Carpet Motifs: A Beginner’s Guide



Nisha’s instruction was clear and simple: go and look for Caucasian rugs. My search led me to the warehouse of Memet Bozbay, an affable Kurdish carpet trader, whom I had led to believe that I was a professional buyer. He pulled out heaps of Armenian, Kurdish and Kazak rugs, many characterised by bold colours, high piles, and unusual motifs. Gesturing to one of them he commented, “And here, again, you can see the typical Caucasian dragon motif.”

I scanned the carpet’s field expecting to find a flamboyant dragon spewing fire, but I couldn’t make out anything at all resembling a dragon or a serpent. In the centre of the carpet there was, however, an interesting form that appeared somewhat insect-like. “You mean this thing in the middle that looks like a cockroach?” I asked innocently. The dealer gave me a puzzled look and hesitated to respond—he must have been struggling to determine whether my question was sarcastic, or prompted by sheer cretinism.

This was one of those moments when my abject ignorance of the finer things in life was mercilessly exposed yet again, akin to the time when the wine-tasting instructor had said that a particular merlot displayed “aromas of currant and coffee, with complex flavours of cinnamon, plum, and cedar that finish with firm but mature tannins”, whereas I couldn’t help thinking that it tasted a bit like cough syrup.

Scarab in a Qashqai rug

After the awkward episode at the carpet dealer’s, it was high time to educate myself on the basics of carpet semiotics, with the help of a few books and the oracle of our times—the Internet. After some searching I discovered that the carpet motif that had revealed my lack of erudition represented neither a cockroach nor a dragon, but the scarab beetle, a common motif in Caucasian and Persian tribal rugs, especially Qashqai rugs.

Encouraged by this discovery, I ventured into a dense forest of motifs and symbols that are found, with varying frequency, in tribal carpets and kilims from Anatolia, Persia and the Caucasus. Here are some of the most important ones.

Hands on Hips (elibelinde)

The hands-on-hips motif is Anatolian in origin and represents a mother goddess figure, sometimes depicted with a child in her womb. It is a symbol of motherhood, fertility, and abundance.

Hands-on-hips motif

Ram’s Horn

The ram’s horn symbolizes manhood, male fertility, strength and bravery. A weaver incorporating such a symbol into her carpet would wish for all these qualities in her future husband.

Ram's horn pattern

Fertility (bereket)

The bereket essentially combines the hands-on-hips and ram’s horn motifs, uniting male and female fecundity in an intricate pattern that suggests, ahem, the process of reproduction.

Double bereket motif


The boteh is a symbol that has been used to decorate textiles in Persia at least since the Sassanid Dynasty(200–650 AD). The word itself may have meant bush, shrub, or simply a cluster of leaves. As a motif it has many interpretations. In some cases it is described as a seed symbolising life and renewal, often enclosing a mature plant within it, as if to suggest that the whole always exists within the part. Many believe it is the convergence of a stylised floral spray and a cypress tree, which is a Zoroastrian symbol of life and eternity, much like the tree of life elsewhere. Because of this association with Zoroastrian tradition, the boteh is sometimes referred to as the flame of Zoroaster—the eternal flame that burns continuously in Zoroastrian temples. The boteh is also the precursor of a much-loved Western pattern—paisley.

Boteh motifs

Tree of Life

The tree of life is a symbol common to many monotheistic religions. Echoing the story of the garden of Eden, it reminds us of man’s aspiration to become divine—its fruit is believed to bring immortality, and therefore it is forbidden. Mankind, unable to eat this fruit, must place all hope in life after death. Thus the tree of life becomes a symbol of the afterlife, of immortality, and of hope. In carpet design, the tree of life can appear in figurative form, such as in this Persian rug (left image), but also in more stylised interpretations, such as in this Obruk prayer kilim (right image).

