On maintenance… Cleaning and repair of hand-woven rugs.
How to look after your hand-woven carpet.
So you bought the beautiful thing. Good, you will love it forever. But how to look after it. Here goes…
Underlay: If your rug is on a hard floor – wood, tile, concrete or laminate – then it’s a good idea to get an underfelt. I learned this lesson the hard way, whilst sliding across my herringbone parquet floors on an Anatolian kelim and landing – hard – on my tush. You need get something that will not only protect you from skidding across the lounge, but will also protect your rug from the grinding friction of wear and tear. There are a few types of underlay and they have their pros and cons. We only use a type of underlay – made of recycled plastic – called Rug grip, manufactured in SA. It will last an average of 3 to 5 years in medium to heavy traffic before it needs to be replaced. We use it because it can’t possibly cause any damage to your floors or your carpets and it be grippy yo! This thin foam-type underlay provides cushioning as well as grip – preventing the rug from slipping underfoot. You could also use an old fashioned “dog blanket” style felt – the ones made of recycled fabric, usually grayish in overall colour. It may still slip but the added weight that it gives the rugs can prevent moving and slippage. Some people use a thin, bubbly foamlike felt, which in our experience doesn’t last. There are also spongy, foamy rubbery, thick felts – usually in bright blue or orange – with a plastic sheeting on the underside. There cushion well but don’t grip the floor. You could use a combo of a grippy felt with a thicker foam or blanket style felt layered on top if you want a softer feel underfoot. NB – Please don’t use rubber netting. It can melt and degrade over time and can damage not only your rug, but the floor beneath. If someone tries to sell you this nasty stuff, roll it up and beat them with it.
Vacuuming: Some vacuums are flipping horrible nasty oriental carpet eaters. We have one that over a few weeks mowed the pile off some of the carpets like a flymo. When it comes to suction – less is more. So don’t use the “carpet beating” program on your vacuum because that program is meant for wall to wall rugs. Use the plain attachment. The one with the little brushes should be fine – the one with the roller and brushes MAY be too intensive for your carpet – run it over your leg and see how vigorous the action is. To play it safe, I use the upholstery attachment. Stay away from the fringes – vacuum cleaners love to eat the fringes. Brush the fringes with an indoor broom with soft bristles.
Cleaning: This is the part of owning a rug that brings people the most despair. “What if someone drops red wine/ blood/ poop/ primordial ooze on my rug?” Well. The simple answer is – never invite that person round again, the savage beast. Once you have calmed down, assess the spill. Different stains need different treatments. My mom keeps soda water on hand for spills – she shakes up the bottle, lifts the carpets and applies the top of the bottle to the underside of the stain, which makes the bubbly liquid shoot thru the fibres, taking pee, blood or wine with it, which she then blots from the other side. It is a good go to for most spills. Here are a few quick tips for the most common spills. Remember, always BLOT, never RUB! And always clean in the direction of the pile.
– For urine, you need to get the concentrated urea out of the carpet ASAP. So I pour water directly on to the spot, blot and repeat at least 3 or 4 times. Make sure you don’t pour more water than can soak into the area that has been wee’d on. Always blot, never rub!. Then mix a tablsepoon cup of vinegar with a cup of warm water and spritz on the stain. Allow the vinegar spray to soak for several minutes and then proceed with the blot technique until stain is gone and spot is dry. Dogs may respray that spot and sometimes the only way to stop them peeing on that rug is to take it to a carpet shop and ask for an ammonia strip, especially if pee has been allowed to dry (the ammonia crystals soak into the fibre and are impossible to remove with normal washing)
– For wine. Blot blot blot. Then pour just enough cold water on the stain to soak into the stain and blot again, repeat 2 to 3 times. You can also use the above-mentioned vinegar solution instead of water. Then pour a liberal amount of table salt onto the stain. Let it dry over night. next day brush it off and vaccums, then use the vinegar solution to spritz and use a damp cloth to rub away any salt residue.
– For blood. You will need a soap here. Always use cold water. Mix one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid into a cup of liquid. Liberally soak the the stain and then blot, repeating until the stain is gone. Then use water to remove any soap residue.
– For oil. I’m not gonna lie, oil is nasty. But it can be removed. blot as much off as possible and then sprinkle cornflour liberally onto the stain, using your hands to rub it into the fibres. Vacuum after an hour and repeat if necessary. You can also use alcohol to dissolve the stain and then a dilution of dish soap and water after that, blotting to remove the residue and finishing off with a damp cloth with just water.
– For minor spot cleaning I use a teaspoon of shampoo in a cup of water and make a foam, which I wipe onto the rug with a sponge. I then use a damp cloth or sponge to remove the residue, always following the direction of the pile.
I recommend a full professional wash every 3 to 5 years for medium to heavy traffic. Most shops will offer the service and a few of the reputable wall to wall cleaners have the right machines to wash carpets.
Maintenence and repair – Keep your carpet in good condition by making sure the fringes are not being rubbed off, making sure the edges are still in good shape. Most shops will offer a repair service and if you have the little repairs done when you take the rugs for their cleaning, you will ensure that your rug will look better for longer. If you get major damage, a dog eats an edge, or moths nibble a corner, get the rug to your local carpet shop pronto. Bear in mind that the cost of repair should not exceed half the value of the rug. Shop around if the quote is high.
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