My mom Kate, our team, and I are super excited that our company (K. Blatchford’s Rug Cleaning in San Diego) made today’s Home section of the New York Times (4/4/13). Columnist Linda Lee wanted advice on the proper care for rugs, and what rugs are worth buying today.
Any of you who are looking for a local rug cleaner to use for your rugs, please visit my directory of rug cleaners I know and trust. These are peers I’ve known for decades, or companies who I have trained personally.
Our first of four Textile Pro teams. There are 100 companies who have graduated this advanced program.
If you know of fantastic rug cleaners in your area that I should know about – feel free to email me their details. Everyone on my list I have either been to their shops myself to “see” what they do, or I’ve worked with them through training programs. There are many “hacks” in our industry ruining rugs, especially those who clean rugs in the home instead of taking them out to properly wash them, so this is my way to try to connect rug owners in need with good cleaners.
Hand woven rugs take months, sometimes years, to weave. They are a piece of a weaver’s heart and soul, and they need to be cared for accordingly. Great wool rugs last centuries. We tell our clients that we are a part of that rug’s life, because it will outlast us many times.
Hopefully this information, and this blog, will help keep more of these pieces of art to have a longer, cleaner, and happier life.
Happy Rug Cleaning!
P.S. If you are a professional rug cleaner and are interested in taking my next course, which is on Rug Identification Basics, the details for that course (a combination of online lessons and in-person instruction in San Diego) can be found at www.rugclass.com. It’s always a great idea to have a “business” excuse to come to San Diego… and bring the family!
I just had the privilege of speaking to a group of CFI members up in the Inland Empire. (That is the Carpet & Fabricare Institute, which is a professional trade association that covers cleaning and restoration professionals throughout California, Nevada, and Arizona.)
The topic was… I know you’re shocked… RUGS!
After several hours of non-stop teaching on my end, I promised the group I’d make a post to link to a number of posts here that covers some of the topics we talked about more in depth. So here’s the list!
I’ve been a member of CFI for several decades, and I’ve met some of my closest industry friends – and best mentors – through this group. I served on their board for 11 years, a few of those as president, which was a highlight for me… even with all the “battles” we had in those good ol’ days – LOL!
It has been exciting to see the energy, creativity, and passion behind those on the board right now… and I’m looking forward to seeing what they have in store for the group and all of us members.
Thank you CFI – and thanks to Jason and Terrance for inviting me to come meet their members. I enjoyed it!
P.S. If you are a professional cleaner and do not have a trade association that you belong to, it’s worth taking a look at CFI. Their number is 1-800-CARPET-9 if you want to call to see about upcoming meetings and educational courses.
I received this comment on my “Viscose Rugs are Garbage” post from a reader who was advised by her interior decorator to have a custom rug designed using “faux silk” (aka viscose or rayon or mercerized cotton):
“Unfortunately I had an area rug made that has large off-white parts made of faux silk, and the other part made of great wool. I did have a water spill on the faux silk part that left a horrible brown stain – as you’ve described. I read your Cleanfax article, got a recommendation through Cleanfax for a reputable cleaner in my area, and they took the rug to their facility to clean. They cleaned the stain pretty well, but all the off-white faux silk areas are now more of a beige color. Any help for these parts? A designer recommended that I use the faux silk when I had the rug made. I’ve showed her your article, and she says she has a hard time believing that it’s true! Any help is appreciated. – Terri”
First of all, I’m sure the designer was not intentionally misleading her client Terri into a poor rug purchase. I find that most simply do not understand the “cons” of these fibers.
Before I post recommendations for the browning problem to Terri, I want to lay out the reasons why Art Silk, Faux Silk, Viscose Rugs, Rayon Rugs are simply poor choices in rugs that will be in areas with ANY foot traffic or any chance for spills (like Terri’s rug had happen).
1) Viscose/rayon fibers YELLOW with moisture and light exposure. This means a simple spill of water on the rug will create what looks like a pet urine spill instead. This is from cellulose browning (these are cotton byproducts, which tend to yellow/brown when wet).
Fading, matting, and yellowing over time.
2) Because these are incredibly weak fibers, these rugs shed easily, matte easily, and get a shaggier look over time as the nap of the fibers gets more and more distorted from walking on it, cleaning it, and just simply using it.