Tree of Life

Stars, Crosses, Dragons and Other Protective Symbols

Protective motifs have a special place in tribal rugs. They were used on kilims especially to protect marriages, spouses, family members, children, houses and grain, animals and other possessions against the evil eye, against ill-will, against natural catastrophes and against dangerous animals. Many of these motifs share some fundamental features, such as the overall diamond shape and the hooked or crenellated perimeter, such that they tend to blend together and become almost indistinguishable. They include stars and crosses, stylised dragons and scorpions, evil-eye amulets, hooks, eight-pointed stars, Leshgi stars and burdock burrs.

Protective motifs


The gul (sometimes gol or göl) is a medallion of octagonal or angular shape used in Turkmen designs. It is often found in a repeating, all-over pattern in the main field of Turkmen rugs, bags and other weavings. The term “gul” is of disputed origin. It may come from the Persian word for flower, or the Turkish words for rose, or roundel, or even lake.

There are many different types of gul, many of them associated with specific Turkmen tribes from which they take their name. Thus, there are Tekke guls, Salor guls, Ersari guls, Yomut guls, and so forth. Identifying which tribal tradition a gul belongs to, however, can be extremely difficult, not only because many guls are quite similar, but also because gul designs, despite their tribal moniker, were rarely exclusive to one tribe. In modern rugs, guls are used freely by non-Turkmen carpet weavers as well.

A gul for every Turkmen tribe

It is important to remember, of course, that these traditional tribal motifs almost always appear in highly stylised forms that may be difficult to reconcile with their colourful names, or to distinguish from one another. Tribal motifs manifest themselves in such highly stylised imagery not only because of the restrictions imposed by Islamic tradition, which never favoured figurative art, but also because of the practical limitations of weaving and  knotting techniques, which often dictated simplification of forms and the portrayal of real-life shapes as geometric designs.

Moreover, it would be misleading to over-romanticise the symbolism of these motifs, in spite of the elaborate and lively stories that a crafty carpet salesman may offer when asked about them. Many of these motifs are very ancient and animistic in origin, pre-dating Islamic and Christian times. They may have articulated profound beliefs held by the tribal weavers who created them—meanings built around the most important concerns in their lives, such as birth and death, marriage and fertility, spiritual calling and the afterlife.

These meanings, however, may also have receded from consciousness as nomadic and tribal ways of life faded; the mythologies and folkloristic narratives associated with them are for the most part lost. What remain are time-honored, familiar patterns passed on from one weaving generation to the next. In some cases, the name of a motif, and its associated symbolism, may have been invented ex post facto to describe a form already well established in the carpet-making tradition.

For the modern lover of oriental rugs, these motifs constitute, above all, a rudimentary vocabulary used to describe, and to some extent to codify, the dizzying complexity and variety of designs found in tribal rugs woven across the ancient Silk Route. Indeed, so extensive is this vocabulary that I will have to devote another post just to cover border motifs… Stay tuned!

How To Keep Laminate Flooring Warm In Cold Weather !


Lay rugs down on your laminate flooring in order to prevent heat loss from the material. Rugs are the simplest solution because they are inexpensive, and can even enhance the quality of your interior design. Shaggy, or sheepskin rugs are great for bathrooms, kitchens, and even bedrooms. Furthermore, there are plenty of hall-runner rugs that can be placed in your hallways and floor landings. In addition, most rugs can be machine-washed, making it even easier to maintain and protect your home’s air quality.

Under Floor Heating:

Under floor heating keeps your tile or laminate flooring warm all winter long. It is set to a timer like your regular heating system, so you can adjust it whenever you need. That said, under floor heating is expensive to install. In addition to the installation cost, your heating bill will also go up during the winter months. Therefore it is important that you assess your finances before making a final decision.


Carpet Care Tips !!

Prolonging the life of your carpet is as simple as following a few important suggestions. Below are a couple of things you can do to keep your carpet healthy and looking great for many years.

