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…)
Fire season has arrived early to my region (San Diego) and we have been inundated with calls from last week’s devastating fires in our county. Thankfully our incredible fire crews saved many homes, buildings, and certainly lives.
Now the clean-up begins.
Soot and smoke damage on a Pakistan wool rug.
Though most of our clients were not in the those neighborhoods where homes burned down this time, many experienced the heavy smoke and ash that went airborne throughout our county with the strong winds, and we are all trying to get that acrid smell out of our homes. The fine fire particulate gets into the HVAC systems, and comes through our windows/doors, and will contribute to odor issues until those particulates are physically cleaned away.
And it is not just the irritation of the smoke odor. These airborne fire particulates can contribute to sore throats and coughing, bloodshot and irritated eyes, nose bleeds and other sinus issues. People with asthma need to be especially careful outside in this type of pollution. Those in the heaviest hit areas likely have to leave their neighborhoods to try to breathe fresh air again.
I tried to find some useful information to share on my blog for our clients regarding this type of clean up, and there are very few good resources that I could find. (If you see any great resources, PLEASE let me know.)
One page that I did find with useful information regarding fire damage and homes was on the IICRC website (the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification). Here are their guidelines on handling fire damage in a home or building. CLICK HERE IICRC: Fire Smoke Damage Tips
Here are the tips that I am offering to our clients.
CLEAN UP QUICK CEILING TO FLOOR. (Plan to do it again.)
I live in Ramona, and when we had the devastating 2007 fires in our town, with so many homes lost, that odor was truly horrible. Not just ash, but the smell of burnt plastics and metals and every other item you can imagine incinerated.
Those who did not have direct fire structural damage requiring fire restoration/rebuilding contractors sought out professional cleaning companies to handle it all: air duct cleaning, ceiling and wall cleaning, carpet cleaning, hard floor cleaning, air scrubbers to get the air cleaned, and of course rug cleaning. Most insurance companies covered this type of clean up for owners and renters of homes/businesses.
The problem we experienced at that time was after a rush of getting indoor environments liveable again, we had another strong Santa Ana wind come in weeks later that picked up soot and ash and blew it all through our living spaces again. So we cleaned again.
My advice to clients (especially those in the San Marcos, Carlsbad, Bonsall, and Pendleton areas) has been to get everything cleaned quickly because the acidity of soot/ash harms most surfaces and fibers, but be prepared to do it again in the next month or two unless we get some rains to help prevent all of this soot and ash from getting airborne again.
With rugs, soot and smoke needs to be washed out of the fibers.
Tabriz wall hanging. Soot/smoke must be washed away from this rug to prevent fiber and dye damage.
In situations where rugs have light to moderate smoke odor, a standard wash will take care of the problem by washing away the fine particulates that have grabbed onto the fibers and are carrying the odor with them. Afterwards regular vacuuming can keep your rugs in their best condition.
(For step-by-step how to properly, and safely, vacuum your rugs read my post on vacuuming rugs. That is the most common question I get, so I answered it in depth.)
Heavier fire damage requires some additional care.
Heavier smoke/soot damage to a Chinese wool rug. This must be deodorized.
In these situations, the rug requires washing, but also deodorizing with solutions formulated to help remove the odor source from natural fibers (wool, silk, or cotton).
Sometimes the damage is too extensive to save the rug, such as with this rug:
Burning embers damage the face of this wool tufted rug. Thankfully wool self-extinguishes, but the damage in this piece was too much to reweave.
One of the nice qualities about wool is that is has a high moisture content that results in it self-extinguishing flames in most cases. This is why you see wool carpet and fabric used in airplanes and also in many hotels.
Small fire damage burns in rugs can often be reknotted, so it is always worth determining whether a rug can be saved when it is part of a fire.
Most heavy soot and ash can be removed if a professional rug washer can get to the damaged rug sooner rather than later. The longer that acidic ash and residue stays on the fibers, the more damage that is caused to the rug fibers and dyes.
One rug owner did not think this rug would be salvageable.
This Turkish Hereke silk rug was on a table in a home that burned down. Comparing the back to the front.
A heavy lamp on the edge of the rug created one small unaffected area. The odor was very strong.
This rug was one of the few items to survive this home fire, and because the work was performed very soon after the loss, the rug – and the memories from that trip to Turkey – were saved.
Turkish Hereke silk after the wash services to save it.
Often when a home is lost to fire, one of the few items that can be saved are the wool and silk rugs. It is not much… but it is something when everything you own may have been taken away in something devastating like this. Every rug usually has a “story” to it, so it is nice to help save a happy memory in the midst of an unhappy experience.
Our thanks go out to the fire crews who helps to protect our city last week, and my prayers and hugs go out to those who lost their homes in this disaster.
P.S. If you have any clean up questions, or if you need any recommendations of companies in the San Diego area to help clean up your home, please feel free to email me. I know many outstanding cleaning companies in our county, as well as professional fire restoration/rebuilding companies if your insurance company has not already recommended one to you. And of course, if your rugs need to be washed and held in storage while your home is put back together again, we are here to help. Good luck everyone on the big clean up to return us back to America’s Finest City again.
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
There are a multitude of reasons why a rug’s dyes may run during cleaning. In fact, I wrote a post on several of those reasons behind how a rug’s dyes can bleed on you.
Blue dye migration on Wilton wool rug.
The careless cleaner approaches a rug as if they are all the same. “Wool is wool, what’s the big deal?”
Most don’t bother to do a dye test. Why? Honestly, I’m not sure why. It should be done on every rug, and it only takes a few minutes. This can be done with a high pH solution, or my personal preference of testing with hot water in a small area on the front AND the back.
Other careless cleaners do in fact do the dye test, but then they think if they use a dye stabilizing or dye locking solution that the rug becomes bulletproof to bleeding on them. That’s just not true, especially if the rug has colors that crock on a towel during a dry or damp towel.
The red dye crocks on to a damp towel.
When color crocks on to a cotton towel when it’s dry, or when it’s just damp, this is a serious problem. Especially if the color is a dark one.
In the case above, this is a tribal woven rug from Afghanistan. In some tribal areas, especially war-torn ones like in this weaving region, water is not always readily accessible to provide the thorough washing and scouring of the wool to remove the excess dyes and other impurities from the wool. So you have a rug that has some excess dye in the wool, that is going to move when it gets wet with a wash, so you better be seriously skilled to be able to handle that when it happens.
But sometimes the crocking is not from excess dye, but from color that has been added AFTER the rug was woven.
We call these rugs over-dyed rugs, and you will see these types of rugs come in two types:
1) TEA WASHED RUGS
A large number of rugs today, especially coming out of India, Pakistan, and China, are being given a tea wash treatment. This is a brown dye that is sometimes called henna wash, or also called having your rug “antiqued,” because it gives the rug a more muted look which makes it look older.
India tea washed rug
The tones vary from browns to golds to yellows. They make the rug darker, and also make the white cotton fringes beige or brown.
The better quality rugs are properly soaked in the dye to allow for even application, or are given multiple layers of application to ensure a good saturation and bonding of the tea wash dye to the rug fibers.
The lesser quality applications are sprayed on, usually on just one side, and it is often these lesser quality treatments that will crock on a dye test. This means that no matter how gentle you are with your cleaning process that over-dye is coming off. It’s like a spray-on fake tan… good until it’s time to take a shower.
Grin open the fibers and you see the bad tea wash job.
When you grin open the fibers you can see if there has been an over-dye treatment with tea wash. You can also see it on the fringe tassels by untwisting them to see if there is white under the beige tone.
Cleaning the fringe removes the tea wash dye on some.
And while you are closely inspecting the rug, look also for other pre-existing damage, because often a tea wash application is given to rugs to try to cover up damage such as pre-existing rug dye bleed or other stains.
It’s important to share with your client that the rug has been over-dyed with this tea wash treatment BEFORE you clean it, because likely some of it will come out no matter how gentle you are with your process. Especially if it crocks on you, that over-dye is coming off even if you choose a dry compound cleaning method.
But, at least it CAN be cleaned. You just need to share that this if it tests as a poorer quality application, that the rug has essentially been given a “spray-on tan” that needs to come off if they want it to be properly washed.
A much more perilous over-dye treatment isn’t dye at all… it’s ink.
