About Hiring a Rug Service Provider

Does your heirloom Oriental display a record of your adorable yet hard-to-housetrain puppy? Did Uncle Mike spill a Bloody Mary on your Persian? Did your cat sharpen his claws on that hidden corner of your needlepoint? Or is your rug just overdue for its regular cleaning (every two to four years, according to The Oriental Rug Importers of America)? Not to worry: rug cleaners and restorers can address every kind of need on every type of rug, from museum-quality handmade rugs to inexpensive carpeting.

Gathering Information

When choosing cleaners or restorers, there are many factors to consider. Ask if they perform free, written estimates. If they make house calls, do they charge a travel fee, and do they have free pick-up, delivery and reinstallation? Before they quote you a price, you may wish to inquire how they set their rate: by the job, the hour or the size of the rug? Do they require a deposit? Will they arrange a payment plan if you need one? Do they offer discounts for multiple rugs or rooms? It’s a good sign if they honor their estimate, even if the job overwhelms their expectations. It’s an even better sign if they guarantee perfection, and don’t consider the job finished until you are satisfied. Such an assurance (especially in writing) may be more valuable than letters of reference or membership in one of the professional associations, though both of these would add further reassurance of competence.

If your rug is handmade and you think it may be valuable, you may want to get your rug appraised by a rug-care service before having it cleaned or repaired. If it is valuable, you’ll need to consider more expert (and expensive) services. On the other hand, you may also discover that the rug isn’t worth nearly as much as you believed, and hence may not warrant lavish attention. Either way, a professional appraisal certifies the value of your belonging in case of mishaps; you may want to inquire beforehand whether liability falls in your court or whether the cleaner/restorer’s insurance covers any mishaps. Many rug cleaning and reweaving establishments appraise rugs for insurance, estate sale, tax and charitable donation. Watching appraisers evaluate your rug also allows you to preview their professionalism. If their work instills confidence, hire them for the whole job; if not, you can still use their appraisal (and estimate, if they perform one simultaneously) as a first opinion in approaching another establishment. For complicated (expensive) repair or restoration jobs, ask how long it will take. Often the expert restorers have other jobs they must finish before they can get to yours. If your rug is valuable, it is worth waiting for the best.

If the rug needs repair before cleaning, confirm that the restorer knows the techniques of the tradition in which the rug was made: Navajo yarn-dying and rug-weaving methods differ from those of Iran. Ask to see a portfolio of their previous repair work, which often displays side-by-side “before” and “after” pictures. Inspect how well they match colors, recreate designs, and blend repairs into existing weaves. If your rug is valuable, inquire whether an expert or an apprentice will perform the repair work. Also, see to it that all repair work is included in the estimate, from reweaving holes to renapping worn areas; restoring moth damage to rewrapping seams; and refringing to re-blocking your rug to its original shape. Particularly thorough rug conservationists will even unravel strands and overcast weaving in order to blend repairs into the rug’s existing texture and design.

Cleaning and Drying Techniques

There are many different cleaning methods, each of which addresses different situations with varying degrees of efficacy and expense. Carpet cleaners typically have mobile operations, and will clean rugs in your home with hot “carbonating” systems, steam-cleaning or dry-cleaning. Will they move the furniture to clean under it or do they expect it ready when they arrive? Rug cleaners, on the other hand, usually perform the cleaning at their site. They may expect the rug to be rolled up and waiting for their pick up. Silk rugs, fragile tapestries and textiles with “fugitive” (short-lived) dyes, or bright colors that might “bleed” (run), should be hand-washed—the most delicate and expensive method. Luster cleaning immerses the entire rug in cleaning solutions, and thus achieves a deep clean while minimizing wear on the fabric. Soap washing involves running a vacuum-like machine over the rug; this vigorous method is only for particularly rugged or less-valuable rugs. Discuss in advance what problems the cleaner can and can’t fix. For example, excessive wear on a hallway rug will still be there after a cleaning, though it will be much less noticeable. If you are health- or environmentally conscious, ask whether the company offers non-toxic cleaners.

Any rug that’s washed must also be dried properly to avoid mildew and dry rot. Be sure to ask about the time and drying technique for in-home jobs; you should know beforehand if you need to reroute traffic through the patio for three days. For in-plant jobs, bigger outfits have dry-rooms where they control temperature and humidity levels. In the home, drying basically involves not walking on the rug until it is dry, which depends on humidity and other factors. Some businesses also offer stain protectants, which they apply directly to the rug to shield it from future accidents (should the tipsy uncle return). Other companies may take a purist approach, preferring periodic cleaning to chemical protectants.

Carpet and Rug Installation

Before the carpet or rug is put down, padding should always be laid first. Padding gives more cushioning for your feet and keeps the rug from sliding all over the floor as you walk on it, which helps prevent slips, falls and spills. Ask what kind of padding the installer will use, as there are generally different quality and price options.

For wall-to-wall carpeting installation, the most common method is to lay wooden tack strips around the perimeter of the room. The tack strips have pins sticking up that grab the carpet and hold it in place. The tack strips are attached to the floor using small nails, which leave holes in the floor when the carpet is removed. The padding also is usually either nailed or stapled to the floor. If you must cover your nice wood floors (for the kids, maybe), you should discuss with the installer how to minimize the floor damage. Unfortunately there is not that much that can be done if you want wall-to-wall. Some installers may suggest attaching the carpet with double-faced tape, but most say that this doesn’t hold well and the carpet shifts and buckles. If your floor contributes to the value of the apartment, it is simply better to stick with area rugs. Remember to ask whether or not there are any potential extra charges, such as for ripping up existing wall-to-wall carpeting before installing the new one or for disposing of the old carpeting and pads if you don’t want to keep them.

Specialized Services

Some rug cleaners focus on stain and odor removal services to meet the needs of pet owners, smokers and families with small children (or just klutzes). Many providers offer stain protection for future spills, which, depending on your lifestyle, may be a sound investment. Other companies specialize in emergency services in case of fire, smoke or water damage, and may even be available round-the-clock. If you’re moving, remodeling or otherwise in need of storage, look to the larger outfits for mothproofing and storage services. After storage or in-plant services, many companies will reinstall your rug over appropriate padding.

Rug cleaners and restorers also offer many other services for rugs and other furnishings. Many rug cleaners also clean curtains and upholstered furniture. Some businesses prefer to remove the draperies from the home and washing them at their facilities. In-home carpet cleaners are more likely to clean curtains in the house.

Since curtains, upholstered furniture and rugs dominate most of the space (not to mention the attention) in a room, rug cleaners and restorers emphasize the importance of maintaining these items. Their colors will be clearer, they’ll last longer, you’ll be inhaling less dust—and your home will look more beautiful.

Don’t Let the Rug Be Pulled Out from Under You!

  • Get several bids. Prices among competent cleaners can vary quite a bit.
  • When you have an estimate, ask if it’s binding. Ask what factors might cause it to become higher (or lower) when the job is actually done.
  • Is there a minimum charge for a house call? If the cost of cleaning your rug is below the minimum you might want to have them perform another service (such as clean or stain-proof another rug, piece of furniture or curtains) at the same time.
  • Some of the larger more commercial cleaners have regular “sales.” Get on their mailing list to receive updates. If you’re not in a hurry, wait for a sale.
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