Industry expert Stephen Dusty Roberts of RugBadger has three words to describing cleaning hand-woven rugs in the home, “LOSE, LOSE, Lose”. Wool and silk are protein based fibers and need a pH balanced cleaner that is neutral or slightly acidic. Wall to Wall carpet primarily uses manmade fibers such as nylon olefin, or polypropylene. These fibers take a very alkaline pH balance that has a pH of 9 to 13.5. When you us4e carpet shampoo with a pH above 7 the wool can lose the ability to hold its dyes. Once the pH oh the wool shifts to alkaline the dyes are no longer firmly bonded and can cut lose in water. This is called “Bleeding”. When a rug bleeds we often see it in darker dyes such as red or blue breaking loose in solution and red positing on lighter areas. Anyone who has ever washed a red t-shirt with white underwear only to find pink underwear can understand this.
Thirty or forty dollars worth of pink jockey shorts is bad but splotchy pink in the white areas of a fine hand-woven rug is a disaster.Not all Area Rugs are wool or silk and bleeding is not the only danger. Many rugs are made of abaca (banana), coir (coconut), cotton, hemp, jute, linen as the pile and cotton or jute in the foundation and backing. Water heat and alkalinity can cause the fibers to turn brown. This is not just in the inexpensive rugs but is even more likely in the high end rugs which often use these and other exotic natural fibers. HWE or hot water extraction is one of the most common in-home carpet cleaning methods. The cleaning process is based on heat, water and highly alkaline chemicals which are exactly what is needed to permanently change the fibers and ruin your high fashion area rug.
One particular danger is that a rug can look fine after it is cleaned and then self destruct the next time it is cleaned no matter how it is cleaned. For that reason if a rug has been cleaned in the home it needs to be washed by an expert rug washer who can deal with the problems of bleeding or cellulosic browning if it occurs.
If you have wall to wall carpet you need an in-home carpet cleaner. If you have natural fiber area rugs and Oriental rugs you need a rug washer. To find a reputable qualified rug washer in your area please visit: