Oriental rugs, like other textiles, are fragile compared to many domestic objects. Eventually,
oriental rugs are destroyed by reasonable use. They are not “over-engineered” in the manner or a
cast-iron stove that could last an eternity of reasonable use. However, if rugs are viewed more as
art works than floor coverings, then special measures for their preservation are justified.
Many of the measures for the use, care, storage, and display of oriental rugs in this chapter are
merely common sense. But sometimes reminders of common sense are helpful. Some of the
measures are more appropriate for rugs as art objects. The measures you use are the true
indicators of your valuation of a rug- a valuation somewhere between household expendable and
work of art.
USING ORIENTAL RUGS
Consider the condition, type, and value of a rug in deciding where to place it. A fragile rug or
kilim will not last long in high-traffic areas such as halls and entryways. Rugs in such areas
should be in full pile as the resilience of this surface protects the knots. Knots without pile are
not so effective in protecting the foundation. The rate of wear down to the foundation speeds up
rapidly once the knots are exposed.
Do not put oriental rugs in the kitchen. This is the wrong location for a rug of any value as food
stains and heavy use will destroy it quickly. Among Near Eastern villagers and nomads, it is
customary to remove shoes or boots when entering houses or tents. Older nomadic, tribal, and
village rugs were never intended to be exposed to footwear. They are not designed to withstand
the constant friction of leather or the tortuous pressures of high heels. Accordingly, they should
not be used in high-traffic areas. Contemporary factory-made oriental rugs are a different matter.
They are constructed to hold up under normal Western usage.
You can protect oriental rugs from hard friction and crushing wear by placing them on pads or
other carpets. The resiliency of underlying materials allows the rug to flex, which prolongs its
life. As an added benefit, the rug is more comfortable to walk on. Fiber or felt pads are
preferable to foam rubber particles work their way into the back of the rug.
Cut rug pads I inch (2.5 centimeters) smaller than the rug, all the way around the edge. The rug
edge will then conceal the padding. Fiber or felt pads tend to flatten and spread slightly at the
edges, but the I-inch border allows for this.
Before cutting a pad, measure the rug carefully and check the corners with a large square. You
may find the rug is not a rectangle but another quadrilateral. To cut fiber pads, use heavy-duty X-
Acto knife. Mark the cut line on the pad with a felt-tip pen. Then use a metal straight edge guide
the knife. Considerable pressure or multiple strokes are needed. A wooden board can be placed
under the cut line and pad to protect work surfaces. Pads can be pieced together using 2- or 3-
inch (5 or 6 centimeters) gaffer tape or duct tape.
Wear will be more evenly distributed if rugs in high-traffic areas are reversed each year. This
end-to-end reversal is very desirable even though you do not notice annual wear. Once the knots
are exposed in a particular area of the rug, wear will proceed much more rapidly. Reversing the
rug will preserve the pile and delay wear exposure of the knots.
Use coasters to protect rugs where furniture rests on the rug. Move the furniture around or
reverse rugs annually so that crushed pile can “relax”. If pile has been crushed by furniture legs,
it can usually be restored by steaming and brushing the area.
CARING FOR RUGS
It is a good idea to vacuum rugs that are in frequent use. Vacuuming prolongs the period between
washes and reduces rug wear. Rugs in high-traffic areas should be vacuumed once a week.
Use a brushless vacuum nozzle for the greatest efficiency. If your vacuum cleaner has a power-
driven rotating brush at the nozzle, never pass the nozzle over rug ends. Rotating brushes loosen
fringes, end wefts, and end knots. How often should a rug be washed? Frequent washing can
weaken a rug. This is offset by the fact that rug fibers are cut by entrapped soil particles. There is
no rule of thumb as to the frequency of washing. Consider these questions in deciding whether a
rug needs a wash:
- Does solid come off on your hand when to rub the pile, even after vacuuming?
- Aside from abrash, are there differences in the shade of similar light-colored areas?
- Has the rug been exposed to heavy traffic?
- Does the rug have a stale or dusty smell?
If your answer to any two of these questions is “yes”, then the rug probably needs a wash.
Of course, you know that a rug with foundation damage should not be used. Where warps or
wefts are broken in the foundation, the selvage, or ends, the damage will spread rapidly under the
stress of use. Either repair the damage promptly or take the rug out of service.
Clean up spills right away. Scrape up solid materials and blot up liquids. Blot from the edges of
the spill towards the center. After all excess liquid has been soaked up, surface clean the spill
area. If the spilled substance may stain, use the appropriate stain-removal techniques.
Finally, it is a good idea to carefully inspect rug at least once each year. Look for wear or
damage that should be repaired before it gets any worse. For rugs mounted on walls, check the
back side annually since this is where moths leave their eggs.
The area where rugs are stored should not be subject to wide temperature variations. Some
humidity is all right. But it should not be high enough to support mildew. Optimum storage
conditions are 50% relative humidity and a temperature of 70° (21 °C). Do not place rugs in
storage unless they are clean. Soiled rugs invite insect attack and mildew.
Periodically inspect stored rugs. This is the only way you can be sure that the rugs are not being
attacked by insects. Moth repellent products are not entirely dependable. Though their use ins
recommended, do not rely on them to the exclusion of regular inspections.
Roll rugs up for storage. It is best to store rolled rugs horizontally rather than on one end. Rugs
will be damaged along crease lines if they are folded for long-term storage.
Regular brown wrapping paper can be used to protect most rugs in storage. Never store rugs in
plastic wrapping. The rugs should be able to absorb moisture from the atmosphere and release
moisture into the atmosphere. For every valuable rug, acid-free tissue paper is placed on the rug
and rolled up with the rug. Heavy acid-free paper is then used to wrap the rolled rug.
DISPLAYING RUGS ON WALLS
Increasingly, fine rugs and collectors’ rugs re displayed on walls. The motive is greater visibility
and protection for the rug. But a rug displayed on the wall is exposed to a whole new set of
hazards. These hazards can be eliminated or reduced depending on the location and manner of
Let’s consider the risk posed by the location of the rug, these include:
- Fading. Consistent exposure to direct sunlight will fade a rug. Do not mount a rug on a
surface where it will be regularly exposed to direct sunlight. If there is n alternative
location, rugs can be protected with ultra-violet filtering Plexiglas (UF-3). Contact a local
museum to find the nearest supplier of conservation materials.
- Dust condensation. If rugs are hung against a relatively cool surface in a room, fine dust
in the air will be deposited on the rug. Avoid mounting rugs in such locations.
- Desiccation. Do not hang rugs above radiators or hot air registers. The long-term effect is
to dry out and embrittle the fibers.
Material used in connection with display can cause damage. Metal in combination with moisture
and air pollutants will corrode fibers where there is contact. Accordingly, nails, screws, hooks,
staples, suspension rings, and wire should never actually touch the mounted rug. Direct contact
with raw wood can cause staining and corrosion So, wooden surfaces must be covered with some
other fabric (preferably unbleached, unstarched muslin) where contact with the rug is possible.
Wall display, if incorrectly done, can structurally damage a rug. The weight of the rug can
permanently stretch warps and wefts, producing scalloping at the suspension points, bellying,
and wrinkles. To avoid structural damage, the mounting system must provide even support for
the rug. We will describe four mounting systems: permanent frame or panel mounting,
suspension rings, Velcro mounting, and hanging a rug from a batten.