Vacuum Frequently :

One of the most essential things you can do to keep your carpet clean and looking great is to vacuum thoroughly. Vacuuming your carpet removes dry particulate soil that works itself deep into your carpet and is abrasive and damaging to the the fibers of your carpet. This wear and tear causes traffic patterns to develop and can result in carpet that looks dull and worn. Removing this soil through frequent vacuuming protects your carpet fibers from this abrasion and keeps your carpet from wearing down and keeps it looking new.

No-Residue Carpet Cleaning: While the removal of dry soil from your carpet is important, oily buildup and other spills need to be thoroughly flushed from your carpet on occasion through the use of deep truck-mounted steam cleaning that doesn’t leave a residue in your carpet. Avoid cheap carpet cleaners who may not provide a “no-residue carpet cleaning” About every 12 months you should have a professional with powerful equipment clean your carpet deep-down to remove this oily buildup and sticky residue from your carpet. After your carpet is thoroughly cleaned, having a carpet protector applied can help protect your carpet from future wear and tear by providing a protective layer to your carpet fibers that keep the fibers from being scratched by soil abrasion and foot traffic. 

Buying Oriental Rugs – A Beginner’s Guide

Buying Oriental Rugs – A Beginner’s Guide

From Casablanca to Canton, carpets have been woven for a thousand years or more. Nomadic peoples, roaming the wilds of Central Asia’s mountains and high plateaus, developed techniques of knotting wool to make rugs. As the yarn was twined together, magical designs and symbols, as well as the natural beauty tribes would see around them, would be blended to create a unique array of pattern, texture and color.


These wandering clans, roving the wilderness of North Africa and Asia, extracted their rich hues of brown and red from walnut shells and pomegranate skins. Other craftsmen, working in the tranquil backstreets of fabled cities such as Fez and Istanbul, would experiment with exciting schemes of motifs.

Why an Oriental Carpet?

A room furnished with ALRUG’s Persian carpet
Coutesy: Kim McPherson, Florida

A handmade Oriental carpet is as much a piece of furniture as a fine desk or a loved bookcase. A simple carpet can lend to a drab room a magical glow, creating a particular mood and ambience. Each carpet different from the next, has the own intrinsic character, its own special feel and unique design.

However, purchasing a carpet has always been something of a risky business. The experience is all too frequently shrouded with guesswork and luck. Questions such as: “Is this carpet good quality?”, “Is it synthetic?” or “Am I paying too much?” tend to crop up just as you hand over the traveller’s cheques. Unscrupulous dealers with their smooth sales talk, baffling technical terms and unorthodox methods can transform what should be a pleasurable buying of a carpet into a frenzied nightmare.

You can’t learn all there is to know in a few minutes, but we can certainly help you to become at least a little “rug-wise”. Pick up a few facts, act in a certain way in negotiations, and you will automatically sidestep many of the pitfalls.


There are so many thousands of different carpet varieties, that it is useful to sub-divide them into a couple of more manageable divisions. Two very different kinds of carpet are made. One is made with the Turkish knot, and the other is formed with what is known as the Persian knot. Hundreds of thousands of knots are tied side by side to form a tufted pile. Generally speaking, the closer the knots are together, the higher the quality.


Carpet designs fall into two general categories of style also. Tribal rugs are quite different from those made in cities. Because one is made in the city doesn’t mean that the carpet is lower, or higher, in quality than the one produced in a remote village or elsewhere. The two types are simply different, neither better than the other.

Tribal or Workshop?

Many tribal carpets bear the precise name of their tribes such as BakhtiariBaluchi or Afshar. Their designs are frequently rougher, more angular than those of city carpets. They are often, and until very recently especially, made to be used only by the members of the clan or tribe. Only in hard economic times was a carpet sold to outsiders.


Carpets made in a city are crafted to a much more rigorous system of specific styles and designs, using more measured motifs and regular colors. Their lines are generally more rounded, the patterns more flowery, than those of the tribal clans. The weavers are normally paid by the hour, or by the week: a fast weaver can tie somewhere in the region of 1000 knots an hour, yet a medium size carpet still takes up to eighteen months or more to complete.

