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Here are a few in-depth responses to the issues of padding, storage, handling pet stains and vacuuming.
Handmade rugs should NOT have a big, soft, spongy pad. In a handmade rug, the cotton foundation that runs through the inside of the rug needs firm support to keep the structural integrity in place. If you put a soft, spongy pad under it, it will cause far too much stress on the foundation, and will ultimately cause damage.
There are several strong reasons for using a pad:
Even if your rug is anchored in one place (by a couch or other heavy piece of furniture), the rest of the rug will crawl around without a pad. A pad will help anchor the remainder of the rug more firmly, to discourage any potential damage that might be caused by creeping, pulling and stretching rugs.
Pads cannot be cleaned! Or technically, some can be cleaned, but the cleaning process will render the pad ineffective. Animal activity can ruin a pad. A pet urinates on the rug; it will likely soak through the rug and into the pad. If you have pets, use cheap, disposable pads and change them every year. Better pads are made from better materials and cost more, but they last longer. Use higher quality pads only if there are no pets in the house. There's no sense in buying a several hundred-dollar pad only to have to dispose of it if/when a pet takes a whiz on it.
Pads for rugs on top of wall-to-wall carpet don't work well. This gets back to the issue of having something springy or cushiony under the rug... there's no avoiding this with a wall-to-wall carpet as the base. Even the firmest, thickest pads reportedly designed for use on wall-to-wall carpet are only occasionally effective. Our experience is that these pads simply are not effective enough to be recommended. Avoid laying your carpets on wall-to-wall carpeting if at all possible.
The most important thing good rug pads do is protect the life of your rugs, preventing premature wear which shows up in heavy traffic areas as troughs or "valleys". Rugs are meant to be on a "hard" surface, and a pad should be sturdy so that it acts as a "shock absorber" to foot traffic. The more "cushion" you have, the more strain you will cause to your rugs. Solid rug pads lengthen the life of your rugs substantially, as mechanical wear tests have repeatedly demonstrated.
Area rugs laid directly on bare floors are hard and will wear out quickly. But a feel that is too soft and squishy means your area rugs are still in danger. Soft area rug pads such as foam permit too much flexing of your area rugs, destroying your area rugs foundation and backing causing seams to rip open on area rugs custom made from wall-to-wall carpeting. Soft area rug padding also accelerates damage from furniture legs and traffic, particularly heels. Think of it this way. You can write on a pad of paper, but it's impossible to write on a piece of paper over a pillow, because all it does is tear and puncture.
Learn more about our preferred carpet padding on our Custom Pad Cutting page.
The first, most important piece of storage advice is to always store rugs clean. Never wrap up dirty rugs. Have them washed properly and then prepared for storage, otherwise there's a chance you'll wrap hungry little rug-snacking critters in with your rug in a nice, protected environment, and in a year or more, when you open it up again, you could be in for an ugly, expensive surprise.
Next, use a sturdy, water-resistant paper, such as Tyvek. Tyvek is not only water-resistant, but also tear/puncture resistant. It's important that the rug be wrapped in something that allows air to pass through, but nothing else. Avoid plastic at all costs. With changes in the weather, moisture cannot be allowed to become trapped inside an airtight plastic wrapping. The results will be a mold problem, that will likely result in dry rot and irreversible damage to your rug.
Also, it is important that the integrity of the package is intact. Tear/Puncture resistant paper will hinder mice from chewing their way in, as well as help prevent any breaches that could allow access to insects.
Avoid storing the wrapped rugs directly on the floor. Always keep them elevated, even if it is on a very low shelf or rack. If there is a flood or unnoticed leak, this will keep your rug from sitting in a puddle, running the risk of slowly absorbing the water. "Water resistant" is not the same as "Waterproof." Given enough time, water will soak through, and problems could result. Also, elevated packages will allow better access to air circulation.
Finally, it is wise to open your wrapped rugs once a year or so, just to get a look at them, and run a vacuum over them. Check both the front and backsides. You don't need to have them re-washed if you've wrapped them in Tyvek, you can simply use the same Tyvek to wrap the rug up again, sealing all of the seams with packaging tape.
Summary: Wrap only cleans rugs, in tear/water resistant materials, keep elevated and open once a year to inspect/vacuum.
The most important first step in knowing how to deal with animal-related rug problems is to know what your rugs are. Find out what your rug is, where it's from, how old, and the types of materials and dyes that were used in its creation. Armed with this information, you can better know what to do and what not to do to handle urine, fecal matter, vomit and/or physical damage caused by a pet.
