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.
Peter Stone “Oriental Rugs: An Illustrated Lexicon of Motifs, Materials, and Origins”
What I enjoy most about this book is the ease of use. It is essentially an encyclopedia of rugs, rug terms, rug construction, rug history, and anything you can think of that is rug-related.
It is very user-friendly if someone is just beginning, but it also feeds the curiosity of the more experienced in the field. I enjoy flipping it open and just reading random sections to learn something new, or in using it to help explain a term, or rug type, to a client.
This is also a visually stunning book. And rather than sharing “rare” rugs that you will likely never see in your lifetime, I find a great collection of rugs that we rug cleaners see now and then through our doors – so the content is relevant to those cleaning today, and those rug shopping today.
Another plus of this book is the extensive bibliography at the end, which lists many great rug books (classics and contemporary) organized by country/weave/topic so that anyone who becomes enamored with a specific rug they see can delve deeper on that topic.
I have purchased multiple copies of the hard cover book (for my own use and for gifts), and I also was thrilled to discover this to be one of the first Kindle edition rug publications I’ve seen. As an avid iPad user, now I have access to this great content no matter where I am.
Great rug books tend to come out with limited publications, and when they soon are no longer in print, the existing copies become extremely pricey to acquire. So get your copy now while the price is down right cheap. This can be on the gift list for any rug lovers in your life.
PRJ Ford “Oriental Carpet Design: A Guide To Traditional Motifs, Patterns and Symbols”
Many people who are first drawn toward rugs come in based on designs they like, or that the begin to recognize. This book lays out the most common field designs, border designs, motifs, and styles. You get a great visual education on how they vary from tribal weaving to city weaving regions.
The rug examples are excellent, as is the observations and historical descriptions. It helps to identify where certain symbols came from, and what they intended to represent. This is another great book to give as a gift because it is a beauty to flip through and randomly read sections from.
I especially enjoy the details on the various Turkoman gul designs, and have referenced those pages often when trying to determine which clan wove a particular carpet. With this book, as with the Stone book, the writing style is easy to follow and not stiflingly academic. (Though if you ever find yourself stumbling upon a particular rug term, the Stone book acts as a fantastic rug glossary in the format that it is laid out with.)
Janice Summers “Oriental Rugs: The Illustrated World Buyer’s Guide”
What I love about this book though is the format of how she lays out the rug identification process. Summers is the first rug author that I have seen that has provided an excellent front/back view of rug types, and the identifying characteristics in such a user-friendly manner.
In reading about a particular rug, you can know what identifiers that specialists look for, such as knot type (asymmetrical or symmetrical), weaving materials, weft count, side finish, end finish, etc.
This is a must-own book for anyone seeking to begin on a path of becoming able to identify which country a rug may have been woven in. It also is an excellent tool to use to help determine whether a rug may be from one village, or another, based on its characteristics.
The weaving region histories are not at the level of detail in this book as you will find in the Ford book, but this is a great general book to begin your library with, and one that you will reference often.
Marla Mallett “Woven Structures: A Guide To Oriental Rug And Textile Analysis”
This is a textbook on understanding the construction of rugs. Her focus is more on tribal weavings, and in particular flatweaves, but she does address pile rugs in the book as well.
What I love about Mallett’s book are her illustrations and drawings that very vividly “show” the reader how to understand a rug from a weaver’s point of view. You come away with insight on the nomadic lifestyle, fiber cultivation and preparation, and the intricacies of crafting a textile.
It was with this book that I began to look at rugs, especially tribal rugs, very differently. I gained an appreciation of the workmanship through the analysis breakdown provided in this book.
Mallett is an excellent instructor in print, and I am certain even more so in person. She also has a wonderful website (www.marlamallett.com) with a wide range of photos, articles, recommended resources, and rug education.
Many websites in the realm of rugs are garbled messes of outdated material, bad links, and just general chaos. Mallett provides one of the better organized, updated, and easy to navigate sites in our industry. I always learn something new from her website. Though the illustrations and photos in her book are primarily black and white, there is a tremendous amount of color on her website.
If you have a friend who is a weaver, collector, or a serious student of rugs – this is the book to buy for them (or for yourself). And if you have ever struggled with trying to understand the difference in different rug knots, or selvedge finishes, this book will clear it all up for you. Her drawings masterfully illustrate how rugs are crafted.
Rug Book Wrap-up
There are MANY great rug books out there. I expect my blog readers will chime in on some of their favorites in the comments (I encourage you to do so).
What I wanted to do here was to share the ones I grab most often to reference and recommend to others, and the ones that make great gifts to others, or to yourself if you are in the process of beginning your rug library.
(FYI: All of the links provided in this post are general links to general listings. I have shortened the URL’s for convenience sake, but these are NOT affiliate links, so please don’t worry that buying through these means that I am making anything on the sale. I am not. I just wanted to save you some time searching for a listing by providing you the direct links.)
One final request for those of you who already own these books, or plan to buy and enjoy them. PLEASE share the recommendations with others if you like them, and post your reviews on Amazon also if you can. Any of you who have written a book, you know the amount of time/energy projects like this take, and how much work was put into each of these books. Let’s show our appreciation by sharing great rug education with others.
Happy Rug Learning!
P.S. I am officially the “international” Rug Chick! I had the pleasure of working with Modern Rugs UK in crafting a rug care guide section of their website. If you are looking for some quick rug care tips, go take a look at their site => http://bit.ly/modernrugUK – they also have a huge collection of rugs for sale to UK rug shoppers.
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!
Jute is a plant fiber that we used to only see in a small number of older American hand hooked rugs…
American hooked rug with wool loops and jute mesh foundation.