Get the feel first

Before you set off to buy a carpet, you must prepare. One good method is to get a book about carpets. Flick through the pages and see what immediately appeals to you. If you are not in a great hurry, try leaving the book open for a couple of days at a certain page to see if the picture of a particular style fits the room1. In any case, look at the pictures with great care. Examine the varying systems of pattern: you will immediately see that a carpet made in Baluchistan is very different from one crafted in Istanbul.

Posing as an expert!

To avoid making the wrong choice you must make the seller think you are a serious expert. He will conclude your knowledge and level of expertise from the way you explore a rug, the questions you ask and even from the questions that you don’t ask. A few facts and figures are handy to know. A crafty dealer will try to trip up by slipping baffling words into the conversation in an attempt to fluster you.

Baffling words

Mehrab or Central Arch in a Prayer rug

For instance, PushiZaranim and Dozar are words that indicate the size of the rug. Kaba describes a coarse carpet, while Kurk is a very high quality wool. The popular octagonal shape, called Filpai (pronounced Feelpoy) means “Elephant Foot”. Herati is a very common Persian design, which usually has a central floral pattern with symmetrical floral corner pieces. It is also sometimes known as Mari, the fish pattern. Gulsimply means “Flower” in Persian: it’s often a stylised octagonal flower shape. Boteh is Paisley, and has great significance throughout Asia: it’s seen as a harbinger of good fortune. Mihrab is the Central Arch, which is very common in smaller rugs, used for kneeling in prayer.

Be careful of terminology and don’t be taken in by it. I once heard a tourist in Middle East being told that the carpet in question was a genuine Khalis Baftagi, which in Persian means “entirely woven”!

Don’t get carried away

The first golden rule of getting rug-wise is not to buy anything on the first visit, or from the first shop you come across. Check out what everyone has to offer: look through their stocks and ask prices. Go home and sleep on it before committing to making a definite choice. Most importantly: don’t be sucked in by the dealer’s tricks. He may bring you endless cups of tea, pull dozens of rugs down for you to inspect, or imply you can’t afford them. One expert of rug-lore I know insists that when a salesman uses such ploys you must react accordingly!

End note

After the first visit to the dealer’s “den” you will begin to look like an expert. Remember to always act with aplomb: use a cool, dignified approach. Learn from the salesman. Look at the way he turns the carpets over, how he examines the underside, watch the movements he makes when he appraises it.

Another golden rule is, never buy a carpet from someone who insists extravagantly about the favour he is doing you. Fly by night rug dealers will cause problems later. Be sure to get a certificate of origin [we provide certificate of origin] for the carpet, and the check that the import taxes of your own country aren’t overly bothering. If you take into account all those points mentioned above, you’ll definitely catch a good deal and not to mention an exciting carpet buying experience. Wish you luck hunting down the great carpet for yourself!


Oriental Rug Care: How to care for hand knotted area rugs

Source: Emmette Eiland’s at

This article discusses long-term care and maintenance of hand-knotted (handmade) wool area rugs, including Oriental rugs and carpets. If you are dealing with an urgent rug accident, see Emergency Care for Oriental rugs.

People think that because Oriental rugs are valuable they must be pampered like fine China. But Oriental rugs have earned their reputation of being magical in part because of their sheer endurance. When they are dirty, they can be washed (unlike wall-to-wall carpeting, which can be surface cleaned only). And when they are injured they can be fixed. Their dyes resist fading and running, and their wool, full of natural oils, keeps many potential stains from penetrating and setting. We have seen that in the Middle East some new rugs are thrown into the streets for “aging,” where they are driven over by trucks and camels alike. They come through the ordeal looking much improved. Rugs are, as they say, forgiving.

Still, rugs need a congenial atmosphere and a little attention to help combat their several natural enemies: sunlight, moths, carpet beetles and moisture.

Rugs Fade in Sunlight. Be Careful!

