11 PM | 09 Jun

House plant damage to rugs. Your options.

Watering a potted plant near a rug can lead to a big ugly dry rot hole in a rug if it’s left undisturbed for too long.

If you want to know why this happens, please read this => Don’t Water The Rugs!

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.

– Lisa

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 rugchick@gmail.com. These will go fast, so if it’s sold by the time you write me, I apologize in advance.

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 | 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

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

09 PM | 25 May

Do you hate rug fringe? Do not cut it off.

An interesting photo sent to me today – take a look:

Yep – it’s tape. Tape used to hold the fringe tassels in place so you don’t have to keep straightening them.

Pros and cons of this. One – it does keep the fringe tassels, especially hefty fringe like on this Karastan rug, in place.

Cons – you can’t reuse the tape, it leaves residue (and a clean spot) where the adhesive was, and if the fringe tassels are weak with age or past bleaching, the tape will easily tear away those tassels.

On a machine woven rug like this one (you can see the machine work on the edges, and that this fringe is clearly added on after the fact) – torn away tassels are not a big deal. In fact, on this rug you can pull off the fringe entirely with your hands (no scissors required).

But on a hand woven rug – torn away tassels will lead to the rug unraveling and losing its value. This will need to be repaired quickly when this happens. Read about getting rug ends repaired right on this prior post.

So, if you HATE your fringe – do NOT cut the tassels off of an oriental rug. Just say no.

But, no worries, because you can hide the fringe. 

The poor-boy route is to simply use masking tape and tape the tassels under the rug. I choose masking tape because it has the least amount of adhesive, so you do not create a huge mess to clean up versus using packing tape or duct tape.

It’s not the ideal choice, but it’s an option that is much better than cutting off the tassels.

The other option is to hide the fringe professionally, with something that does not damage the tassels with adhesive, and keeps them clean in case you decide you suddenly LOVE fringe again.

We use at our rug shop a burlap material to do this. We sew it by hand at the base of the rug, and fold the tassels underneath the rug safely. Take a look on this Tibetan woven rug:

Customer wants the white fringe hidden from view.

Customer wants the white fringe hidden from view.

Ready to fold the tassels under the rug, and sew to secure.

Ready to fold the tassels under the rug, and sew to secure.

Abracadabra! The fringe has VANISHED!

Abracadabra! The fringe has VANISHED!

Rug friends don’t let friends cut their rug fringe off… ever. Spread the word!

– Lisa

05 PM | 10 Feb

Repair Your Rug Right.

The most common repair needed by rugs in our town (and EVERY town with rug owners) is END repairs.

With hand woven rugs, when the fringe is torn or worn, the knots of the rug start to slide away and off.

You rug starts slowly shrinking, and gets shorter and shorter.  Like this:

This end is unraveling and losing its wool knots (back side view).

This end is unraveling and losing its wool knots (back side view).

Once a knot has pulled loose, you cannot resecure it… it is lost FOREVER.

That’s why when your fringe gets VERY short, you need to pay attention.

The value of your rug is in those tiny little knots. You want to keep them in tact. But sometimes when you try to do good and grab some wool and thread, you might actually cause more damage than good.

Fringe is too short on this rug, this repair won't hold.

Fringe is too short on this rug, this repair won't hold.

This rug has fringe that is way too short, and you can see someone’s attempt to tie off the tassels is actually sliding off, and pulling some knots with it.  Too little too late.

An attempt at darning the edge is doing nothing to secure this rug.

An attempt at darning the edge is doing nothing to secure this rug.

Another attempt at trying to use a whip stitch to darn this end is doing no good either. By pulling that thick wool through the foundation to try to hold the edge together, the person has actually loosened those rows of knots and this edge will pull apart sooner as a result.

Good intentions, bad results.

Sometimes you take your rug to someone who decides that using an industrial serging machine to machine repair the edge is a good option. This also is a very BAD choice.

Do not machine repair a hand woven rug. It damages the rug, and it's ugly.

Do not machine repair a hand woven rug. It damages the rug, and it's ugly.

