Oriental Rug Cleaning- Why not clean it in my home?
We get calls every day wanting to know about rug cleaning. The first question I ask of them is “Is it wool, silk or synthetic?” Many aren’t sure and we refer them to the label that is on the back corner of most rugs. Synthetic rugs are usually made out of Olefin or Polypropylene but can also be made out of polyester or nylon. These are the same fibers used to make carpet. “Why does that matter?” “Cant you just clean it on my wood floor regardless of what they are made of ?” Because they are synthetic they are not nearly as absorbent as a natural fiber and not nearly as susceptible to dye migration or fiber damage from high ph cleaners or oxidizers. Synthetic fibers can, therefore, be cleaned on your tile floor or in your driveway with the same cleaners used to clean your carpet.
Wool, silk or cotton are natural fibers that are much more absorbent. A wool rug can hold 30 percent of its weight in water and not feel wet! It also holds much more dirt than a synthetic rug. Wool became very popular in desert areas because of this. Wool fibers have scales that allow dry soil to become trapped and therefore improve the air quality in the room by reducing airborne dust particles. Think of a wool rug as a large air filter in your home. Imagine how beneficial this is in a dry, desert environment!
So, to review what we have discussed so far, wool holds more water and wool holds more dry soil. These are two great qualities but also why they should not be cleaned in your home. Because wool holds more dry soil, a process called Dusting should be done to remove sand and dirt that can act as sandpaper to damage the fibers and foundation of your rug. Vacuuming alone cannot do this. We often removes 10 pounds of dry soil in the dusting process! Think of this as cleaning your “filter” so it can give you years of air cleaning benefit in the future!
The fact that wool holds so much water and moisture is another reason it should be cleaned in a rug cleaning shop. To properly clean wool and flush it of all contaminants, it takes gallons upon gallons of water. This cant be achieved without washing it in a bath or high pressure wash floor. Because so many gallons of water are used to flush urine, spills and remaining soil from a wool rug, extra steps are taken to properly extract as much water as possible and then dry them in a room with temperature control, commercial dehumidifiers and air movers. This process can take 3 days to complete. Not what you want sitting on a wood floor!
A third reason to clean a natural fiber rug off-site is dye stability. Wool rugs are dyed in acid based dyes that can be very unstable. These dyes are made much more unstable by the presence of urine or cleaners used that were not wool safe. Unstable dyes mean the colors can crock or bleed into the other areas of the rug. We do a 24 hour dye stability test on wool rugs to ensure every precaution is taken to prevent further dye bleeding. This is done by adding dye stabilizers and anti-dyes to the rug. A rug can always bleed or crock dyes even in a controlled environment but much more preventive and cautionary steps can be utilized in a shop than in your home. Without the benefit of the proper dye stabilizers and the ability to flush migrant dyes from the rug quickly, dyes made unstable by improper yarn dyeing or urine contamination, a rug can be damaged beyond repair.
Another reason to clean a natural fiber rug off-site is cotton fringe. Cotton is even more absorbent than wool and can absorb migrant dyes from the rug or can become brown from the lignin in the cotton when drying. This is usually in the last phase of the drying process. By speeding the drying process with airmovers and dehumidifiers, this can be greatly reduced or eliminated. Fringe is often hand detailed after drying to ensure they are clean, and free of any migrant dyes.
So when you have your rugs cleaned, find out if they are natural or synthetic fibers and use a reputable company with certification in cleaning fine rugs in a rug plant where proper dusting, dye stability testing and drying takes place. Remember not to use carpet cleaning products on wool rugs. Wool dissolves in bleach so please don’t ever use an “oxy” based product on anything wool! Use quality rug pads under all your rugs and have them cleaned thoroughly every couple of years so they add beauty and comfort to your home for generations!