Some of the most beautiful pieces that come through our rug shop are antique tapestries. Like this one:
These are vibrant, elegant pictorial pieces. For some close up shots of this particular tapestry you can see a post over on my mother’s rug repair blog (this was in for cleaning and some minor repairs).
The best process for cleaning a tapestry, as with any natural fiber textile or fabric, is having it washed by a rug care professional. You need to know what solutions to use, how much water to use, how much agitation you can safely use, and have the facility to properly dry the piece.
Because there are so few rug specialists who can handle pieces like these, many times owners of tapestries will have them cleaned using dry cleaning solvents, which can leave residue behind that yellows them over time. We often receive tapestries that look dull and lifeless, and after a wash removes all of that built-up residue they spring back to life (like the one in the photo for this post).
With tapestries woven with silk as highlights, these areas can split and deteriorate with age, so you need to be particularly careful in inspecting the strength of the piece before any work is done.
If you are a rug cleaner who has not had experience with tapestries, and have one come to you, you cannot treat this as you would any oriental rug. Some of these tapestries can be incredibly valuable, and using the wrong solutions, methods, and tools can create damage – especially if it is a tapestry that is several hundred years old.
If you get a piece in and are not sure what to do, find a local rug cleaning plant to refer the wash to who has experience with these particular pieces. You can also email me photos and I can help you locate the right place to care for it. email@example.com
These are beautiful, valuable textiles… be sure you care for them properly.