I’ve written this article to dispel some of the most common rug cleaning myths that I encounter when speaking to new clients.
The Mother of all Rug Cleaning Myths – Washing Rugs Damages Them
Absolutely not. The most crucial action you can take to extend the life of your rug is to have it professionally cleaned periodically.
Dirt and soil is an abrasive which slowly wears down the soft wool and silk fibres in your rug. Only a good maintenance plan, which includes regular washing, can slow down this process.
Read How Often Should I Clean My Persian Rug? to learn more
Certain Rugs Cannot Be Washed
There’s a big misconception that certain types of rugs, usually those woven in Tabriz, Isfahan and Nain, cannot be safely immersion cleaned. I often speak to new clients who tell me they have one of the above mentioned rugs and have held back having it cleaned because they were told it was not possible.
But why do they believe this?..
The rug has fugitive dyes that have already moved
Often these rugs will already have dyes that have moved or bled. This can be for a number of reasons; from a spillage or animal urine, to high humidity. The chain of thought usually goes “if a spill has caused that to happen in one area of the rug then washing it will cause the whole rug to bleed”.
In fact, these are often the rugs that most require a full immersion wash (including a specialist strip wash) in order to remove the pre-existing dye migration.
They have been misinformed by a ‘professional’ rug cleaner
Unfortunately this is a myth that is even re-inforced by other cleaners in our industry. There are very few of us in the UK who are able to safely wash rugs with loose dyes. It would be nice if all the others referred clients with these rugs to us (and some do) rather than misinforming them.
If you have a rug that you are told cannot be fully immersion washed then get a second opinion. Consider getting advice from an independent international industry body such as The Association of Rug Care Specialists.
Silk Rugs Should Only Be Dry Cleaned
No.. rugs and clothes are not the same. Just because you would take your silk blouse or tie to the dry cleaners’ does not mean that the same method is appropriate for your silk rug.
The same goes for ‘faux silks’ such as Kashmir (mercerised cotton), Viscose, Bamboo, Rayon etc.
This is another one of those rug cleaning myths which is often re-iterated by unqualified cleaners in our industry. A silk rug can be safely dry cleaned, of course, but the end result will be nowhere near as effective as washing. I’d go so far as to say it’s pretty pointless.
The reason that many cleaners will not wash silk rugs is because they don’t have the experience and resources to carry the job out without damaging the pile. Silks need to be neutralised and rinsed thoroughly once washed. As much water as possible must be removed using a centrifuge to enable quick drying. If this process is mishandled then the pile will likely end up as stiff as a board (at best) and ruined at worst.
Silk rugs (especially modern production Iranian rugs) also have notoriously unstable dyes. This shouldn’t deter a skilled and competent cleaner from washing them. If it does, get a second opinion.
Rugs Can Be Cleaned in the Home
No. There is absolutely no way that a rug can be cleaned effectively in the home.
Rugs can and should be regularly maintained in the home (read How To Maintain Persian Rugs for more information) however professional rug cleaning can only be effectively carried out off site.
Why should rugs be cleaned off site?
The processes below cannot be carried out in the home..
Dry soil removal – dusting
The first and most important step in the rug cleaning process is to remove all the dry soil that’s trapped in the foundation. This is called dusting. It can only be accomplished with machinery that is designed to carry out this operation.
Below is a video of an old Nain rug having dry soil removed. There is no way we would wash this rug without performing this function first..
Water removal – centrifuge
Another action which can’t be replicated in the home is flushing and rinsing of the rug. After we have completed the wash we need to remove as much water as possible to facilitate quick and safe drying.
We remove rinse water with a machine called a centrifuge. This acts a bit like the spin cycle on your home washing machine, using centrifugal force to expel most of the water from the rug.
The more water that is removed the quicker the rug will dry. Quick drying is safe drying. Rugs also dry much softer if they’ve been in a centrifuge. In fact this part of the process is essential when cleaning silk, mercerised cotton, and viscose rugs.
Rug Cleaning Myths Summary
The misinformation which is responsible for rug owners not regularly cleaning their rugs needs to stop.
The rug cleaning myths mentioned in this article are perpetuated by both misinformed rug owners and insufficiently trained (or dishonest) rug cleaning professionals.
Rugs need a good maintenance plan which includes regular professional cleaning. This cannot be done properly in the home.
Silk rugs should be washed, not dry cleaned.
If you are told that your rug cannot be washed (especially if it is an Iranian city rug) question whether you have been advised by a skilled professional. Many rug cleaners are afraid of these rugs because they lack experience. Get independent advice as a second opinion.