The Ultimate Rug Cleaning Guide by Rug Pro NYC
The intended purpose of this guide is to help identify all rug cleaning problems. The inspection process and the methods used by professionals to clean any rug are discussed. The kind of information found here is sought after by those who are interested in doing professional rug cleaning and restoration. The lay person will understand why the task is best left to the experts.
History of Rugs
Carpet use has been traced back as far as 7000 BC, during the Neolithic Age. The theory is that carpets were meant to serve practical purposes of the nomadic populations. Thick knots were used to protect people from unfavorable climatic conditions and kept them from giving up valuable animals for hides.
Another theory advocates the evolution of carpets as artistic pieces that served both utilitarian and aesthetic functions. Archeological excavations have lead to the knowledge rugs and carpets provided insulation from inclement weather and offered beautification. Over the centuries, knotted carpet gradually spread around the globe, making the mystery of its origin difficult to solve.
Dyes and Fibers
Carpets are made of pre-dyed and post-dyed yarns. Both are accomplished by various methods. All post-dyed carpets are extruded without added color pigment. The white fiber is used to form a blanket by spinning, twisting, heat setting, and tufting it. Dye is usually added by one of three methods printing, continuous dyeing, or beck dyeing.
Dense fibers and those with polyester employ the beck dyeing method. This method submerges the blanket into a dye mixture having a temperature raised enough to open the fiber dye sites. Negatively charged molecules of the dye attach to positively charged sites that cause the dye to adhere to the fiber. Beck dyeing is the most expensive method, but necessary for good dye penetration of heavy fibers.
Cleaning or extracting may find excess dye in the rinse water. The excess dye is no cause for concern. It is a frequent occurrence of chocolate brown, hunter green, or navy blue dye use.
Continuous dyeing is a process that uses a jet spraying method that continuously applies dye to fibers as the carpet moves below the spray. Carpeting, several hundred feet length, is dyed per hour. This process significantly reduces carpet cost. Most residential carpet is dyed by this method.
Print dyeing is also a continuous process. Multicolored prints are created with this method. Fabrics with printed and floral patterns applied are formed. Area rugs and kitchen prints are fashioned in this manner. The technique is also used in some high-style residential fabrics.
All dye methods where the fibers are dyed before being tufted into a blanket are referred to as pre-dyeing. The most common method is solution dyeing used in residential applications.
The pellets found in some stuffed animals are similar to the synthetic fibers of carpets and rug before they are processed. The pellets are heated to the melting point. As the pellets melt, they go through a device and form hair-like strands. They are returned to a hardened state by blowing chilled air across them. The fiber is then chopped into short lengths for stable fibers or left in bulk continuous filament (BCF). These fibers are solution dyed.
Solution dyeing dyes the fiber throughout, not just the surface. Permeated colors are difficult to remove. Therefore, environmental pollutants, sunlight, and bleaching agents are not likely to fade the fibers. There is a limitation of color choices, and solution dyed fibers are no more stain resistant that post dyed fibers. The cost of solution dyeing is significantly greater. Unless carpet is going to be exposed to factors that initiate fading, specifying solution dyed fibers is not necessary.
Methods of Rug Construction
Three basic methods are used in the creation of rugs, automated machine construction, hand tufting, and hand-knotting.
Machine Made Rugs
A computer typically controls the power loom that weaves machine made rugs. Colors and their location on the fabric are computer controlled. Intricate designs are produced with this technology.
Machine-made rugs are manufactured quickly. They are made from synthetic fibers that include art silk, acrylic, nylon, and polypropylene. Wool is also used in the production of machine-made rugs. These rugs are offered at prices lower than handmade rugs.
Hand Tufted Rugs
Hand-tufting uses a tufting gun, which is a device that punches individual yarns through a sheet of fabric. Upon completion of the rug, a second fabric is used to hold the yarn in place by gluing it to the back. More details and higher quality material are typically found in tufted rugs compared to machine made rugs.
Construction and Design of Handmade Rugs
The cream of the crop in the rug world is the hand-knotted rug. Like all fine furnishings, the details shape the appeal and character of the rugs. Hand-knotted rugs have an incomparable quality that comes from a construction process that is very labor intense. Master weavers use a vertical loom and carefully knot yarn around one or two columns of threads called warps. The knot ends create the rug’s pile. The more knots added per square inch, the more defined the pattern. Durability is enhanced.
Looser weaves produce storied artisan looks. The tops and bottoms of knotted rugs are crucial to construction. The fringe, which is the ends of warp threads, serves as the rugs foundation and is prevented from raveling by tying the knots. Unlimited color variation and design are possible. These rugs often have investment value.
Rugs are not all treated the same. There is a correct method of cleaning each rug. The condition and age of the carpet, the dye system used, how the rug was constructed, and the fiber of the rug all have to be taken into consideration.
Some carpets are cleaned with a steam method. Others require more effort and time. Soaking in a particular submersion wash pit or individual hand cleaning may be necessary.
Fine handmade Oriental rugs from Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, India, Portugal, Egypt, and Romania are considered specialty rugs. So are antique rugs, Flokati rugs, skin leather rugs, shag rugs, and silk rugs. An individualized and specific cleaning process is used for each rug. New, white, needlepoint, tufted, and tapestry rugs get individual care by professionals who employ tested cleaning methods. Professionals can also add protective compounds that inhibit disintegration by organic sources such as ants.
