First of all, let’s talk about why you bought your beautiful handmade area rugs. You were traveling or you found a wonderful dealer nearby and knew that you wanted to have this beautiful art piece in your home. You love your beautiful rug which is why you paid good money for it. You want to protect your investment, right?
A hand knotted oriental rug will last a lifetime and beyond if it is well cared for. There is a reason they have a magical quality because they can withstand the test of time. Even if something bad happens to it (God forbid), most times it can be fixed.
A quality handmade area rug can resist fading and running. The lanolin oils that are found naturally within a handmade rug will naturally resist stains. However, no matter how good quality the rug is made, there still needs to be attention to details such as watching out for too much sunlight, moisture, moths and carpet beetles.
See this beautiful CAPPADOCIA antique area rug from Turkey. The colors are just as vibrant today as they were when it was made.
Sunlight Causes Rugs to Fade Over Time
It does not matter if a rug is synthetically dyed or naturally dyed, they both suffer the same fate with too much sunlight. There is no such thing as a sunscreen for a rug (yet?). In the meantime what can you do to prevent sun exposure?
Not all rugs are built alike. Some are naturally resilient to sun and others not so much and it is difficult to predict or know this ahead of time. The best way to know for sure is monitor your rugs that are in a sunlit room. Take special attention to compare the colors on the front and the back of the area rug. The colors should look the same. If you notice that the pile side of the rug looks lighter, then its time to take action.
Obviously, curtains and blinds will eliminate this problem. You can also treat your windows with a mylar coating (invisible film that filters out ultraviolet).
Although it is more common to get rug damage from a window, a skylight can also be a culprit.
The severity of the fading in a rug can be determined by looking at the tips of the pile. Washing the rug, may help the problem. However, if it is more severe, the pile may need to be clipped.
In extreme cases, the rug may need to be faded evenly. If this is the case, you may wish to take your rug into a dealer to be assessed professionally.
Moths and Carpet Beetles
The tiniest of moths can create the biggest damage to your hand knotted area rugs. How do they do this?
Most of the damage is done when they are in the larval stage. 1
A lot of people cannot stand the smell of mothballs (myself included), not to mention that it is a known TOXIN.
The chemical composition of a mothball is naphthalene or 1,4-diclorobenzene. Both are harmful to you and your family. Read California Proposition 65, where both naphthalene and 1,4-diclorobenzene are considered carcinogenic and can cause organ damage.
So what are the natural ways we can cure this problem? Apparently moths cannot live with LAVENDER OIL.
“Moths do not like lavender oil. Simply placing a drop or two on a cotton ball and placing them around your window frames will keep them out. Alternatively you could add the essential oil to ribbons and hang them around your open windows. When the wind blows it will blow in a lovely lavender aroma.” 2
Carpet beetles are different and thus different essential oils disturb them. You can try an essential oil spray of cedar oil and neem oil. 3 The reason for this is that it disturbs the insects hormonal system so they stop eating, mating, laying eggs and flying.
These are potential natural solutions to problems with bugs in your wool area rugs. If you are unsure, please test a small area before spraying the whole rug.
Water Damage, Mildew and Dry Rot
One of the most common problems created by rug owners is placing a potted plant on a rug. Big no-no. The chances of wetness are extremely high, no matter how careful you think you are. Just don’t do it.
Handmade floor rugs that are stored poorly are common. Without even knowing when/how it happened, your rug stored in the garage could get wet, causing mildew. Leaks in roofs or plumbing problems can potentially cause problems in your rugs. Once the mildew gets in there, the smell is almost impossible to remove. So it is best to keep a close eye on such things to avoid them.
Water is not entirely harmful. For instance, you can have a small rug in your bathroom that you can step onto and it will not be hurt because there is usually a lot of time to dry out between the next shower. You have to assess whether the area is more dry than wet before placing a rug there.
If you do happen to get your rug fully wet, the best plan of action is to dry it out before mildew appears. A good option is if you can place it outside to dry. If outside is not an option, roll up the rug tightly and let it stand on end until the water stops to drip. If you are just not sure and want help, contact an oriental area rug store that offers cleaning and repair and they will help you.
How to Keep Your Handmade Area Rug Clean
Unlike wall to wall carpeting, oriental area rugs can easily be moved and cleaned. This can help you prevent abnormal wear, by turning and rotating your rugs. Dirt and sand are abrasive and can damage your rug over time if not washed. How often should you have your oriental area rug washed? This changes depending on wear. If it is a high traffic area, you may want to wash every year. If it is not, every 3-5 years.
If you are not certain how dirty it is, test it with a white wet cloth. Just rub the pile with your wet cloth and see how much soil you see.
It’s better to get it professionally cleaned through a highly rated oriental rug dealer than to try to do it yourself. Professionals use the most ph neutral soap (usually all natural) and then wet the entire rug thoroughly.
DO NOT steam clean or dry-clean your rugs! They break down the naturally occurring lanolin oils in the rug and will ruin it. Once a rug has had the oils stripped from them, the wool will degrade very fast.
One of the first ways a rug starts to show age is in the edges of the rug. As a rug ages, it is important that you maintain them as to avoid expensive repairs later. Fortunately, it takes a long time for fringes to wear. However, fringes can be replaced if necessary.
If there are other areas of “unravelling”, then this needs to be dealt with right away. This usually happens on the selvages. Please get it professionally fixed. Do not try to fix it yourself if you want your rug to last and to maintain the value of your rug.
At Artsy, we sell two different styles of rug pads: One is very thin and the other more standard thickness of 1/4 inch. Using a pad will protect the rug over time. However, the greatest benefit is that it prevents from slipping or accidents. Pads do have a tendency to get old and crumbly over time which is normal. Thus, you will likely replace them more than once in their lifetime.
Be sure to check out some of the best handmade area rugs in the Bay area right here at Artsy Rugs
The beautiful rug at the beginning of this article can be found here.