danger of some buckling of the cotton or synthetic mesh if you are not careful on its first cleaning. (If you are a professional rug cleaner with a facility, you have two options here: 1) Give the rug a bath and tack it out on a stretching floor during the dry time, or 2) tack the rug onto a floor BEFORE cleaning and clean it with a hand tool as you would tricky upholstery.)
Though I have seen some gorgeous needlepoint rugs in my lifetime, I tend to prefer these and tapestries up on a wall displayed rather than on the floor. And because of the thin structure of these rugs, laying them over wall-to-wall carpeting and placing any furniture on top of them would be a rug DISASTER. You will tear the foundation over time, as rugs are meant to be on hard floors, and with a solid pad underneath them.
When hanging rugs, I prefer having a strip of velcro attached to the back BY HAND … I’ll post some photos of this in my next blog post so you can see what I mean exactly.
If you own some great needlepoint rugs, or tapestries, you could consider putting them on display on your walls. (If you have some great old rugs, but also have some great old dogs in your home, you can save your rugs by mounting them on the walls also – nothing damages rugs more than pet urine.)
Just a few pointers on needlepoints, hope they help!
Most woven rugs have wool knots tied around COTTON fibers for its construction. Cotton allows for a more consistent shape and construction as foundation threads (warps and wefts).
Take a look at any hand woven rug, and you can grab one single fringe tassel, and it literally runs all the way through the middle of the rug to the opposite side. The knots are wrapped around each of these warp strands.
Each cotton fringe tassel runs the entire length of this rug.
Most rugs have a cotton interior “skeleton” to them – and as we know, cotton is absorbent (it’s why we use it for our towels).
This means when you have a rug with a spill on it – what you can see on the surface is just the tip of the iceburg, especially if the spill is an acidic spill like juice, soda, coffee, tea, or the worst spill – pet urine or vomit.
This is bad... but it is just the tip of the iceburg.
Ideally, when you spill something on a wool rug, you go to blot it up immediately. Wool has a certain level of repellency to liquid so it does give a level of protection that allows you to grab a cotton towel and blot the spill up.
But when a spill is allowed to sit for awhile, and soak into the cotton interior, you have several problems as a result. It can cause color loss, stiffness of the area (and potential mildew and dry rot if left damp too long), odor, and also if the spill is food-related it can end up being a food source for a host of different insects.
With significant spills, of course the rug needs to head to a rug cleaning plant and given a bath in order to remove not just the contaminants in the surface wool fuzzy face fibers, but also to flush out what has been absorbed into the middle of the rug cotton foundation fibers.
Thorough cleaning like this cannot be done in the home, it can only be surfaced cleaned. The rug needs to be given a bath and by companies who know how to fiber test, dye test, and who have experience handling both woven and tufted rugs.
If you keep trying to clean an area on your rug, and it seems that the problem keeps coming back again and again – now you know why. You are treating the tip of the iceburg, and you need someone to help clean all of the contaminants that are lodged inside the middle of your rug.