A couple times a month I get a photo of a rug that comes in that breaks my heart… because you see a really nice rug damaged by something that was entirely avoidable.
My last post showed a rug that was damaged by not being attentive with a piece of dusting equipment on a Turkish rug.
The technician had not been careful with a heavy piece of equipment, and paid the price.
He was not trained by his instructors on how to keep from letting that happen when you are not paying attention to what you are doing. (See in the comments of that thread how to use Tyvek to protect from that damage.)
In the same week I was sent a photo of this nice wool rug that a professional cleaner bled.
Now…if there is ONE thing I’d like you to take away from this post, it is this:
HIGH HEAT IS BAD FOR WOOL RUGS!
(It’s also bad for silk, FYI.)
Think about your clothing for a minute…how many items do you wash in HOT water, and put in a HOT dryer?
Some, I know… but most, no.
Because many of the fibers – especially NATURAL fibers – have a problem with that. Loss of color, shrinking, loss of finishing and texture.
When was the last time you took your nice wool sweater and washed it in HOT water, and dried it on HIGH heat?
Now, wool rugs are different from wool fabrics in construction – but many of the characteristics, and risks, are the same.
And with this rug, the cleaner had two runners to clean. He used an approved WoolSafe shampoo, dye stabilizing solution, wash pit set-up, and truck mount with a water claw as well.
First rug – no problem.
Second rug, as the heat kicked in on his truck mount (he had set it low to begin with, and it increased over time)… suddenly a problem. The dyes bled. Despite the dye stabilizing solution.
He was working under two false assumptions here:
1) That dye stabilizing solutions “set” dyes indefinitely. They don’t. They give you a window of opportunity to clean, and if you have a rug with dyes that are not colorfast, that window is VERY small. You gotta wash it quick.
2) That HEAT is okay for wool. For oriental rugs, it is not. One of the reasons I test a rug’s dye strength with a HOT water test is because I want to know IMMEDIATELY if there is any chance at all a rug will bleed on me. I wash with cold, but I test with hot – to be safe. Sometimes rugs can bleed right away…sometimes it takes some time, so you need to know what you are working with, and use the right solutions to strengthen the dye-fiber bond during your thorough wash process.
Now…this professional cleaner was told by one of his instructors that wool is okay at up to 140 degrees of heat, so he was not worried…until it bled that is.
This was an IICRC-instructor who told him this. An instructor who is not a rug cleaner, but apparently gives some advice on rugs. I’m not sure why.
But, you see, with wool wall-to-wall installed carpeting, using heat to clean is commonplace. But generally you will not find in a home, installed wool carpeting with bright reds, blues, and other vivid acid dyes as you will with oriental rugs, or specialty fine fabrics.
In the latest cover story of Cleanfax Magazine, I mention several things that this post is focusing on: 1) the shortcomings in today’s training in the fields of rug cleaning and upholstery cleaning, and 2) that I believe someone well-trained in upholstery and fine fabric care would be a BETTER oriental rug cleaner than someone well-trained in residential carpet cleaning.
Here’s the article, which I co-authored with Jim Pemberton (an expert in upholstery and fine fabric care):
Homes with nice investment-grade textiles on their floors, almost always also have investment-grade fabric on their furnishings. They go hand in hand.
And with fine furnishings, or oriental rugs, there needs to be an EXCELLENT eye and hand for testing and inspection. Fiber tests, dye tests, construction identification, and inspecting for any pre-existing conditions that might hamper your cleaning results…or lead to a cleaning disaster. You need to be able to spot these BEFORE they become problems.
Something shared with a client before cleaning is EDUCATION, and after cleaning is an EXCUSE.
The more time you put into the front end with your attention to detail, the less you will spend on the back end trying to clean up a mess, or pay for one.
There is a serious shortcoming in our training today, at least in these specialty niches of oriental rugs and fine fabrics.
My hope is that making a post like my previous one (showing how a Rug Badger could damage a rug if you are NOT careful), and this one (showing how a mistaken belief about heat not being bad, and dye stabilizer being a “fix”), will help keep anyone in the rug cleaning world to be just a little bit more attentive to what they are doing.
This might be a 1 in 100 chance of happening to a rug cleaner…but I can tell you…being that one that it does happen to, really sucks.
Just ask the guys who handled these recent rug disasters.
Hope you enjoy the article!