A congenial atmosphere includes protection from too much sunlight. After inspecting rugs in many homes over the years, I have come to think that sunlight may be a rug’s principal nemesis—even to be feared, even, than moths. Sunlight streaming through a window directly onto a rug is virtually guaranteed to harm it, whether morning or afternoon, southern or western sunlight. Naturally dyed rugs and synthetically dyed rugs suffer equally. Colors fade unevenly and wool and cotton dry out and become brittle. A good rug can be spoiled in a month or less.

Of course there are situations where the risk to your rug is less clear, like when it is in a sunny room yet does not take direct sunlight. Be careful. Some rugs will take that much light and others will not—and there’s no way to know in advance which will and which won’t. It is possible and prudent to monitor your rug in this circumstance, which you may do by periodically comparing its colors on the front to those on the back of the rug. They should be the same. When colors are softer or lighter on the pile side of the rug than they are on the back, it’s time to take action.

You can eliminate or prevent the problem by keeping the curtains closed or by having your windows professionally coated with mylar (an invisible film which can be applied to your windows and which filters out harmful ultraviolet light). I must caution, however, that applying a mylar coating to certain windows may negate manufacturers’ warrantees. Mylar has the secondary effect of taking a couple of degrees of heat off hot summer sun and softening glare through a window.

Most damage is caused by light shining through a window, of course, but often rugs fade from sunlight streaming through a skylight. Sometimes people have no idea what’s happening because it occurs at a time of day when they’re not home. In my own house I once had to replace my Plexiglas skylight with Plexiglas that had been UV filtered. A special word of caution: don’t forget that if the sun is not coming directly through your window now, it may do so at a different time of the year when, for instance, the sun is lower in the southern sky.

If your rug has already suffered fading by the sun, there is still hope that it can be improved. If the fading is merely on the very tips of the pile (and you can determine that by looking closely at it), then washing the rug (professionally) may help the problem by simply abrading the faded tips of the wool. More severe fading can sometimes be improved by professional clipping of the entire pile. Occasionally a rug is so faded that neither of these methods will work, and then one must decide whether to accept the rug as it is, or to attempt to fade the entire rug evenly. This involves leaving the rug in the blistering sun, covering parts of the rug that are already faded and leaving exposed the previously unfaded portions of the rug. How long do you leave it in the sun? Until the job is done. That might be three days and it might be three weeks. It is obvious, though, that one must be cautious with this approach lest you cook your rug too long.


The second major enemy of Oriental rugs is moths. The moths you need to worry about are small and hardly noticeable. They are the same moths that raid food in the pantry and wool clothes in the closet. They do their damage in the larval stage when, as (horror of horrors) little maggot looking creatures, they eat tracks in wool rugs. In rugs with wool foundations they often eat right through the rug, leaving behind a web-like material. Moths can cause devastating damage to a rug in a matter of weeks. Here is some comforting news, though: moths rarely infest rugs and carpets that are in regular use. They prefer to be undisturbed, and they seek out rugs that are stored or are under furniture. They also appear to prefer dark places. So a rug that is walked on and vacuumed or swept is hardly at risk at all, except parts of it that may be under a never-disturbed bookcase or bed.

Rugs or portions of rugs covered by furniture must be disturbed from time to time to prevent moths from settling in. That means moving furniture off rugs every several months or so and vacuuming or sweeping. When inspecting rugs for moth activity, remember that most moth damage is to the back of a rug where moths are least likely to be disturbed. So examine the back of the rug along its perimeter and look for moths, moth larvae or the casing or webbing they leave behind.

You may elect to leave moth crystals in areas that are hard to get at, but remember that moth crystals lose their potency rather quickly. Rugs mounted on walls can attract moths because they typically are never disturbed. Check their backs in particular. I am now in the habit of handling rugs mounted on walls as I walk past them just to make them inhospitable hosts for moths.