2) INKED RUGS
Rug dealers for years have tried to hide small areas of damage on antique rugs with using India ink, or painting of worn areas to make them less noticeable.
Today this practice has unfortunately expanded to create some truly dangerous rugs.
New Hamadan rug bought on-line, and covered in INK.
The rug above is an example of one of the dangers of buying a rug on-line on one of these mass market retailers. When you buy rugs locally, at least you get the opportunity to “try it before you buy it” and take it out on approval. But more importantly you can do things like take a handkerchief and do a little dye test in the store just to make sure you are not buying inferior goods.
For a rug cleaner, this rug would be a nightmare. Every single color of this rug has been colored over with ink, which is why it has that blotchy, dark look to it. And when you grin the fibers open you can see that there is dark ink on the tips of the fibers.
Tips of the fibers are purple ink, base of the fibers are blue.
Taking a completely DRY towel to the face of this rug picked up every single color.
Dry towel picks up red from the rug easily.
Getting this rug even damp would make the inks pool together and make a mess not only of the rug, but of your wash floor.
So when you do your dye test on a rug, and it crocks, you want to investigate closely to see if it’s possibly ink applied to the fibers, because a dye stabilizing or locking solution is not going to do a thing for ink.
This rug, and others like it, is flawed product… and is not cleanable. And in the case of the rug being shown, the ink from the rug moved on to the underneath wall-to-wall carpeting which led to a much more expensive problem for the owner to handle.
Today more than ever, with the push to cut corners on production costs and get rugs to market faster and cheaper, there are more traps for rug cleaners today than ever before.
But if you are careful, and very thorough with your fiber and dye tests, and your pre-inspection checklists, then you can avoid the biggest rug disasters out there.
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.
With the number of home floods escalating due to severe weather, a number of rugs will be exposed to flood water.
The longer a rug remains wet the more likely it is to have dye migration that is not correctible.
Rugs that are not washed properly, and not dried thoroughly, can end up with mildew and dry rot problems.
Here are tips to minimize the damage to oriental rugs involved in floods:
Extract the water as soon as possible using a wet vacuum or having your water damage restoration company extract with their professional water removal equipment.
(Professional equipment like the Water Claw and the Rover are the quickest way to remove water in the home from wet rugs. The Water Claw should be used on the BACK side of the rug. The Rover can be ridden and pulls much more moisture out quicker, and with the smooth lip on the extraction points, it can be used on the front or back of the rug.)
Make sure you wand extract WITH the direction of the rug’s fiber nap, instead of against it (this minimizes fiber damage). If you “pet” the rug, it’s like petting your animals, you can feel which direction is *with* the grain, and which is against it.
If you are unable to have the rugs thoroughly washed right away, then it’s important to get the rugs as dry as possible as quickly as possible to lessen the risks of permanent damage. Dry them fast and wash/sanitize them later.
When transporting to a rug cleaning facility to be washed, wrap in towels or sheets to prevent dry from migration from one rug to another. It is very difficult to remove dye migration.
Do NOT hang up wet rugs. Extract and dry out flat. Hanging wet puts too much weight on the foundation of the rugs, and will pull the migrating dye throughout the face of the rug and into it’s fringe tassels.
Do NOT dry in direct sunlight. Most contemporary rugs are sensitive to sunlight fading. If you must dry in sunlight, lay the rugs face down so fading occurs on the back side only until the rugs are taken to a rug washing facility.
Wool and silk oriental rugs can take months, sometimes years, to weave by hand. If you have investment textiles you want to protect from a flood that has affected your home, simply follow these guidelines and you can lessen the risk of permanent damage to your rugs due to extended exposure to water.
Once you have done your best to minimize the damage, the rugs then need to be thoroughly washed and sanitized before being returned to the home. This is done in professional rug washing facilities.
Even the filthiest rugs can come out looking fantastic with a good bath.
When it comes to something as messy and dangerous as floods, it’s best to leave it to the professionals.
Print and keep these tips handy in case you have the unfortunate experience of having your home flooded. And you will know what to do in order to help protect your favorite rugs, and to make sure they are clean and safe when they are returned to your “fixed up” home.
P.S. If you like this post, then please *share* it so that others who might have floods will know what to do too. Thank you!
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.
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!