…and some more contemporary European latch hook, embroidery, and needlepoint rugs.
Portuguese needlepoint rugs woven on jute foundation.
But lately jute has become the cheap and plentiful fiber of choice for many rugs we see coming out of India (the world’s #1 jute grower) and other countries. If you go into any of the more popular home furnishing stores today, from Pottery Barn to Restoration Hardware to Crate & Barrel, you are going to find rugs with jute in them as face fibers or as the backing material.
Jute backed rugs are commonplace in today’s home furnishing stores.
The pluses are that it’s cheap, it’s quick to grow, and it’s environmentally friendly because it’s biodegradable.
The minuses (you just KNEW there would be minuses!) are that it is an extremely difficult fiber to handle if you do not know anything about it beforehand, and problems are very tough to correct.
Here are the three major challenges with jute.
Jute Browns & Yellows Like No Other Fiber Out There.
If you are a professional carpet cleaner who has ever had to tackle installed wall-to-wall wool carpet, which happened to be woven on a JUTE backing, then you know how absolutely dangerous this situation can be.
Get that jute even a little too wet, and the white wool can turn shades of coffee brown.
Jute gets brown and yellow when it’s wet. It releases oils that brown. So, when the way to get rugs clean is to WASH them, this can create a technical nightmare.
Cotton rug with some jute weft threads that like to brown with spills.
Something as heavily soiled as this rayon and jute rug needs to be washed to clean thoroughly, but both fibers like to yellow when wet, so what is a cleaner to do?
Spills and spotting attempts do not go over well with these rayon and jute rugs.
Jute Holds Odor Like No Other Fiber Out There.
Jute is super absorbent, and can hold on to odor causing contaminants like pet urine even throughout multiple washings.
The label says 100% polypropylene, but these weft threads are all hefty JUTE fibers.
Rug labels tend to only list what the face fibers of a rug are. So a hand woven rug may say “100% wool” even though the warps and wefts of the foundation are all usually cotton.
With synthetic rugs, you will see “100% polypropylene” (or acrylic, nylon, polyester) – but most have heavy jute weft threads in their foundation. This makes removing odors like pet urine from these rugs very difficult because you have to try to remove the source of the problem, and it is often absorbed into the middle of these innermost fibers.
If there are pets in the home that are not trained, jute would not be a good choice… unless you just plan to get cheap rugs on the floor that are jute, and just buy new ones when they get badly contaminated.
Jute Will Rot And Get Brittle Like No Other Fiber Out There.
Jute will dry rot faster than other fibers.
Unfortunately rug cleaners discover this fact when they are inspecting rugs with some age to them that have been woven on jute. Over time it just disintegrates, and these sometimes very wonderfully woven textiles just fall apart.
Chainstitch needlepoint rug woven on a jute scrim that is cracking and splitting along the edges where it’s folded.
Sometimes spills will make the jute rot quicker in specific areas:
Silk parachute cord shag rug, an area weak with age has split open because the burlap jute foundation is rotted in this area.
When the jute throughout a piece has become brittle with rot or age, there is nothing that can be done to salvage it. It’s as if your skeleton began to crumble apart, you cannot support something with no strength left in it.
A remnant of a chainstitch embroidery needlepoint rug. The stitching was done on a jute foundation which is splitting and deteriorating. Beautiful textile just falling apart. =(
If you do not catch this deterioration BEFORE the cleaning process begins, you could literally have the rug fall apart on you unexpectedly.
All the edges of this jute backing are breaking and unraveling.
Tips On Cleaning Jute Rugs
BROWNING/YELLOWING: If the rug looks like it already shows signs of a cellulose browning problem, you may opt to only surface clean the rug to expose the jute backing to as little moisture as possible.
Jute foundation is already showing strong signs of yellowing on the back of this Stark wool rug.
You could also clean with a dry compound or low-moisture bonnet cleaning method.*
(* – I personally am not a fan of dry compound or of encapsulation cleaning of rugs, because I do not feel they truly “clean” the rugs. I would rather see someone surface clean with an upholstery tool to try to clean the rug without getting the backing very wet instead of these other choices. That said, when the rug has a serious browning problem and moderate soiling, your dry compound or encap methods may be the only viable option.)
If you fully wash a rug with jute because it needs a thorough cleaning, then having an acid rinse can help lessen some of that cellulose browning.
Also, sometimes if you dry the rug flat and face down (fuzzy side down) on a CLEAN surface, and put some high speed air movers on it to dry, you can often make the wicking of the browning problem move to the back side of the rug instead of up on the front side of the rug.
I love the Airpaths to speed dry rugs!
ODOR REMOVAL: If the odor is strong in a rug with a jute fiber foundation, and the rug is polypropylene, then you can use some of the new oxidizers on the market to remove the odor, such as OSR or Oxcelerate. (Be VERY careful to NOT use this on wool rugs – only synthetic, and of course test first.)
BRITTLE FIBERS: Unfortunately, when the jute foundation fibers are splitting and crumbling away, there is not much you can do.
Spanish wool rug with jute foundation wefts that have rotted and have no strength left to hold the corner together anymore.
With smaller decorative hooked and needlepoint rugs woven on jute, especially the older ones, it may be time to prepare them for hanging in order to keep the foot traffic from tearing the rug apart completely. You have to see how much strength is left in the jute fibers to allow it to be hung because the weight of itself may be too much for even that.
With jute, the main protection again getting caught having to pay to replace a rug is to be obsessive compulsive about your pre-wash inspection process.
Look for jute, and when you find it, go over those 3 major concerns: browning, odor, and brittleness. Discuss the options with the owner BEFORE the cleaning, and don’t be afraid to turn away a job if it looks like it could end up becoming a rug disaster.
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