Rug Identification Road Map
Rug identification is essential when cleaning rugs is on the agenda. Professionals must have the ability to identify correctly the rugs they encounter. It is a part of the success of their business that is essential. Being able to distinguish the fundamental kinds of rugs is a source of distinction for cleaners to be considered true professionals.
If a rug cleaner made mistakes during the pre-cleaning inspection, the errors would be costly. Image the consequences if a layperson were to misjudge a problem. Common problems stem from mis recognition of pre-existing conditions, after-market treatments, dyes, and construction. The inspection must determine if the rug construction is machine-made or hand-made. Is it hand-knotted or tufted? What is the country of origin? All of these factors affect the way carpets are cleaned.
A Persian rug adds rich texture and classic elegance to a home. The Persian rugs, made in Iran, are often made using traditional weaving techniques and hand-dyed wool. Wool and other natural fibers such as cotton and silk can last for as long as 80 years. These hand-knotted rugs are costly. Hand-tufted rugs are made with a modified drill gun that takes only about a week to construct and costs much less.
The Persian rugs of Iran have been described as good, bad, and ugly. Color and design are more important than the country of origin. It is important for rug specialists to be familiar with old and new standards.
Persian rugs are a mix of rug designs and different cultures. The U.S. imports more rugs from the Iranian region of Hamadan than any other region. Little rhyme or reason is derived from the various designs of the area. The designs are often geometrical and coarsely woven. They are similar in appearance to nomadic or tribal rugs. The materials and workmanship are quite good.
Tribal rugs are the type Tribal and Nomadic groups originally wove to cover homes and tents as protection from harsh weather. The rug weaving heritage has been passed from generation to generation. Rug collectors appreciate the hand-knotted pile and originality of tribal rugs. A tribal rug beautifies a blank floor space.
Turkish rugs are particularly hard to classify. They do not always fit into structured categories. Turkish rugs are divided into Eastern, Central, and Western weaving areas. Experts divide them into village and city productions.
Istanbul weaves silk and wool pile rugs. The wool pile has a cotton foundation. Silk rugs have a silk foundation. Tourists purchase most of the Turkish rugs. There are no major cleaning concerns related to Turkish rugs.
Chemistry of Rug Cleaning
Four principles are utilized when cleaning any carpet. Dry soil is removed, the soil is suspended, extracting the water and soil, and drying. They are used every time carpets are cleaned. Skimping on any principle can cause diminished results.
Carpet cleaning solutions do not break down the dry soil. Before applying a cleaning solution, all soil that can be removed with a vacuuming process is eliminated. The cleaning solution will attempt to break down dry soil, which weakens the usefulness. Vacuuming removes dry soil. Sixty percent of dry soil is removed when vacuums slowly and deliberately pass over the carpet. The more dirt removal, the better carpet solutions can break down soils that are soluable.
Soil suspension uses a detergent that attaches to soluble soil particles. Time, application, chemistry and temperature must be carefully balanced. Solutions need time to work. Technicians usually use the solution as a pre-spray that is allowed to begin breaking down soil for about five to seven minutes
After the pre-spray application, the carpet is scrubbed or agitated. A pile rake is used to work the solution into the pile of the rug. Soil is dislodged, and the solution is aided in breaking down the soluble soil.
The solution quality impacts the cleaning results. Carpet cleaning technicians know the proper solution to use on the type of rug being cleaned.
Every 18-degree temperature increase above 140 degrees doubles the cleaning effectiveness of a procedure. Professional rug cleaners know the temperature rugs and carpets can tolerate.
The pre-cleaning inspection is the most important rug cleaning step. A recorded inspection report is made. Pre-existing problems are documented. The customer receives a copy. The approximate value of a rug is recorded on the receipt. Machine-made rugs, like automobiles, tend to decrease in value. Rugs in poor condition may not be worth more than the cleaning cost. Customers are asked to establish a value if the uncertainty of a rug’s quality exists.
The condition prior to cleaning is noted on the inspection document. There are 50 items rug technicians look for during the pre-cleaning inspection. Rug identification is one of the essential items. It is usually the beginning of the process. Rug cleaning experts know Pakistani rugs often bleed and Chinese needlepoint rugs may have cartoon markings.
The determination of being machine-made or hand-made is another critical item on the inspection list. There are particular problems to anticipate with each type of rug. Rug construction may trigger suspicion of shrinking if wet-cleaned or delamination caused by the backing material that is glued to the carpet.
Dry cleaning and steam cleaning are fundamental methods for cleaning carpets. Steam does not clean carpets. Hot water is used that causes stem to be given off. Cleaning solutions are sprayed onto the carpet. Hot water activates the solution on the carpet fibers. A vacuuming process is then used to extract the bulk of water and dirt. The powerful vacuums used by professionals allow carpets to dry quickly.
Dry cleaning methods use cleaning compounds that break down the soil. A small amount of moisture is used in dry cleaning methods. Solutions that complement the dry compounds are applied.
A labor intense, but the least corrosive, hand-washing process may be required of some rugs. Each rug is unique and must be treated differently. There are advantages and disadvantages of all methods. The task of cleaning rugs should be left to professionals. They know how to handle rugs based on the method of construction and the materials used in the creation of the rugs. That knowledge is key to properly cleaning carpets. Knowing the proper method and cleaning solutions to use ensures a rug is returned to the owner in the best possible condition.