If, after all your efforts to prevent moth damage, damage still occurs, don’t despair. Your rug can be repaired. The question will be whether the value of the rug warrants the cost of repair.

Storing Oriental Rugs Safely

Stored rugs are the most likely victims of moths, since in storage they usually are both undisturbed and in the dark. I would suggest that you store a rug in the following way. Moths seem to love dirty rugs, so start with a clean rug if possible. I would roll moth crystals into the rug, maybe a fistful into a 4 by 6 foot rug. Some people object to the smell and toxicity of moth crystals. An alternative is to leave a rug in the sunlight for a half-day on both sides, hoping thereby to kill any moth eggs in the rug. A third alternative is to spray the rug with a moth spray (Fuller Brush makes one) before you roll it. The smell from a spray seems to dissipate long before the smell of moth crystals does. Fold the rug, roll it up, and tie it. The next step is to place it in a heavy garbage bag, or a double or triple layer of bags and to seal it really well. If the carpet is too big to fit into a bag, use garbage bags on both ends and tape them together in the middle. An alternative is to wrap the rug in a heavy paper or plastic wrap, like Tyvac. In any case, the object is to seal them in some container unbreachable by moths (and, incidentally, by water). Finally, store the sealed rug where its wrap will not be pierced by something sharp and where the package will not be exposed to water or dampness.

An alternative to wrapping a rug for storage is storing it in a cedar closet or a cedar trunk. Natural resins in cedar wood repel moths. The advantages are clear: no chemicals are involved and no wrapping is required. There are two problems with cedar closets and chests, though. First, not everyone has them, and second, cedar eventually loses its anti-moth properties. My wife and I stored our collection of Oriental rugs in a cedar closet for many years without harm. Then suddenly the cedar lost its effectiveness and moths got in. I was told that sanding the cedar wood, which I did, might restore its aromatic quality. But I never again really trusted the closet. Cedar chips are sold which may be added to chests and closets. Perhaps they work, perhaps they don’t.

Carpet Beetles

Carpet beetle is not a great factor in the Western United States, but it is the scourge of East Coast rug owners. The adult is a small oval insect, dark with colored marks on the back, about a quarter of an inch long. Carpet beetles eat pollen and nectar, and often they are brought into the house on cut flowers. They lay eggs in dust and lint in dark, hard to access places. Both adults and larvae eat wool rugs (and sometimes silk rugs), but most damage is done by the larvae. While moths eat tracks through wool rugs, carpet beetles eat right through the rug, cotton foundation and all. They leave behind bristly “shells” of shed skin. The best control is prevention through fastidious housekeeping and proper storage (see Storing Oriental Rugs above). Carpet beetles may be killed by freezing (-20 degrees F for three days), or through use of pyrethrin or other sprays.

Mildew and Dry Rot

When rugs stay wet too long, they become mildewed and, eventually, suffer dry rot. The classic example is dry rot caused by a potted plant placed on a rug. The typical result is a horribly rotted circular area in a carpet that is otherwise in good condition. Don’t even think about putting a potted plant on a rug. No matter how clever you are, no matter that you use a glazed pot and a glazed saucer and you put a vapor barrier between the saucer and the rug, the rug will get wet and will stay wet unbeknownst to you and will become a rotten mess in an area about one foot in diameter.

Another typical situation comes up when rugs are stored poorly, in a garage for instance, and they become wet without anyone realizing what has happened. Even though dry rot is not inevitable in such cases, a mildew smell is, and sometimes the smell of mildew simply cannot be removed. I have seen several occasions when moisture under a house has caused rugs on the floor above to mildew.

Another common situation is for rugs to be soaked by a leak in the roof or by a plumbing problem upstairs. In my first rug store, a stoppage in a main sewer line caused my toilet to back up, overflow and leave six inches of standing “water” throughout the showroom. (Isn’t it amazing that we somehow do get through life’s surprises? For the peace of mind of those who might have been my customers in those days, I had each rug washed thoroughly before they again became merchandise.)