This is heartbreaking… a sewing machine happy idiot decided to machine repair a hand woven rug. Not only is the color choice ugly, but this type of machine work causes structural damage to the rug that cannot be reversed.

The reason hand woven rugs are repaired by hand is so that the Rug Repair Specialist can slip the needle around, and inbetween the foundation fibers (warps and wefts).

A serging machine does not go around fibers – it powers right through them, over and over and over again.

Over time these repairs will tear away, and pull away inches of the rug that could have been saved if it had been repaired by hand.

If you are talking about an investment textile, the more inches you lose, the more value you lose. Simple as that.

When this machine repair tears away, the rug will need to be reduced further to provide enough warp length to anchor a solid repair with. (Remember those VERY short fringe tassel stubs up top in photo #2? You need more length than that to hold a good end repair in place.)

What does a good end repair look like? There are several styles, but this is my favorite – an overcast stitch:

Properly executed end repair overcast stitch. Strong and long lasting.

Properly executed end repair overcast stitch. Strong and long lasting.

Your stitch should use a strong upholstery thread that will not get brittle over time. Your stitch should vary now and then to lower weft threads so that the tension of the stitch is evenly distributed so it will not unnecessarily pull the edge loose.  Your buttonhole stitch, flat along the top, should be close to the outermost weft thread to hold the edge tightly in place.

Many rug repair facilities, like ours, guarantee their overcast repairs for the life of the rug. This is because, when it is done properly, it should never need to be done again.

Now… if your vacuum cleaner sucks up and tears off the edge, that is a different matter. There are no guarantees to help someone not paying attention. 🙂

If you have a hand woven rug, and the edge is unraveling, make sure the repair is done by hand.

If you have a rug cleaning facility, and want to know some rug repairs that you can do without having to be trained by a rug repair specialist, be sure to opt-in for the Simple Rug Repairs Report I’ve made available. The opt-in box is at the top of this blog, over to the right. Enjoy!

– Lisa

07 AM | 17 Dec

Love/Hate Relationship With Fringe

What is it about fringe?

Some rug owners LOVE it… most rug cleaners HATE it. Why all the drama?

Well, it starts with the fact that when the rug is brand new, it tends to have the bright white, immaculate cotton fringe. It just looks so… NEW.

When rug owners send their rugs off for a professional cleaning, the fringe tassels are usually gray and dirty, and they want them that brand new white again.

But that white is just not natural. And it never was. Just like those Hollywood smiles you see (despite their daily coffee intake) – those pearly whites just don’t happen naturally. They are enhanced, with hydrogen peroxide and other bleaching agents.

That fantastic white fringe is also “enhanced” – and as you know when you repeatedly use chlorine bleach on cotton t-shirts, it will yellow, and it will tear and become brittle. And with fringe this means, the tassels simply begin to break and tear off from foot traffic or your vacuum cleaner – like this:

Repeatedly bleached fringe will begin to tear off.

The use of bleaching agents, or hydrogen peroxide, is a common mistake made by both unskilled cleaners and rug owners to try to “clean up” the look of fringe.

Unfortunately bleach is not a cleaning agent. You need to use actual cleaning solutions and some good old elbow grease to remove soil from fringe. Most don’t have the patience to do it correctly, so they are looking for the quick fix – which is why they grab the bleach.

But think about it… if you had heavily soiled shoelaces (also cotton), and you threw it in your washing machine with hot water and a lot of bleach – how would they turn out?

I’ll give you a hint… TERRIBLE.

To get them clean you need to soak them, scrub them, use some detergent to get them looking decent. And getting them to look like brand new again, when they have been beat up for years? That’s a tough job for anyone.

That is the state that many rugs left without a cleaning for longer than a few years gets to, with VERY dirty fringe. And the owners expect a miracle. This is why many rug cleaners hate fringe. And for the less experienced of them, they may grab that bleach to try to create a shortcut to a great look.

