Classic Rug Care header image for the Rug Cleaning and Wash tour page

Rug Care & Cleaning: A Wash Tour

Pre-wash Inspection

Each rug is inspected for any pre-existing conditions. Many times soil can cover up dye lot variations (abrash), fibre staining, prior dye bleeding, worn areas, or white knots that become “uncovered” after the wash. Some of these are weaving characteristics (abrash and white knots), and others are damage that can possibly be repaired or reversed.

If you bring the rug to us personally, then this inspection takes place with you, and we will discuss any areas of concern that you have regarding your rugs, and your options. If we transport your rug to our facility, our wash and repair team will inspect your rug after its arrival and will contact you with any work recommendations or pre-wash “discoveries.”

Rug showing colour tone changes

Abrash – Dye lot colour variations (especially in vegetable dyed wool). All wool has tone changes that range from off-white to yellow to grey. When this wool is dyed a particular colour, this results in a variety of shading. When one “batch” of red wool is used up in the weaving process, and the weaver grabs the next “batch” from a slightly different colour base wool, this difference is woven into the rug. The result is a dye lot variation that runs side to side (left to right) and appears as “stripes” in the rug. This is a feature rather than a flaw in handmade rugs. It is considered as a characteristic that, in many cases, adds depth and texture to the overall look of the piece.

White knots – Most rugs have cotton foundations. Cotton warps run throughout the entire length of a rug, and cotton weft threads run left to right and are the means by which each row of wool knots are packed into a straight line. During the weaving and packing process, cotton warps and wefts will break. A broken warp or weft cannot be replaced, so the two broken pieces are tied in a knot and the weaving proceeds. This results in white “knots” in the field of the rug. These cotton knots are usually cut down shorter than the wool face fibres, and they are “hidden.” Over time wearing of the wool reveals these knots and they look like freckles throughout the rug. These can normally be blended away with textile dye.

Asymmetry – Handmade textiles are rarely perfectly symmetrical. Slight design shifts in city rugs, and more noticeable design and shape variations in tribal pieces are expected. Some times these can be counteracted through blocking after the wash (wet cotton foundation fibres can “give” a little – but not too much).

A rug that needs to be repaired
Image showing damaged rug
A patterned rug that needs a repair

Dusting – Once the inspection is complete and the wash proceeds, the first step is dusting. A rugs can hold up to one pound of dirt per square foot before it “looks” dirty. Flooding a rug with pounds of fine grit and dirt in the foundation creates mud … so dusting is an important first step to the wash process. This is performed in most instances with our 19 foot vibrating Duster (one of only 3 in the UK) to “shake” the dirt out of the foundation of your rug. This is probably the most important step during the whole process.

Vacuuming and dirt from a rug

Vacuuming rugs slowly, upside down …shows dirt and loose wool debris

Flood damaged rug

I thought all rugs needed to be Dry Cleaned

Flooding – The dyes of the rug are tested for colourfastness. If the dyes are not colourfast, then the rug is bathed first in vinegar to set the dyes during the wash process. The rug is then given a cold water, mild shampoo bath, using soft brushes for mild agitation. The rug is soaked for a certain length of time, depending on how much surface soil and spotting needs to be gently worked out and rinsed from the rug’s fibres.

The rug is thoroughly rinsed with water, and then the water is gently squeezed from the rug until the rug is in just a damp condition

Drying – Many of our rugs are laid out flat to dry. Hanging textiles up when wet can lead to too much strain on the foundation of the rugs. Air movers are used to help facilitate drying, without the use of high heat so there is no worry of shrinkage.

Upon a first wash, it is typical for a rug to shrink slightly (less than an inch) – just as cotton and wool clothing does in even a cold water hand wash. And as with throwing wool or cotton in a high heat dryer, you know this shrinks natural fibres … this is why some rugs are laid out flat to dry.

Drying rugs after flood or washing

What about in-home cleaning
of rugs?

Working on the fringe of a rug

Fringe Work and Finishing

Fringe tassles are washed an additional time after the bath. The tassles are then dried.

The rug is given a final grooming with a horsehair brush, and then rolled and is ready to go home.

We hope that you find the cleaning tour useful and feel that we are the company that you will trust to clean your rugs.