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Caring for Your Wool Area Rug

You've just purchased a lovely area rug from Bradford's Rug Gallery, you've taken it home, laid it out, and now you're terrified to walk on it because you don't want to ruin it. It's a story we've heard many a time, but rugs were meant to to lived on, we don't want you to be shy about enjoying the coziness and comfort that your new rug provides. A wool rug is very resilient and very easy to live with, with just a few basic maintenance techniques, you can easily keep your new rug looking beautiful.

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Protect Your Rugs from Moths

It's clothing moth season once again. It happens twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, moths become especially active. This is the time you will start to notice evidence of moth activity. If you see clothing moths in your home, that means you already have a problem and it's time to do something about it. If you don't see evidence of moths, it is a great time to think about taking actions to prevent them.

Known as the Common Clothing Moth (Webbing Clothes Moth or Wool Moth), Tineola bisselliella can become a serious pest if proper measures are not taken to prevent or eliminate them. Adult moths are golden in color and the wings are fringed with golden hairs. They are small, approximately 10mm-20mm long, with a wing span of approximately 15mm wide.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

 

The larva of the clothing moth eat and digest the keratin proteins in wool and other natural fibers, including silk, fur, feathers and hair. They prefer to feed on items contaminated with organic materials such as spilled food, body fluids, fungal spores or pollen, so a clean rug is the first step in protecting your natural fiber carpet agains clothing moths. 

Life Cycle of a Clothes Moth

The female Clothes Moth can lay up to 200 eggs at any one time. Once the eggs hatch into moth larvae they begin to feed. The clothes moth larvae will eat until they have sufficient energy to pupate. This usually takes 2 months; however, if food is scarce or temperature are low, then they can survive for up to 2 years before spinning a cocoon. The larvae will then stay in the cocoon for between 1 and 2 months before emerging as an adult. 

Contrary to what people say adult clothes moths do not eat, the male clothes moth spends their time looking for females to mate with and the female moth looks for favourable conditions where she can lay her eggs. The adult clothes moth does not cause any damage to clothing (or rugs), it is the larvae that are responsible for causing the damage as they are constantly looking for food.         - www.mothkiller.co.uk

Development from egg to adult usually takes two to three months, but can take years, depending on environmental conditions. Clothes moths thrive in high humidity. Storing un-wrapped rugs (especially rugs that haven't been professionally cleaned) in an attic or basement is a bad idea when trying to prevent moths.

 

Best Preventative Measures

  • Vacuum your wool rugs regularly - including areas underneath furniture, in infrequently used rooms, and rugs that are stored for any length of time.

Unlike other household moths, clothes moths are not drawn to light, instead they prefer dark or shaded areas, which means they can usually be found in the corners of rooms, under long-standing furniture, or in rolled up and stored rugs. Rugs can be of particular interest to them as the larvae can crawl underneath and cause damage from there. The clothes moth can also crawl under skirting boards or into other cracks and crevices to feed on any debris that has gathered and then lay its eggs there.

  • Rotate rugs every 6-12 months, this will help rugs fade evenly as well as get areas of the rug that are hidden away underneath furniture out into the sunlight. As noted above, clothes months prefer the dark and seek out areas away from direct sunlight.
  • If you have any major spills, or your rug is heavily soiled from use, have your rug professionally cleaned. Clothes moths are especially attracted to rugs soiled with organic materials.
  • Store rugs wrapped in paper or plastic with desiccant packets to prevent condensation and maintain dryness.
  • Be vigilant - prevention is the best medicine - continually follow the steps above.
  • A note for those of you who love vintage and antique rugs like we do: assume that any vintage or antique rug purchased at a flea market, yard sale, or antique shop already has moths. Have it professionally cleaned and treated for moths before you bring it into your home and you will save yourself dealing with a moth infestation down the line.

Steps for Treatment

Often the damage done by these pests is our first indication of their presence because they often go unnoticed until large numbers are present and damage is apparent. Once you discover you have clothes moths

  • Immediately vacuum the top and bottom of any rugs with signs of moths or moth damage, paying particular attention to the most affected areas. Promptly remove the vacuum bag and discard outside the house.
  • Take your rugs to a professional cleaner and have them washed and treated for moths. If you cannot take your rugs directly to be cleaned, store them in air tight bags until you can get them to the cleaner.
  • Vacuum your home throughly - including under furniture, in small cracks and crevices, and places that are likely to collect dust and other particles.
  • If you have the ability freezing your rug, thawing it and re-freezing it will help ensure that any remaining eggs are killed.
  • Once the active infestation has been taken care of, follow the above prevention steps above to avoid future infestations.

Moth Balls & Cedar

Moth balls are not 100% effective at preventing moths - they are merely a repellant - you can still get clothes moths while using moth balls. We recommend avoiding them as they have harmful chemicals. Instead use cedar blocks, like moth balls, cedar is only a preventative, but is as effective as moth balls and contains no harmful chemicals.  

If you have any questions about moth prevention or treatment please feel free to give us a call at 207-772-3843 or email us at info@bradfordsruggallery.com. We are always here to help.