However, many do not realize that the bleaching of the fringe done before the rug was even sold, by the manufacturer, can sometimes create deterioration of those cotton fringes that can quickly worsen with future attempts to “whiten” them.

One country notorious for aggressive whitening of fringe is China – you may recognize their distinctive fringe type here (every country finishes their fringe off in a particular way):

Chinese rugs tend to develop yellowed and weak fringe tassels over time.

I personally am not very fond of fringe, especially long fringe tassels. Sometimes I think it would be nice to just get some scissors and cut those strands clean off… but then I have to stop myself.

You see the fringe tassels are actually the warp foundation fibers of a hand-woven rug. This means cutting them off is a huge NO-NO, because the rug will unravel.

Fringe tassels are the foundation fibers of a woven rug.

The better option is to hide the fringe behind the rug. To either use masking tape to hold it underneath the rug (masking leave little adhesive on the cotton), or to use a strip of material to hold the tassels under the rug and cover them up so they stay in good shape.

Hiding the fringe also means they do not have to be continually bleached to make WHITE again, and then they don’t break off and risk the rug knots pulling away and letting the rug unravel.

Hand-woven rugs made well should last several lifetimes. They should outlive us, and our kids, and our grandkids.

Let’s help make that happen by keeping the bleach away from them. 🙂

– Lisa

01 AM | 30 Sep

Braided Rugs – What To Watch For

I’ve seen braided rugs come in all colors, sizes, and ages. New product from stores like Pier One, and some from the 1930’s with a story from the owner about how their neighborhood tore clothing into strips to create a community rug when she was a child.

These rugs are braided. Fabric strips braided into long braids, and then crafted into a rug like this one:

Braided rug from America

Braided rug from America

Many are very sturdy rugs, but some of the older ones can pose some problems for both rug owners and rug cleaners. Here are a few items to check for:

Rug dye problems. You want to test the dyes of your rug to see if they are not colorfast. If you own the rug and a damp cloth shows dye transfer, then you will want to be careful what type of surface you place the rug on top of as dye may transfer onto other surfaces.  If you are nervous about a vibrant braided rug being on top of light colored wall-to-wall carpeting, then use a pad underneath as a barrier between the rug and the carpeting. (Rugs are meant to be placed on HARD surfaces, so this is only if you have no choice but placing it over a soft flooring.)

If you are a rug cleaner, and the dyes are highly fugitive, then instead of giving the rug a proper wash, you will be forced to lessen the amount of water during the cleaning and treat the rug as you would tricky upholstery and use a tool such as the Drimaster tool to clean, rinse, and immediately extract the cleaning solutions.

Rug braid filler threads. Sometimes the inside of the braids are supported with filler materials to make the braids more stiff. These filler materials, if they are dyed, may create “bleeding” problems when wet. You will want to open up the braids a bit and see of this filler material exists. This is a blurred photo – but this is what the filler material can look like:

Cut braid with filler material inside.

Cut braid with filler material inside.

Broken braids. With especially older braided rugs, the thread holding the braids along side of one another can weaken and break. This ends up making the rug fall apart. If you own the rug, tripping on broken areas can make the problem worse, and if the rug is given a bath, moving the rug around can create more and more broken areas.

Braided rug coming unraveled.

Braided rug coming unraveled.

The problem of broken connecting threads needs to be addressed BEFORE the cleaning process as it will become worse. If the rug is heavily soiled however, hand sewing the braids together will not be possible (it’s unsanitary to the rug repair specialists to be handling and breathing in the contaminants in a heavily soiled rug).

In this case, you can sandwich the rug between two plastic screens, sew these screens to one another to press the rug tightly inside of them, and then soak the rug, scrub, and rinse the rug as that “braided rug sandwich.” Then after complete drying it can be repaired.

When you send a braided rug off for repair, be sure to make sure they use very strong upholstery thread for those connecting threads so that you do not have to have the rug repaired yet again in a few more years.

These are colorful and fun rugs – and the older ones have some great stories attached to them. Just be sure to inspect them very carefully before cleaning so that you do not create any unexpected problems.

– Lisa