This article discusses the ins and outs of giving your hand-knotted rugs the care they need and deserve.
The magic of these vintage & hand-crafted rugs is in part due to their rustic and everlasting properties. A truly seasoned rug will have battled a myriad of foes during its lifespan and unlike wall-to-wall carpeting offers a few touch-up options when necessary. If a rug gets dirty it can be washed and if injured can be repaired. Their dyes resist fading and running, and the natural oils from the wool keep most potential stains from penetrating and settling into the fabric.
It is in fact common practice in parts of the Middle East for rugs to be laid out on the street for “aging”. This process gives life to these woven marvels and brings out their rustic beauty.
Despite their forgiving nature there are a few strategies that you can implement to get the most out of your rug:
BEWARE THE SUN
Too much direct sunlight is often a once vibrant rug’s kryptonite. This is due to the harmful nature of the sun’s UV rays. This can lead to the colours fading and the wool, cotton, or silk to become dry and brittle. This process can happen faster than you might expect, therefore it is imperative to make sure the area your rug covers is not under too much direct sunlight.
It is unclear which rugs can take what levels of sunlight, that is why it is necessary to monitor them periodically in order to make sure they are not experiencing harmful conditions in their current environment. One way to tell if your rug’s colour is starting to fade is by comparing it to the reverse. If the colours on the front appear softer or lighter in comparison it may be time to consider moving the rug to a more shaded area. The difference in tone can also be noted by comparing sunlit areas of the rug to more shaded parts to see if they match.
While one option is to simply eliminate sunlight by drawing the blinds during sunny periods, it is also possible to have your window panes coated with Mylar, which is an invisible film that filters out harmful ultraviolet light. Mylar also reduces heat from the sunlight by a few degrees, which can be an added benefit during the hotter summer months.
Damage done by fading from the sun is not always permanent and can often at the very least be improved upon. If fading is contained to just the tips of the rug a professional wash can help by abrading the faded tips of the wool.
Professional clipping is also an option with more severely faded rugs. Sometimes a rug owner must make the decision whether to accept the rugs fade or otherwise try to fade it evenly, this can be done by putting it in direct sunlight while covering already faded areas in order to achieve a more uniform fade throughout. This process can vary in time according to the rug and strength of sunlight.
DRY ROT & MILDEW
Dry rot is the damage caused to rugs by remaining wet for long periods of time. While infrequent water spills are not something to fret over, allowing any hand crafted rug to remain wet for extended periods will invite mildew and over time suffer from dry rot. This may be more of an issue with stored rugs that are left unattended and may have gotten wet due to a leak or rain.
The most common way for a rug that is being actively used to suffer this fate is due to a potted plant being placed on the rug. Moisture and water from the plant will almost always seep through and over time create a circle of mildew on the covered spot. Often a barrier between the plant and rug is attempted however they almost never work effectively. The best advice is to keep any plants off your rugs and to make sure they are not susceptible to damage from leaks and rain wherever they are being stored.
It takes 4-5 days for mildew to really set in therefore if you notice your rug is soaked there is still time to try and counteract these effects. Often a towel or cloth will be enough, but in cases where it has absorbed too much water it may be best to use a water vacuum or alternatively try to ring it out outdoors.
A major worry for rug owners is moths that can cause serious damage in a matter of weeks. These moths are small and hard to notice as they do their damage in the larval stage so keep an eye out for little maggots! The good news is moths rarely attack rugs that are actively being used, as they prefer dark places, however that means that unattended or stored rugs may be at risk. Rug portions that are covered by furniture may also be vulnerable so it is best to move the furniture off of the rug and vacuum it every few months. Backs of rugs are also more likely to be at risk opposed to the front as this surface is less frequently disturbed.
Moth crystals are an option for stored rugs but need to be changed regularly as their effectiveness can wear off quite rapidly. Alternatively you can use natural moth repellent sprays.
Despite these few potential issues rugs are quite durable and simply need some loving from time to time. Being aware of these issues and checking in on your rug, whether stored or in use, semi-regularly can lead to a long and happy life for your rugs.