Please do not worry needlessly, though. A little water on a rug, or even a lot of water, will not cause it to mildew unless the rug stays wet too long. For instance, rugs one steps onto from a shower or bathtub rarely are hurt by water because they have time to dry out between times. And don’t panic if you spill a glass of water on a rug. Just dry it as well as you can with towels, and if it dries in several days, it will be all right.

Unfortunately, besides causing mildew and dry rot, water sometimes causes dyes in rugs to bleed or run. All you can do in this situation is to get the rug dry as soon as possible, preferably with a water vacuum as outlined below.

If a rug is just a little wet, as from a spilled glass of water, do what I suggested above. Merely soak up as much water as possible with a towel or paper towel and everything will probably be just fine. If you are worried about the floor underneath, elevate the wet spot until it dries.

A rug that is thoroughly wet is another matter. The goal is to dry it before it mildews in about four or five days. If you have a Shopvac or other vacuum that will take in water, vacuum out as much water as you can. If not, lay the rug flat on its back outdoors and squeegee out as much water as you can. In a pinch, you can use the back of a garden rake as a squeegee. If you cannot do that (perhaps because it is raining heavily outside), then roll the rug tightly and stand it on end until water stops dripping out of the bottom end. If you have sunlight and a place to lay the rug, open it and let it finish drying outdoors. Or, if you know that the rug is dirty as well as wet, dry it enough so that you can get it to an Oriental rug cleaning specialist. If all else fails and the rug has been wet for four or five days and you have no prospects of drying it soon, spray it with Lysol. If you must dry a wet rug indoors, keep air circulating around it with a fan or hairdryer. Many a rug has come through seemingly hopeless situations and come out in good shape.

How to Keep Your Oriental Rugs Clean

Rugs gradually wear as they are walked on. That can’t be avoided, but you can lesson the problem by turning or rotating your rugs from time to time so they don’t always get walked on in the same places. Walking on a dirty rug shortens its life prematurely. Dirt and sand fragments act like sandpaper as you grind them into the surface of your rug. How often should you have your Oriental rugs washed? On the average of every four or five years, but the real answer is that you should wash them when they are dirty and not before or long after. You can tell whether your rug is dirty by testing it with a white, wet cloth. Rub the rug’s pile vigorously with the wet cloth and check to see how much dirt is transferred to the cloth. Don’t worry about a little discoloration; any rug has a little dust on its surface. A dirty rug will transfer a lot of dirt to a cloth, and the results of your testing will be unambiguous. Dirty rugs may not look especially dirty, but typically they look flat and lusterless.

Many Europeans are fearless about washing their own rugs and have developed methods so hallowed by time that they are unquestioned. People of German origin have told me about their mothers turning rugs upside down in the snow and beating them on the back. I have no doubt that the results can be quite dramatic when the rug is removed and an impressive amount of dirt is left behind on the snow. And the snow approach must do a good job of freshening the surface of an Oriental rug. But this approach can’t really compete with thoroughly wetting a rug and washing it with appropriate materials. I used to wash my own rugs, and it can be done, but these days I let the professionals wash my rugs. They do a better job than I do and they are better at dealing with color-run when that occurs.

Here is a summary of how rugs are (or should be) washed professionally. (I would like to thank David Walker of Talisman in Santa Cruz, California for some of the information herein about washing rugs.) First, as much dirt and dust as possible is loosened and separated from the rug before it is exposed to water. Some professionals use giant tumblers to accomplish this. Professionals test colors for fastness before they wet a rug to determine how they will approach the job. They may protect weak areas of the rug, perhaps by sewing gauze around them. If the rug’s dyes are stable and the rug can be washed, the rug is laid out flat and thoroughly wetted. Some experts filter chlorine out of the water. When the rug is wet, it is scrubbed by hand- that is, by brushes, usually on poles, operated by hand. Machines never should be used for the scrubbing. Rotary type machines often tangle the wool pile, and no machine can sense where scrubbing should be lighter or heavier depending on the condition of the rug.