Sheds staple fibers. Looks as if a cat clawed at it.
3) Releases dyes easily, especially on its first cleaning, or if ever exposed to water from a flood.
And when you have a combination of “bad cleaning choices” – using high heat on a viscose rug, with the wrong highly alkaline cleaning solution (traffic lane cleaner), and too much agitation – you get a result like this:
Rayon rug ruined by carpet cleaner cleaned in the home.
This was cleaned in the owner’s home (by the way, woven rugs should always be taken to a rug cleaning plant to be properly washed, and not done in the home.)
You can see the extreme browning from the wrong cleaning solution and moisture used, the loss of dye from the heat and solution choice, and the distortion in the field from the tools used.
In Terri’s case, the faux silk (viscose) has turn “beige” rather than brown. The rug was taken to a rug plant to be cleaned properly, but these fibers inherently have this long list of problems, so avoiding no “issues” at all is very difficult.
Some possible tips to see if this beige look can be reversed would be this:
1) When a rug with viscose is cleaned, you can dry it out flat after extraction, and face down (fuzzy side down on a CLEAN surface), so that any browning/yellowing that occurs will wick toward the BACK of the rug rather than up to the front top tips. This will make the BACK of the rug more yellow over time, but that is better than the front.
If the rug is TUFTED instead of woven, you cannot dry the rug face down, there will not be enough air flow, so you need to dry the rug as quickly as possible. (I use an Airpath to make that happen.)
2) In this case, if we were only talking about one small area, here is a little home remedy I would recommend.
Mix in a bowl a 50/50 mix of household white vinegar, and cool water. Take a small brush (toothbrush will work) and brush on the tips of those beige fibers the mixture – just get them damp, not wet. Use a hair dryer on cool to dry – and see if there is any improvement in the area.
If it does look better – do the rest of it.
Vinegar (acetic acid 6%) helps counteract browning. This is why many rug cleaning operations do a vinegar rinse of rugs, to remove shampoo residue, and keep the fibers on the acid pH side, to help alleviate browning/yellowing and to also help stabilize rug acid dyes during the drying process.
In this case, where ALL of the faux silk areas have turned beige, a stronger acidic rinse is required to try to correct the browning. So if this was my rug I would contact the rug plant, and ask what the fee would be to simply give the rug an acidic rinse, and then dry it face down in their facility – to see if it improves. Since it was recently cleaned – the cost should be supplies (the acidic rinse) and labor, but not as much as the full cleaning was.
This is a flaw based on the fiber choice. Silk is more expensive for a reason.
If the issue cannot be corrected, then I would recommend to Terri to look at requesting a refund on the rug itself, because if she was sold something that cannot be maintained and look the way it was sold to her – she should have been informed of that BEFORE she paid for it. If the designer did not give her a choice between the real stuff and the fake, then she was selling a job based on her own choice and not allowing Terri to make an educated buying decision.
If Terri saw the pros/cons of silk versus fake silk, and still chose to go the less expensive route…then this would just simply be the consequence of that. Knowing that it’s going to yellow/brown over time.
So that’s the question – was she provided complete information.
Designers choose viscose because it is inexpensive, and at least in the very beginning, it looks good too – but this will cost more in maintenance and corrective work and end up not being a “good deal” to their customers in the long run.
If any designers come across this post PLEASE…
…STOP selling faux silk rugs. Viscose and rayon are truly horrible choices for rugs.
I was sent some photos of a relatively “new” type of product hitting the market – a tufted rug using silk as highlights.
Now…tufted rugs are of course not new to retail shops. I’m sure you’ve seen them, rugs with a material backing, like this:
Tufted rug - cloth backing.
Tufted rugs are what I refer to as FAKE rugs, because they are a cheaper, quicker way to create the look of a woven rug without the quality and longevity of a real woven rug.
Tufted rugs are essentially hooked rugs, looped into a cotton mesh, then latex is poured over the back to glue the fibers in place. They most of the time cover the back with a cloth, because the latex is ugly and can sometimes crumble or yellow the floor/carpeting underneath it. Then they shear off the top loops so it is straight fibers like a “real” rug.
Tufted rugs by and large are cheaply made, and have a life of several years, versus decades (or centuries) like quality hand woven wool rugs.
A real hand woven rug can take months - or years - to craft.
