Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cleaning an antique wool hooked rug: don't try this at home

I'm almost afraid to admit this, but I decided to toss my possibly antique wool hooked rug into the washer and dryer in hopes of restoring it to some sort of less-than-disgusting condition. 

It worked... for me. But consider yourself warned: DON'T try this on your cherished heirloom rug and then try to sue me when it falls apart in the washer. The ONLY reason I tried this on my rug was that it was specifically NOT a family heirloom. It was a good thrifty vintage find, the right colors for the right price... but it has always been really, really dirty, and to be honest, I wasn't entirely thrilled with having it in the house. 

Here it is the day I brought it home... it's about 3 feet by 4 feet in size. 

This "before" picture hopefully shows you how faded, dirty and matted-down the fibers were. 

I first tried to clean this rug last year by laying it out in the yard and blasting it with the garden hose. ("Sheep get wet, and they don't shrink," I reasoned.) It took for-ever to dry, and even then I felt like it wasn't clean. Plus it had grass clippings on it. So I put it in the dryer, and it came out nice and soft, but not as "revitalized" as I had hoped from a cleanliness standpoint. 

This time around, I decided to go all in. I set the washer on cold water, put the rug in by itself with a dash of liquid soap, and let 'er rip. When I opened the washer, quite honestly I was sorry I'd done it: there were globs of loose, wet, matted wool all over the drum, and I was sure I had ruined the rug. I peeled all the loosened wool off the rug (and cleaned out the washer). To my surprise, after doing that, it really looked like the only actual damage was to a small section of the binding. So I went ahead and put it in the dryer. 

An hour later when I pulled it out of the dryer, I was pleasantly surprised. 

Yes, I ruined a bit of the binding. I believe this would not have happened if I'd thought to set the washer on the gentle cycle. These two photos show the same section of binding, top and bottom. 

But, the rug itself was soft, and clean, and smelled like a dryer sheet. The colors really are beautiful, and the loops are no longer matted. This rug is welcome back in the Mom cave, even with the battle-scarred binding.  

Again, please remember: for me this worked because I had just $20 and zero emotion invested in my rug. And I got lucky, because the "sheep don't shrink" theory holds somewhat true. 

However, the "sheep come apart in the washing machine" theory is also somewhat true. And I would hate for that to happen to your family treasure. 

More soon, 

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  1. I understand that having a dirty rug in the house is irritating. But it's as you said it; putting it in the washing machine and then in the dryer might've worked for you, but for oriental rugs and others delicate items, it's best to seek the services of professional rug cleaners who know the proper cleaning methods. That way, you are assured that your rugs are washed back to their former glory. Well, thank you for sharing!
    Jackelyn Lippard @ Cristomar

  2. Now I understand why you tagged precaution on your title, Janet. You’re caught in a very frustrating situation with your rug! The only consolation that you could get is that you wouldn't have any emotional attachment to it, or else, your heart will surely break. But I guess you can hire the service of professional cleaners to do the task for you so that it won’t happen again to you.

    Katherine @TheCleanest.com

  3. It’s a really nice rug Janet. Too bad about the bindings on one corner though. You were right, of course. Maybe you should have placed it in the gentle cycle. It was a good thing that your cleaning method did work. Maybe next time, just to be sure, you can get some good rug cleaners near your area.

    Betty Watson

  4. I truly appreciate studying and following ones write-up as i discover their whereabouts particularly helpful and useful. This particular write-up can be just as helpful along with useful. Thanks a lot with regard to info anyone already been putting on doing your web site this kind of useful.Wool Carpets


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