Our clients often ask us how to store rugs safely if they are not planning on using them after they are washed. We’ve created this simple guide to help you store your rugs at home with peace of mind.
The evils of damp, urine, mould contamination, and moth attack should never be underestimated, with these dangers being most relevant when rugs are stored away.
Wash your rugs BEFORE you store them
Most people get this the wrong way around. It may seem like a good idea to store your rugs first and then get them fresh and clean before you use them but this creates one huge problem.. Moths love dirt! Don’t make that delicious looking wool even more appetising for them. So never store rugs if they haven’t been professionally washed first.
Another issue with storing without washing first is that there is a chance that your rugs may already contain moth eggs. If these hatch into larvae while the rug is in storage you could end up with a half eaten mess of woven wool.
Wrap your rugs like a professional
If a client has asked us how to store rugs we a always offer a rug wrapping service which involves using strong porous packaging paper like Kraft or Tyvek®. This allows the rugs to ‘breath’. Never use sealed plastic packaging or any sort of non porous packaging as this will trap any moisture in and promote mould or mildew growth. Although this is particularly important in the UK as we have very damp weather for most of the year, don’t assume it’s OK to wrap rugs in plastic during the summer. Rugs need air, always.
Use extra protection against moth attacks
One of the most important considerations when planning how to store rugs is the prevention of moth attacks. It’s always a good idea to use moth repellent products as an added layer of defence in the area where the rug is being stored. We always apply a specialist moth treatment onto rugs which are going into storage after washing, however it’s always a good idea to be overzealous when it comes to moth defence and to use added moth repellant products or moth traps in the room where the rug is being stored. There are products which you can purchase yourself that can be effective. Just search for ‘moth control’ online.
Natural moth repellant solutions
If you really don’t like the smell of these products (I know I hate the smell of moth balls) or you are averse to using chemicals you can try natural alternatives. The scent of lavender, clove and mint are all said to be effective at repelling moths although my personal recommendation is cedar wood. Cedar wood chips can be scatterred around a stored rug to encourage moths to look elsewhere for a home. Remember though that these will need to be replaced regularly to keep the scent potent. You can also purchase cedar wood blocks and paint them with cedar oil which is even more effective.
Keep stored rugs away from water and damp
Always store a rug on something raised off the floor to keep it dry. There is no point having it washed and wrapped then placing it on a damp cellar floor. Likewise keep it away from walls. This way even if there is a leak from above that runs down the wall or a major leak which floods the floor your rug will be safe. A plastic crate is ideal as it won’t absorb moisture and will allow airflow to pass over the rug from all sides.
Safeguard against high humidity
Even high humidity can cause a major problem for rugs in storage. High humidity accelerates the growth of the dry rot producing fungus which affects cotton used as a foundation in most oriental rugs. If you live in a property with bad airflow in a high humidity area then this is an issue you should be aware of. Many properties in London have this problem in the winter caused by double glazed windows, central heating and wet humid weather. Aerate your house by opening windows every morning and declutter to ensure good airflow in the home. Choose a dry, low humidity room or cupboard to store your rugs in. Dry rot is so serious that once it begins to degrade the foundation of a rug there is no way to remedy the problem other than to cut the area out and perform a complete rug restoration repair.
Keep pets away from stored rugs
Cat and dog urine can cause serious damage to natural rugs, whether they are made with natural or synthetic dyes. This is another reason to use a good quality material for wrapping them, although an unruly unattended pet could easily damage this packaging and urinate. The smell will be the least of your problems in this case. Warm pet urine can destabilise the acid bond between the dye and the fibre as it dries and becomes alkaline. The resulting damage can be severe colour bleed and eventually fibre degradation too.
Inspect your stored rugs regularly
Just because you’ve taken all the precautions above and now know how to store rugs properly doesn’t mean you should have an out of sight, out of mind attitude. Take rugs out of storage every couple of months and inspect them properly for signs of moth infestation or mould contamination. A proper inspection requires you to open the rug out flat and look closely on both sides. If the rug smells musky in any way or if there is any discolouration (usually starting as black spots visible in the cotton foundation), this is a sign that fungus may have begun to grow on it. Don’t assume that if a moth doesn’t fly out in front of you there is no infestation present. It’s not the mature adult that eats animal fibres but the larvae. Learn how to spot signs of moth infestation in your rug.
How to store rugs – If things go wrong..
If after inspection you find that you do have a potential problem it’s worth remembering that most issues can be remedied. Unless your rug has been abandoned in damp conditions for a long time and is falling apart from dry rot, it can be saved with professional help from a certified master rug cleaner. Just remember though that prevention is better than cure so the next time you decide you’re too busy to spend 10 minutes checking on your stored rug, ask yourself if the cleaning and restoration cost is worth that much of your time.
Don’t be afraid to contact a professional rug cleaning company for advice on how to store rugs or if you have a problem after inspecting your rugs. A reputable company will be more than happy to offer rug care advice for free and address any concerns you may have.