That said, most consumers do not know the difference, and many buy tufted rugs, so you need to know how to clean them.
Because tufted rugs have a lot of corners cut to allow them to sell for cheaper prices, you have a number of concerns:
1) The latex, if poor quality, can crumble and the face fibers can pull loose during vacuuming or cleaning.
2) The designs, if stenciling is used that is INK, can bleed out when wet and wick up to the top (this is a manufacturing flaw, because they should NOT be using ink to do this).
3) The latex, if it has gone bad and soured, can create a HORRIBLE odor (smells like a cross between dirty socks and rubber) that will get WORSE with any moisture from cleaning. If the rug is new, and smells, tell your client to RETURN the rug immediately to exchange for another one or to get their money back. This is flawed merchandise.
Back to my story… I was sent a photo of a TUFTED rug with wool face fibers, but also SILK highlights throughout it. And the cleaner wanted to know any tips or concerns he should have. Here’s two photos of the rug in question:
Wool and silk tufted rug - front view
Wool and silk tufted rug - back corner
Now, considering this is a tufted rug, the odds of the highlights being good quality silk are not high. In fact, it is likely rayon or viscose or mercerized cotton (all used as artificial silk).
To determine if it is real silk versus fake silk, you take a tuft from the rug (use tweezers) and drop it in a small cup of fresh Chlorox bleach.
If it is real silk, it will begin to bubble and slowly dissolve.
There are many high quality rugs from Persia, and China, that are hand woven wool oriental rugs with silk highlights around the floral designs. They are beautiful.
Silk is a natural protein fiber, like wool, and in these cases where the amount of silk is not large, you can follow the same guidelines you do for cleaning wool and safely clean the silk as well. Same shampoo, same dye stabilizing solutions, same vinegar rinse to remove the residue.
One difference is that the silk will get matted and stiff when fully dried, and this requires some grooming to loosen those fibers up again. Very slow hand brushing is required (similar to the grooming needed for velvet when it is cleaned, except you use a hand brush instead of a carding brush). This additional time needed is why it usually costs more to clean silk rugs than wool rugs, because more time is required. (By the way, grooming is required for FAKE silk also, so even cheap viscose rugs cost more to clean than wool rugs because it takes more time.)
With this tufted rug in particular, because these rugs are made quickly and not with the highest quality ingredients, I would pre-inspect for a few things. I would want to know: are the dyes colorfast? are the fibers strong or do they pull away easily? is there any stenciling? is the silk actually RAYON? is there any latex strong odor?
I would test the dyes. If they test colorfast, and the rug is fairly soiled, then I would wash the rug. Give it a bath.
If the dyes test as fugitive, then I would surface clean the rug with an upholstery tool section by section carefully, to clean it. I would use an Airpath air mover to speed dry.
I would test the fiber strength. If they test strong, and the rug is fairly soiled, then I would wash the rug.
If they test weak (easily pull away from the rug), then I would surface clean it with the upholstery tool, and if needed, place a screen over the rug sections as I clean them to keep fibers from being pulled away during extraction strokes.
If I do see stenciling, and the rug is fairly soiled, I would STILL wash it… because the rug is dark and so ink bleeding out will not be visible on the front, but I would let the client know ink marks will show on the backing material. (Most clients don’t care what the back of the rug looks like, and I always prefer to give rugs a bath versus surface cleaning because it is the difference between taking a real bath or having a sponge bath.) Just in case the ink might bleed into the white silk highlights, I would use an Airpath to speed dry it.
I would test to see if the highlight fibers are RAYON instead of silk. If they are in fact rayon, then I know I need to be careful about scrubbing the rug, and to be extra careful when grooming after it’s dry. Rayon is a very weak fiber, and will break apart with even the gentlest cleaning.
I would pre-inspect for the horrible odor found in some tufted rugs. If the rug has that odor I would NOT CLEAN IT. This is a manufacturing flaw, tell the client to return it to the store they bought it at.
As long as you are VERY good at pre-inspection, and VERY good at carefully cleaning a rug, this should not be a problem rug to clean.
If you have any questions for me on this rug or others, please post them in the COMMENTS.
Thank you for reading the Rug Chick blog, I am always happy to see so many come to visit me here. 🙂
The fiber is not just kinda weak – it is VERY weak. Spill on it, and scrub it trying to clean it up, you will permanently distort and damage the fibers.
