Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hooked Rug cleaning

Those of you that read my blog know that I love old things. My favorite, although infrequent pastime is to attend country antique auctions. I went to one last night and procured three old and very dirty hooked rugs for twenty dollars. I have read about cleaning hooked rugs on the internet, and thought I would try some of the things I have heard to see if they worked. These rugs are on burlap and are worn on the edges, but I believe they still have life in them, even if they spend the rest of their days on a trunk or table. They are all made with wool strips. Because of their age and the burlap backing I do not want to get them wet or agitate them at all as I fear they will fall apart. As usual I will confess that I do not know what I am doing! I like to experiment and try things that I have read. I took a couple of "before" shots of the rugs. You can see that the front of the rug above has faded quite a bit compared to the rolled part that shows the colors on the back. I also obtained two braided mats in the same auction lot.I began cleaning by using the brush attachment on my vacuum and very slowly and gently went over both sides of the rugs to remove basic dust and dirt. I carefully rolled the rugs as I went so it would open up the loops and clean out the accumulated dirt. It was very obvious that the owner of these rugs had a white cat!
I took the largest rug outside to the snow. I buried it in light, granular snow, gently rubbed it around with my glove and then shook off the snow. I did this numerous times on both sides. The snow became quite dirty, so it was helping remove the years of grunge! Since the rug stayed fairly dry I didn't have to worry about the dye colors running into each other. This was very good physical exercise!
I have also heard about using suds to clean rugs. I laid the tulip rug in my bathtub, and made numerous suds with my dish detergent. I attempted thick suds with my clothes detergent but apparently it is a "low sudsing" formula. The soap I used did not contain bleach, as bleach will disintigrate wool. I glopped suds all over the rug and gently rubbed them around using a damp sponge, being careful not to rub hard. The suds became brown, but that left me with a sudsy rug and no way to wash off the suds without getting the rug wet! So I threw it outside in the snow! After a bit of gently dragging it around on the snow the suds were all gone! The suds method got the rugs a bit more damp than just snow, but again I was lucky and the suds removed a lot of dirt. I rolled the rugs in towels to remove as much moisture as I could. I laid the rugs flat on my car to dry, as we have a balmy 38 degrees today in the sun, and I didn't have another warm flat surface for them to dry. Tonight I will leave the rugs in the barn on a flat surface and they will freeze, which hopefully will take care of any moth eggs that might be lurking.

The braided mats are made of a knit and one has some sort of shiny material...perhaps even silk? I was merciless with them and soaked them both in the tub in cold water and the same dish detergent. I gently moved them around and the water turned dark brown. Uh oh...are the colors running? After rinsing them until the water was clear and rolling them in towels I could see that the colors were fine. They were just filthy.
My experiment worked because none of the rugs are in worse shape than when I got them. The snow is certainly the most gentle, and although it did remove dirt and dust I would not say the rug is any brighter. The suds method was more damaging to the rug as some of the threads on the edges of the loops show more wear, but perhaps the dirt was just holding them together! The suds certainly got the rugs cleaner and brightened the colors, especially the pale yellows on the tulip rug. I did gently steam the edges of the rugs to remove the slight curl that I had created. I didn't apply any pressure with my iron...just steam. The loops are not matted anymore and if rugs could talk, they would be saying "Thank you for caring".
I believe all three hooked rugs were made by the same maker, as they are bound in an identical way with similar stitching. The gray wool on the tulip rug and the big floral rug match, as well as some of the greens in all three rugs. After cleaning I was able to tell that the background on the tulip rug is actually made of two different color is hooked closer to the flowers. Perhaps the maker was using scraps from discarded clothing. All the rugs look and smell much better than when I began.

Of course my better half has no idea that this sort of experiment is important and energizing to me. He just looks at me crawling on the floor vacuuming rugs with a brush, and covering rugs with snow, and making a bucket of suds with an eggbeater and thinks I'm insane. There are now big dirty splotches in the snow, wet towels on the bathroom floor and my car has rugs all over it. Why would he think I was crazy?

Cleaning these rugs has taken about six hours total, but I am glad that I did it. The profile picture today shows my cat Rascal claiming a rug as her own. I will leave you with a few pictures of some of the other things that I picked up at the auction. I particularly like the box as I have a fondness for boxes, especially if they have something to do with fabric.
I love the "twelve swarms of bees" for sale at this auction. The notice is dated March of 1851 taking place in Richmond outside of Denison's Corners. Anyone know where that is? Perhaps New York or Vermont?