Caring for your vintage carpet

“You take your car to be serviced twice a year, but your poor old carpet has to struggle on for 50 years before anyone looks at it.” So says Clive Rogers, a specialist in antique carpets who also looks after valuable rugs for a number of gentlemen’s clubs, venues and country houses. We asked him to tell us more about maintaining and cleaning a vintage rug for yourself… as well as when to ask for expert help. Here are his tips:

Shake…

“Every couple of months or so it’s good to use the old fashioned method and give your rug a shake outside – provided it’s small and light enough to move. This will not only get rid of dust and any danger of moths but be good for a rug that has been getting puckered or isn’t lying flat.”

…brush…

“You can use brushes on pile rugs more purposefully than you might on a flatweave. If you go at it too enthusiastically with a stiff brush you can alter the texture of a flatweave rug. With a pile rug you don’t really have that problem.

Brushing a rug is a good basic routine. You should always brush in the direction of the nap. Pile rugs lay in a natural direction and when you start brushing it in the wrong direction you’ll know, because you’ll see that the texture of the surface alters. So when you’ve finished cleaning the last thing you should do is brush it back in the natural direction of the pile.”

… and vacuum

“Vacuuming is recommended but not too frequently. Vacuum on a strong setting for pile rugs, but on a less strong setting for flatweaves and Kilims. Don’t forget that it’s not only the front that needs Hoovering. Every four or five times that you Hoover it, flip it over and also do the back.”

“Every couple of months use the old fashioned method and give your rug a shake outside”

Cleaning up spills

“The great thing about Oriental carpets is that very often they hide the dirt! But if you do spill, say, red wine, then first apply water to dilute the spill, before mopping it up with a kitchen towel straight away. That’s the quickest, easiest solution – even for a white Berber rug! One thing to remember is that if the carpet does get thoroughly wet it’s important that it also gets thoroughly dry again to prevent rot. If the carpet doesn’t dry out within two or three days you might have a problem there.

Resorting to chemical products can lead to unforeseen consequences. Off-the-shelf proprietary products might help with something like a Biro mark, but always test first. A lot of vintage rugs are made with natural dyes which are very fast and very resilient, but some can have unstable chemical dyes in them. You won’t know until you try it, so caution is the word. Do a little patch test on a square inch at the edge. Apply very hot water to a paper towel, put it on the rug and then stand on it. This will let you see if there’s any movement in the colour right away.”

“The old adage of ‘a stitch in time’ is so true. If the carpet tears, darn it up quick!”

Prolonging the life of your rug

“If your rug gets torn or gets a hole, if you have basic needlework ability, you can do a quick fix yourself. The old adage of ‘a stitch in time’ is so true. If the carpet tears, darn it up quick! It’ll save a lot of money and keep the original carpet intact.

To make your rug look better for longer, invest in some underlay. It keeps the carpet flat and straight and protects the carpet, as well as making the whole thing more comfortable. If a rug is lightweight, and as people tend to put them on hard wood floors these days, then of course they skid around and they don’t stay flat. You needn’t go to a specialist unless you need underlay for a very large rug – Ikea sell small-sized machine-washable underlays which are great for a small rug.”

When to call the professionals

“You should be proactive about caring for these things. I would advise anyone, if they have a precious carpet, to have it looked at periodically. If the carpet is new then every two or three years. If the carpet is antique then every 18 months, depending of course on the value and size. For smaller rugs, if you use the simple common sense remedies suggested above you don’t need to call in professionals every five minutes. But however you do it, if you have precious things, it’s good to care for them.”

For more information on Clive’s services visit his website.

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