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?


WoolenSails said...

You lucky girl, what great finds. Any rugs I have found around here are usually badly hooked and worn to death. My favorite is that box, very neat. I had no luck antiquing this weekend.


katie said...

I think you made some awesome purchases. The rugs are wonderful and don't you just wonder about all the years they brought joy to the person who made them. Enjoy them.


Kimichris said...

Well you have inspired me to clean that rug I found at an estate sale. We had a DUSTING of snow last night, not nearly enough to clean a rug but perhaps the suds method would work!

Lovely finds at the auction! I have a few items I found when we went exploring while up at the Horse farm!

theoldestonehouse said...

Love the rugs you lucky girl. I used the sweeper on mine but I put a suare of fine screening between the brush and the rug. I like the snow way. I'll have to try that.
Did you get a box from me??

Enjoy you finds.

Rosie said...

Wow what fabulous finds you made! Love the idea of cleaning them in the snow, I read about that a while ago and wondered how it would work, seems to work very well judging by your pictures. My grandmother used to hang her white tablecloths on the washing line when it was frosty, thats supposed to make them whiter, a similar kind of thing to washing in the snow.

BeFRuiTFuL said...

Looks like you have some clean rugs.And even snow was involved in the cleaning. :-)

Lauri you won the Giveaway on my blog. You will have to chose which of those two patterns you want.


TamboinMO said...

I just put the first rug that I hooked in my front taking before and after pictures. This was fun to see your pictures and that you were able to try out the different techniques. I use a lot of my rugs on the floor, so I decided to get brave today and try the machine.

BeFRuiTFuL said...

lauri did you get my email? I hope I have the right email addy.


lois said...

I have several rugs that need to be cleaned. Being summer I doubt there will be any snow. Maybe just the suds.

April said...

For cleaning that rug, I think that you can use steam for it, if you don't want to soak them with water. Steam cleaning uses the evaporated water to heat up the fabric and separate the dirt to the rug. Whenever I had a problem on stained rugs in my house at Clearwater, carpet cleaning with the use of steam is the easiest and eco-friendly way on removing the stains.

One time, I've recommended the Tampa carpet cleaners to my male friend due to the food stains that accumulated on his area rug which is disturbing to look at.

Henry said...

Saving old rugs is a good move. Lots of the classics now are preserved because of those people who were concerned of saving it. It’s just a matter of careful carpet cleaning. Boulder’s handed-down markets still have used carpets and you can still find one, like what you’ve found. I have a knack on buying classic items, and half of my house decorations are full of those. I buy even those in the worst condition; I just clean and restore them. Thanks for the post!

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Zendelle said...

There is a Denison's Corners cemetery in Richmond, NY. Thanks for this interesting post. I have a really grungy old hooked rug with holes in it. For five bucks (also at an auction) I figured it was worth a try. I would like to fix it up and give it a second life.

Lyda said...

As a lover of antique and pre-loved items, I admire you for looking for ways to preserve those lovely carpets. Rubbing them with snow was just pure genius. If only we can find more ways to clean carpets even when it is not snowing, then I bet those tips would be worth publishing.

Lyda Tavorn

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