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Rugs in Kitchens?

It is commonly thought that kitchens are the worst place to put an area rug, there are too many possibilities for spills, stains, and food getting mashed into the rug. In fact kitchens are one of the best places to have area rugs. Kitchens are probably the place we stand the most in our homes, it's not only more comfortable to stand on rugs while working at the sink and stove, it's also better for your feet and back.

People often think that a nice quality, wool rug in a kitchen will just get destroyed. But really kitchens are the best place to put a nice quality wool rug and these are the reasons why:

1.) Color and pattern are the best ways of hiding a multitude of sins, well made hand knotted rugs offer a large range of great colors and pattern. It's very difficult to spot any stains or dirt on a multi color, patterned rug. One of the reasons a good Persian rug can be handed down through the generations.

2.) Wool is naturally stain resistant, it gives you a window of time to clean spills before stains set. Lanolin coats the wool fibers creating a barrier to moisture that prevents spills from being absorbed immediately. Getting to spills before they fully soak in is key. But, even if you do end up with a stain, the colors and pattern can help hide the stain.

3.) Wool rugs can occasionally be sent out to be fully hand washed. We work with knowledgeable cleaners (Coastal Cleaning Solutions) who do the hand washing and they have the skills to address most special cleaning requirements. Rugs in kitchens may need to be professionally cleaned more frequently than rugs in other areas of the house, but a good quality wool rug will with-stand more frequent cleaning than other options.

 

If you just can't bring yourself to buy a high quality, wool rug for your kitchen, for fear of destroying it, there are still other good options at a lower price point. Polypropylene (Indoor/Outdoor) rugs can be a good compromise. 

 Top reasons to get a poly rug for the kitchen.

1.) Poly rugs are typically less expensive, making them less dear to replace when they become too soiled for continued use.

2.) You can be aggressive about cleaning it. Any house hold cleaner (spot test first) can be used with a soft bristled brush to scrub out spots and spills. You can also take poly rugs outside to hose them off. So in an area where there are a lot of spills you have the ability to clean the rug vigorously. Please note that even though poly rugs are plastic they can still be stained, as with wool rugs, color and pattern are always helpful at hiding spots and stains.

 

Treat yourself right, don't stand on a cold hard floor while cooking or washing dishes, give yourself something soft and padded underfoot. It will help make your kitchen a homier place to be. We all know kitchens are the heart of the home, consider warming it up with a lovely rug!

Some of my favorite options for kitchen rugs:

To learn more about various rug materials and which are ideal for kitchen environments and why please read our blog Materials Matter.

To see more great kitchen rug options please visit us at our Portland gallery, or contact us

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Sprouts!

Do you get little tufts of wool that 'sprout' up out of your hand knotted rug? Don't worry, those are a normal part of owning a hand knotted wool rug. Some rugs are prone to sprout more than others, but regardless of how many sprouts your rug gets you want to treat them all in the same way. Do NOT pull on your sprouts, that could cause you to loose material potentially creating a small hole. Just take a pair of scissors and trim the top off the sprout, making it even with the surrounding surface. Watch the video below to see the very simple process of trimming your sprouts. 

 

Sometimes people worry that they are going to damage their rug if they trim their sprouts, or that they are going to make their rug 'thread-bare' by trimming them. But neither will be the case. To understand what causes the sprouts it's helpful to know a little about yarn.

When we say rugs are made with hand spun yarn, some people may immediately think of making yarn with a spinning wheel, but most rug yarns were, and still are, made with a drop spindle. A drop spindle uses nothing but gravity and a hand twisting motion to spin yarn (see photo below).

 

With such a basic spinning method, the amount of variation in hand spun yarn is much greater than that of yarn spun on a spinning wheel and even greater still than that spun with a machine. Those variations are the exact thing that give hand crafted rugs their character and uniqueness. Below is an image of hand spun yarn from Knox Fiber Farm. This yarn was spun to intentionally have a large amount of variation as an artistic element, hand spun rug yarns are typically made with less variation - but this photo is an excellent (although slightly exaggerated) illustration of how certain portions of a strand of yarn can be more twisted than others.

As those over-spun sections of yarn begin to relax over time they elongate - think of it sort of like a "Slinky" (that great spiral toy that 'slinks' down the stairs on it's own), when completely compressed the Slinky is short but if you stretch those spirals that Slinky can extend an enormous distance (another exaggerated but effective example). Those yarns that are relaxing and elongating are the very yarns that are creating your sprouts. Trimming the extra bit off the top does not remove any integral part of the rug.

Hopefully, now that you have a better understanding of what is happening when your rug gets sprouts you will feel empowered to trim them away. Of course there are those of us that don't mind the sprouts and appreciate them for the character they provide. Just remember that if you don't trim your sprouts you are leaving a place for your vacuum to catch (especially if you use your power-head - which we do not recommend). This could lead to pulling more of the yarn out and thus could lead to problems down the road. In general it is a good idea to trim your sprouts occasionally.

 

As always - if you have any questions feel free to CONTACT US or leave a comment.

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