Chinese Rugs: Care And Repair
Contemporary Chinese rugs have a justifiable reputation for durability, but they are not indestructible, and proper care and attention will enhance both the life and continued beauty of your rug. Wool is a marvellous rug-making material, but, in addition to normal wear and tear, central heating, air-conditioning and a number of household chemicas can have a detrimental effect on the fabric.
A few simple precautions will ensure that your rug lasts for many years.
Correct underlay is extremely important, and you should never place a rug on an uncarpeted floor. An underlay reduces the pressure, and subsequent damage, to the fibres caused by the constant squeezing between the soles of shoes and the floor. Probably the best general types of underlays are those made from solid sponge rubber, which are less suitable – and those made of jute and animal hair coated with rubber on both sides.
Cleaning should be done slowly and regularly, beginning by removing the surface dirt with a carpet sweeper or vacuum cleaner, preferably with beater bars. Always vacuum the back of the rug first, as this will ease the grit from the pile; then turn it over and run lightly across the front. Remember that vacuum cleaners with extremely violent beater bars may damage the foundation – if in doubt, use a carpet sweeper or brush. Old and expensive items should be cleaned professionally.
Shampooing should only be undertaken after the rug has been cleaned. Use a good quality wool or silk detergent, with perhaps a cup of diluted vinegar, and apply it gently and evenly across the entire surface of the rug. Do not rub as this may cause the colors to run. The rug should then be carefully and systematically dried, preferably by leaving it out in the sun. Shampooing extends a rug’s life-expectancy, by putting back some of the natural moisture that is frequently destroyed in centrally heated or air-conditioned rooms.
Removing stains should be done by dabbing (do not rub) with the cleaning solution most suitable for removing the specific stain (coffee, ink, grease, etc.). There are a number of books that list these in detail (white wine, for example, poured immediately onto red wine considerably lessens the chances of a permanent stain). Remember always to use a cleaning agent that is compatible with the pile material, and never scrub or violently sponge a rug. When as much as possible of the discoloring substance has been removed, the area should be carefully dried. If the stain persists, or if the rug is valuable, it is advisable to consult a specialist cleaner.
Curling at the sides is common in tightly knotted rugs, and if ancorrected can cause unever wear on the sides, which will undermine the appearance and value of your rug. This can be rectified by sewing a stiff PVC or fabric strip along the sides.
Repairs should be undertaken by proffesionals, particularly on older or more expensive rugs, although partially detached fringes or selvedges can be resewn by hand using matching-colored wool or silk. Damage to the pile or foundation should be handled by a specialist.
Additional maintenance measures are needed to protect your rug from insect damage, extreme sunlight and uneven wear and tear. The former can be largely avoided by regular shampooing and using a compatible mothproofing agent. Long-term exposure to strong sunlight can cause excessive fading, which is especially undesirable if only part of the rug is usually exposed. This can be avoided by putting the rug in storage for the summer.
Before storing a rug, have it cleaned, shampooed and mothproofed; then cover both sides with polythene and roll it carefully with the nap – the way the pile faces – into a tight cylindrical form. Localized wear and tear can be avoided by occasionally moving or turning the rug, so that other areas of the pile are exposed to the normal day-to-day traffic. An additional safeguard is to make sure that houseplants are never placed directly on the floor near a rug, as this the commonest cause of mildew (a type of fungus), which damages cotton foundations.