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 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.)
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.