How to clean and care for hooked rugs

When the experts were asked for advice for the care and display of hooked rugs, they came up with a list of “dos” and “don’ts”:

  • Use and care guidelines from antique rug authority Laura Fisher of New York’s FISHER Heritage gallery:
  • Don’t store them in a dry place if they are on a burlap foundation. The rug may dry and crack, causing the loops to pop up, which will require professional restoration.
  • Don’t fold it because it will crack the foundation. Roll it with the top surface facing out because that’s the way the rug was hooked on the frame.
  • Let it breathe. Don’t store it in plastic or seal it in anything.
  • Try and rotate the direction of the rug on the floor to minimize wear from continual path in one direction.

    how to clean hooked rugs

    This late 19th/early 20th century Grenfell Mission mat worked in an unusual geometric pattern. The 12 1/2-inch by 12 1/2-inch mat still has its original label and is in very good condition with no apparent damage or repairs. It earned $850 at Pook & Pook Inc.’s May 5, 2012, auction in Downingtown, Pa.
    Photo courtesy Pook & Pook, Inc.

  • Always put a separate, flat-surface rubber padding beneath the rug for cushion.
  • Be alert that cats and dogs will cause damage: Cats claw, dogs chew. Pet stains bleach out color, so they should be treated immediately by a professional.
  • Don’t use at the kitchen counter or sink.
  • Don’t ever put a hooked rug in the washing machine.
  • Handle your rug gently: No tugging, beating or tossing.
  • If something get spilled – get cleaned professionally right away.
  • Don’t immerse in water, especially if the hooked rug has a burlap foundation. Surface clean only.
  • Give it to a professional rug cleaner who can wet-wash the surface and handle it properly.

Hooked rug restoration specialist Jessie Turbayne, who is also an author, appraiser and dealer, adds:

  • Avoid direct sunlight, which will fade the colors.
  • Turn the rug upside down and walk on it once in a while so dirt loosens and falls out.
  • If you have snow, take the rug out in fresh, fluffy snow and sprinkle snow on the front and back. Let it sit for a minute or two, then brush it off well. The snow treatment will freshen and brighten the rug.
  • If you have the opportunity, lay the hooked rug outside on dry grass in the sunlight. The chlorophyll in the grass brightens and freshens the rug.
  • Never put on a rug anything that can’t be undone. No glue. No latex. No chemical fusings. If you can  get those things off, restoration costs three to four times what it would otherwise.
  • Avoid moths at all costs. Don’t buy rugs with moth damage – you put the rest of your collection at risk. Dealers are very careful, but at flea markets and yard sales, you’re not sure. Know what you’re buying.

Turbayne and Fisher agreed: Without exception, avoid the vacuum cleaner; use a manual carpet sweeper or a broom. Turbayne summarizes: “If you want a rug for under the dog, go to Sears. Hooked rugs deserve respect and should be treated with common sense.”

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