The choice of a cleaning agent, of course, is critical. An unformulated (that is, neutral balanced) detergent is ideal, despite the old caveat that detergent should never be used on an Oriental rug. Conditioners may be added if wool is dry, and so may denatured white vinegar be added to stabilize the dyes. The rug or carpet is rinsed thoroughly and dried and then brushed down to soften and finish the rug’s surface.

Does that sound easy? How would you like to turn the hose on someone’s $30,000 antique Oriental rug? Good rug washers live with that kind of pressure every day and rarely have accidents. I have the greatest respect for the handful of specialists who are conscientious and who know what they are doing.

It is possible to freshen the surface of an Oriental rug without washing it. Simply sponging the pile with cold water will brighten it. You may also use the type of appliance made to clean carpeting at home, such as the Spray’n Vac. But do not use anything except water and a little denatured white vinegar (about a quarter of a cup in a gallon of water): no soap, no optical brighteners. You may clean a rug’s fringe with soap and water, but don’t bleach it.

Do not shake an Oriental rug to dust it. Do not beat an Oriental rug. You may use a vacuum cleaner, even a beater type vacuum, but be careful not to catch the fringe in the vacuum. You may also use a broom. Whatever you do to an Oriental rug should be appropriate to its condition. Don’t sweep a ninety-year-old, worn rug too vigorously.


4 Reasons to Hire a Carpet Cleaning Pro!

Top carpet manufacturers in the US recommend deep cleaning every 12 to 18 months under normal conditions and more frequently for high traffic households. In fact, some suggest scheduling a routine cleaning every 3 to 4 months for busy homes with kids and pets.

If the thought of thoroughly cleaning your carpet every few months isn’t enough to convince you, here are four extremely good reasons to hire a carpet cleaning professional.

Reason 1: Knowledge & Expertise
Professional carpet cleaners are:

  • Trained to identify the best pretreatments, solutions and cleaning methods required to remove ground-in dirt or deep-seated stains.
  • Familiar with different carpet construction and fiber types, which determine what cleaning compounds and methods will be most effective without causing damage.
  • Knowledgeable about cleaning formulas and know which ones work best in which situations.
  • Likely to have industry certifications that reflect expert training in carpet cleaning methods, restoration, mold and mildew prevention, and more.

Reason 2: Equipment & Methods
Professional carpet cleaners have access to:

  • The right equipment, tools and cleaning formulas to tackle the job and do it right and well.
  • Pretreatment and cleaning solutions that are more efficient and effective than over-the-counter formulas.
  • Specialty treatments that resist spills and stains, protect carpet fibers, reduce cleaning demands and extend carpet lifespan.
  • Powerful vacuums that effectively remove trapped dirt, allergens and pollutants such as animal dander, cockroach droppings, and soil contaminated with lead or petroleum.
  • High heat systems that sanitize the carpet and kill dust mites, bugs and bacteria.
  • Powerful extractors that remove moisture, accelerate drying time, and prevent mold and mildew growth.
  • Neutralizers and extraction equipment that remove traces of residual cleaning solution which attract dirt and accelerate resoiling.

Reason 3: Protect Your Investment
Professional carpet cleaning can:

  • Extend carpet longevity and protect your investment by removing dirt and grit that over time damages pile and backing.
  • Preserve your carpet’s integrity by avoiding formulas that cause yellowing, bleaching or visible light spots.
  • Help you avoid cleaning methods that shorten carpet lifespan, cause shrinking, stretching or matting, or invalidate the warranty.

Reason 4: Additional Advantages
Experienced carpet cleaning companies:

  • Can complete a thorough deep cleaning task efficiently and effectively, which saves you time, energy and effort.
  • May offer a range of green cleaning methods.
  • Often provide additional cleaning services (such as upholstery, tile and grout cleaning), which can solve some of your toughest home cleaning challenges.