Caring for silk rugs can be more difficult and time-consuming work than rugs made from synthetic fiber or wool because silk itself is a protein that resembles human hair and can get damaged more easily compared to other carpet fibers.
Since almost all silk rugs are handmade rugs, they also need individual manual cleaning to preserve their quality, and preventing initial damage to the rug is the first step to proper care; but do not worry, with the tips below cleaning silk rugs will become really easy to do and completely safe, so just keep reading this article and follow every advice to the letter.
Silk rugs should be placed in low-traffic areas and out of direct sunlight, which can fade the dyes in the rug over time. If a rug is in an area that receives significant foot traffic, it should be rotated 180 degrees periodically to maintain even levels of wear on its surface. Ultraviolet light in sunlight is also a common reason for colors to fade, however most modern windows naturally filter this type of light, and older window panes can be coated with a light-filtering film available at hardware stores.
Before dealing with a stain, spill or animal urine, it is important to determine if the rug is pure silk or a combination of silk and wool. A combined silk and wool rug will show more durability and stain resistance, and water will bead on a rug with wool content as it is water resistant. A definitive test consists of removing a small section of loose thread from the back of the rug and burning it. Silk will have a characteristic hair-like odor when burned and forms an ash ball, while other fibers may smell like paper or plastic and melt when burned.
The first step should be to determine the color fastness of the dyes in the carpet by applying a small amount of water-based detergent to an area of the carpet and then rinsing to see if any colors will bleed with the stain. If the carpet lightens, the stain should be blotted with a clean cloth soaked in club soda or a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water. The rug should then be thoroughly rinsed with water to remove all chemical residue and air dried by hanging.
Cleaning common dirt from silk rugs should never be done by dry cleaning or steam cleaning, as both processes will leave a gritty residue on the rug and cause colors to fade. It is recommended to vacuum with a non-rotating, non-brush handheld attachment, or gently agitate the rug in the air to remove surface dirt. Any abrasive cleaning of the surface will damage the silk fibers.
Antique silk rugs, especially Persian rugs like Indian silk rugs and expensive Chinese silk rugs often have vegetable-based dyes used as coloring agents, and these tend to be delicate. Moth damage can also be present on antique silk rugs, as any areas in the dark, such as areas under furniture, will attract moths. The best moth preventative for long-term protection of silk rugs is the use of zinc fluorosilicate, commonly sold as a mothproofing agent.
The best method for cleaning and caring for a silk rug is to try to prevent wear and tear in the first place, keep it out of direct sunlight, and gently wipe away spills right away. Before resorting to any chemical treatment of a spill, thoroughly rinse the carpet area with water. Rugs that seem very resistant to stains or damage may in fact be fake silk rugs made from mercerized cotton. Professional chemical tests can be performed to definitively determine the nature of a rug and what care is required to preserve its value and beauty.
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