It likes to YELLOW on you. Get it wet, just with water, and you will have a water mark that ends up looking like a big pet urine puddle. (This is because rayon is a bunch of cellulose by-products, mish-mashed together and heavily chemically process to make it look shiny, and it yellows when wet.)
It likes to BLEED on you. The dyes are not strong. Ever try to clean one of these on your own at home, because it looks easy to clean, and you will create a soup of dyes mingled together if you’re not careful.
And… it looks worse after every year of foot traffic, and after every cleaning. Why? Because you can’t scrub it much without distortion or damage. Think about something you have that is cotton (a stronger version of rayon), like perhaps some socks. They’ve gotten dirty from use, and then you can only wash them by gently soaking them in a cleaning solution, and not being allowed to scrub to try to get the soil loose, and not allowed to use hot water to help remove it (because it would make it come apart more).
How clean could you get those socks? Would you ever be able to wear them again? Probably not.
So you have viscose rugs, with feet, shoes, and paws walking on it – and the contaminants brought in from those sources – and you cannot properly and thoroughly clean it because it’s such an inferior fiber it can’t hold up to proper cleaning over time.
You literally buy a rug, when it’s viscose, that is disposable. It will look good for a short period of time, and will age quickly and will be in the landfill, or given away to Goodwill, in a few years.
Real rugs (hand woven oriental and occidental rugs) are truly pieces of hand craftsmanship to showcase in your home.
They are a piece of a weaver’s life that you get to enjoy. A piece of art that will live centuries (if it is properly cared for).
Commodity rugs are mass produced today to feed a need of the fact that many people have hard floors in their homes, and they want a nice looking area rug, but they do not want to pay a fortune for it.
As with anything produced today, there can be items that are truly a great value, and others that are not worth your hard earned money. And viscose rugs are one of these areas where the great deal is just not worth it.
Viscose (also known as rayon) is in my opinion one of the absolute worst fibers to ever choose to use in something that people will walk on. Here are just a few reasons why:
Rayon/viscose is a weak fiber that distorts and breaks.
In strength tests, wool fibers can be bent up to 10,000 times before it breaks. Silk is also very strong at 2,000.
What is rayon? 70.
Yes 70. So as you can guess, walking on it becomes quite stressful for a viscose rug. Also, washing the rug (where you are required to do a little scrubbing) can be very stressful.
Rayon/viscose, because it is made from cotton by-products and wood pulp fibers, tends to show soil very quickly. It also yellows with time and can have a yellow/brown cast when it gets wet. (If you are a professional rug cleaner, you will want to give the rug a vinegar rinse, and dry face down after water removal so that you can lessen this browning and wick any that occurs to the back side of the rug.)
Another weakness of viscose rugs is the dye quality. They easily bleed.
Viscose rugs have dyes that are rarely colorfast.
In this case, a cold water flood in a home resulted in these dyes migrating all throughout this viscose rug. This is not reversible.
A flood, improper cleaning, or even a simple spill can bleed viscose rug dyes.
Why would manufacturers use a fiber so unsuitable for a rug in their inventory?
Simple. Because it is CHEAP.
They want the look of silk, but they do not want to actually use silk. They turn away a far superior fiber that will last a century, and exchange it for one that might have one solid year of looking good.
For professional rug cleaners, they are trained to identify rayon/viscose rugs and to run from them. They are one of the few rugs that end up looking worse after cleaning than better. They distort, the dyes can bleed, they fade, and they look shaggy over time.
For rug buyers, if you want the look of silk, I would suggest seeking out a lower grade silk rug over anything made of rayon or viscose. The taller the face fiber height, the lesser quality a silk rug. High quality silk rugs have a high knot count and a very low nap. Here is a very nice Qum silk rug, woven in Iran.
If you want the look of silk, then buy a real silk rug.
Viscose rugs are what we in the industry label as “disposable rugs” because they have a short life under normal foot traffic, and then they end up in the landfill and you have to go buy another one.
If all you want is a disposable rug, then go get one. They are cheap. But you can also find some great deals on wool rugs, which are fantastic for the floor and will not give you any of the headaches that viscose does. And they will last you a much, MUCH longer time.