Here at Austonian we are firm believers in cleaning most rugs as wet as they can be cleaned. The oldest way of cleaning these rugs is to wash them, and wash them we do!
Our Oriental Rug Cleaning Technique
Let me take you through a typical washing. Keep in mind that not all rugs get the same treatment. The chemistry or moisture may vary for a variety of reasons but overall, this is the procedure:
1. We inspect them with you, whenever possible, to get as much of a history as possible. We like to know the age and if it has ever been cleaned before, if it was washed or cleaned on location by a carpet cleaner. Knowing who washed or cleaned it last is helpful because we know many of the cleaners in this area as well as nationally and even internationally. We like to know specific concerns you may have like spots, stains, odors or repairs needed. We will also point out concerns we have as professional cleaners including conditions in the rug you may or may not be aware.
2. After inspection, we dust the rugs in our dusting machine. This machine has over a hundred leather straps attached to a pole that gently but firmly slap the back of the rug and fed over a vacuum chamber. This dislodges and shakes out dry particulate soil that can eventually make the rug threadbare. In the past, the person cleaning the rugs would drape them over lines or fences and beat them with rackets or rug beaters or even sticks to remove the dry soil. This is one of the most important steps done to prolong the life of your rug. Natural fibers such as wool do not show abrasion like synthetic fibers do (most wall-to-wall carpet is synthetic like nylon) but that does not mean that the surfaces of the fibers are not abraded. One of the big problems is that most of us will not clean something unless it looks dirty. Wool does an excellent job of hiding soil but because the fibers do not show the abrasion, it is not apparent. The dry soil works its way down to the base of the fibers and as you walk on the rugs that soil has a way of cutting or sawing at the base and as I stated above, the rug will eventually become threadbare.
3. We take the rugs to our wash area where we saturate them with fresh water. Often we build a "pool" (which we refer to as a pit) where we can completely submerse a rug to maximize the benefits of being able to clean them underwater. We often submerse rugs to treat them for mold, urine or other contaminants. The objective here is the wetter the better and this is very similar to your home laundry. You can wash more soil out of rugs the wetter you get them.
4. We gently scrub up the rugs using a lot of shampoo designed for Oriental rugs. In this step, there may be a variation in chemistry depending on the type of rug and the dyes used. Think about wool for a moment, if you take away the mystique often attributed to rugs, its animal hair and not much different from our own hair. How do you clean your own hair? 1) Thoroughly wet hair, 2) lather with shampoo, 3) rinse and 4) repeat. It is not rocket science but there are scientific principals involved. As professional rug cleaners we often wet, lather, rinse and repeat. Of course we clean both sides of the rug as well if the backing material permits us to do so.
5. After we are satisfied that we have been able to remove all the soils from the rugs we do another fresh water rinse to remove remaining soils as well as the cleaning agents we have used. It is very important not to leave any residue in the rugs. The rugs must remain in their natural state without anything that may re-attract soils or harm the fibers.
6. Most rugs then go through our rinse/wringer for the final fresh water rinse and to removed excess water. Early home washing machines incorporated a wringer built on the side of the machine. After clothes were washed, they were then wrung out to remove excess water. This would speed up drying when they were hung on clothes lines. This wringing process allows us to detect if any soils remain in the rug by watching the water that is being pressed out. If we do see soiled water, the rug goes back through the wash process until clear water is running out during the wringing process.
7. Once the water has been squeezed or extracted out, it is ready for drying. The rugs are taken to our dry tower, so called because of its high ceiling that allows large rugs to hang without touching the floor. Rugs are hung vertically by one end. By hanging the rug by one end the shrinkage is greatly minimized. Even though the rug is not dripping after it has gone through the wringing process it is still holding water and is therefore heavier than when it’s dry. [As a side note about wool (most Oriental rugs are wool piled) it can hold up to 25% of its weight in water without feeling damp.] The weight of the damp rug hanging by one end keeps a pressure on the rug that minimizes the contraction or shrinkage of the rug. Not all rugs should be hung due to their construction but the majorities should. Floor drying or flat drying can cause some rugs to shrink and ripple along the sides. But there are some that need to lay flat to dry due to their construction. When running the dry tower it is heated to anywhere from 80°F to 120°F depending on the types of rugs being dried. There are large fans that move the air and rugs to maximize the rapid drying process. A large thick rug can dry in as little as 5 or 6 hours.
8. After the rugs have been dried, they are inspected to see if there are trouble spots that may have been missed while the rugs were wet. Fringes are checked to see if any additional work may be needed. If all is well, the rugs are then rolled and stretch wrapped and placed on our shelves to await pick up or delivery. Some of our clients ask that the rugs be wrapped for storage and we use a breathable tear resistant plastic. The key here is to make sure the plastic can allow for air exchange and minimize the ability for bugs to get to the rug.
Hopefully this will shed some light on how we clean rugs and that the way we clean them, is better for the rug and helps to extend its life. Often we are asked “how often should I have my rug cleaned?” and I can tell you that industry experts tend to agree that every two to three years is recommended.
Contact an expert today and see what a difference Austonian Rug Cleaning Co. can make in your rug.
We specialize in cleaning tribal, village or cottage and workshop rugs from around the world including Persian, Turkish, Caucasian, Turkestan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Chinese, Tibet, Nepal, Moroccan, Egyptian, Belgium, Navajo and many more. For many years now we have been serving the needs of quality conscious clients in and around the Austin area, and even nationally. Our meticulous services are specifically designed for people who truly care about their fine furnishings.