Pets are naturally drawn to the smell of wool; when they are nervous, angry, upset or sick, they choose to go to a natural fiber. If they urinate on an oriental rug that is wool, with cotton foundation, the urine will soak through the wool and into the cotton, which takes a while to dry. In fact, the wool will dry relatively quickly, and then act as an insulator to keep the cotton foundation of the rug damp longer than usual. Because of this, you cannot surface clean animal urine; it needs to be flushed out from the middle. Spraying an enzyme on surface, or scrubbing top won't work. It needs to be soaked and flushed.
Other rugs you have a window of time to deal with the urine before damage becomes permanent. If you can't get your rug to a cleaning facility quickly, then blot both sides with absorbent cotton cloths, applying pressure. This will draw the urine into the cotton cloth rather than the cotton foundation. Dilute with water, or if the colors are coming up when blotting, use white vinegar in the water. When diluting and blotting, do not flood the area, but rather use a little water/vinegar to dilute, soak it up, and repeat. Don't overdo it; be patient. Never use spot removers, spot cleaners, or chemicals of any kind; just cotton cloths and pressure. Then bring your rug to a cleaning professional as soon as possible, so that a full-immersion wash can remove all traces of the urine.
An enzyme can be added to a full-immersion wash process to help eliminate the odors associated with animal urine. In most cases, a thorough, proper wash will neutralize and remove all traces of the urine, as well as eliminate odors, but in many cases, the staining and discoloration will be permanent. This is because urine is acidic, and if the rug in question has acid-based dyes to begin with, the urine often re-dyes the wool upon contact. Sculpted Chinese rugs are especially susceptible to such permanent staining.
Repair Issues: Cats often use their claws to create pulls in the field of a rug. These can usually be clipped without issue. Most pet damage, as far as chewing corners, etc., can be fixed, but depending on the rug, it can be expensive.
Animal vomit contains stomach acid, bacteria, food, etc., Blot what you can and send in for cleaning as soon as possible. Remember: do not use solvents! They are usually made for synthetic fibers, not natural fibers. They cause more damage than help.
Summary: Knowing what your rug is will help you to know what you should and shouldn't do to handle animal-related activity. Never use solvents of spot removers. Blot, dilute, and blot until you can bring your rug into a rug care professional for a thorough cleaning.
As dust and soil lights upon your rug, it quickly begins the process of settling down into the base of the rug, through the pile fibers. Running a vacuum on the top of the rug will remove much of the surface lint, but any of the heavier particles will actually be aided in their downward movement by the vibrating of the vacuum cleaner. Once the grit settled into the base, then foot traffic will cause it to rub against the base of the wool pile fibers, slowly breaking the fibers, and leading to wear.
This wear process can be slowed down considerably by making sure all the dirt and grit in the base of the rug is removed. Ideally, this is done by a thorough wet wash by a professional, but there are steps you can take in the home, if space permits.
If you take your rug up and then lay it out on a hard surface, face down, you can slowly vacuum the back of the rug. In this case, the vibrating of the upright vacuum cleaner will rattle the grit loose from the base, and it will end up on the floor. You can the flip the rug bacl over and vacuum up the grit that was shaken loose, as well as any remaining on the front of the rug.
We call this process "dusting," and it is an integral part of our professional cleaning process. We "dust" the rugs before and after wash, since in many cases, a rug can be so soiled and packed with grit that the pre-wash dusting will not be enough to shake it loose - the rugs will need a thorough soaking and rinsing to loosen the soil, and the post-wash dusting assures all the stray wool particles are removed completely.
Removing the soil through dusting and regular cleaning can greatly increase the life span of your rug, making sure it remains around for a good, long time.
Step 1: Lay rug face down on hard surface and slowly vacuum. Move side to side, and be mindful of the fringes. If they are long, stay clear of them to avoid getting them sucked into the vacuum.
Step 2: Flip rug over to reveal dust and wool that has shaken loose.
Step 3: Sweep up the loose dirt and wool.
Step 4: Lay rug out right side up, and vacuum surface again, side to side. You can repeat the process until nothing comes out at all if you wish. The less left in your rug, the better.
NOTE: If your rug is very thin, or delicate, you probably shouldn't dust it yourself. In fact, the looser the weave in the rug, the less dirt and grit will stay in the rug - it will pass right through. The thicker the weave, the more particulates it can hold - up to 1 pound per square foot!