Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Caring for your carpets

Your home’s carpets - be they wall-to-wall, Persian or Kelims - are a valuable and often costly investment.

As such, most homeowners would like to get as much as they can out of their investment by maximising the enjoyment, functionality and the overall aesthetic value of their carpets.

As with most things in life, generally you get what you pay for. Most high-quality carpets are very strong and will last a long time. However, if they are taken care of and properly maintained, you can dramatically extend their lifespan even more. Some oriental rugs for example, have lasted hundreds of years, becoming treasured family heirlooms. Here are a few pointers to retain your carpet’s appearance and increase its longevity:

Vacuuming

The most important aspect of carpet care is without question vacuuming, which should begin the minute the carpet is fitted. Vacuuming is crucial for removing any dirt and grit that might collect at the base of the carpet’s tufts, where it could act as an abrasive and contribute to premature wear.

Vacuuming should be done in a slow and meticulous manner, focusing on areas that receive the most foot traffic. High traffic areas ought to be vacuumed daily, while areas that don’t receive much traffic only need to be vacuumed weekly. As much as possible, try to vacuum in the direction of the pile – if you vacuum against the pile, it lifts the pile and allows grit to work its way into the knots more easily. When vacuuming rugs, avoid the fringes, as they are often more fragile than the rest of the rug and can easily break.

Your vacuum cleaner ought to be well-maintained to be effective. Belts, brushes or beater bars need to be in optimum working order and correctly adjusted for height, and filters and dust bags need to be emptied, washed and replaced regularly. Make sure you use the correct head for the correct carpet – for loop pile carpets or most oriental carpets for example; only suction heads should be used, as beater bars may catch the fibres and give your carpet a hairy appearance.

Delicate silk carpets on the other hand, should not be vacuumed at all, but rather brushed with a medium soft nylon bristle brush.

Wear prevention

There are a number of precautions you can take to reduce wear and tear to your new carpet. These include:

1. Changing the position of your furniture to equalise the wear on the carpet.
2. Shifting your stair carpets can compensate for heavy wear, particularly on the nosings.
3. Where your carpet is fitted up to external doors, use a rug or mat to catch dirt and grit.
4. Outdoor shoes with special gripping qualities, such as trainers, should be worn with care to avoid the soles pulling and tearing at the pile, particularly in turning areas and on stairs.

Carpet wear and tear can manifest itself in many ways – here are some of the most common issues:

- Sprouting tufts: To create a smooth level surface, carpets go through a shearing process. However, it is possible that during this process, some tufts may be missed, and these can over time, work their way to the surface and appear as sprouting tufts. Pets with claws also tend to snag or pull the tufts causing the same effect. Never pull a tuft, simply level it with a sharp pair of scissors.

- Shedding: All newly fitted carpets will tend to shed, which is normal and will diminish naturally over a few weeks. The only efficient way to remove this is by vacuuming, so that the fluff doesn’t get trodden back into the pile resulting in a flat, matted and dull look.

- Visible bands: During storage, carpets are subject to considerable and sustained pressure, and as a result, crush lines may be visible when the carpet is first unrolled. This will, however, disappear within a few weeks of normal use, particularly if vacuumed regularly.

- Shading and pile pressure: Over time, all carpets will flatten to a certain degree and as a result, cut pile carpets will tend to shade. A light, open ground or plain carpet is more likely to show greater shading than a darker, heavily patterned carpet. Shading is caused because the tufts in a new carpet are almost parallel with each and their inclination is regular and in the same direction. Over time, however, in the areas of most use, the tufts will assume a greater slant, exposing the fibre’s sides, which reflect more light than the tips and hence, appear to be lighter in colour. This is a natural characteristic of all cut pile fabrics, which might be rectified to a certain extent with daily vacuuming in the opposite direction of the pile in high traffic areas, and spreading the weight of pieces of furniture over a larger area to minimise dents in the carpet's surface.

- Fading: Carpets, as with other natural textiles, cannot be dyed and will tend to fade when subjected to sunlight. Apart from protecting your carpet from direct sunlight, this cannot be avoided.

- Berber lines: To give Berber and tweed carpets their flecked look, undyed natural wool is mixed with dyed wool, and due to this, there may be a lined effect not seen in a small sample. This is a natural characteristic of these types of carpets and cannot be avoided.

Washing

All carpets will need a proper cleaning after a while. Provided that your rugs are colourfast, they can be washed at home. To test for colourfastness, take a white cloth, spit on it and then rub it on the various colours of the rug. If the colours stain the cloth slightly, you needn’t worry.

However, any significant staining signifies that the colours are likely to run and bleed into each other and the rug will need to be professionally cleaned. If you are cleaning your carpets yourself, don’t use any strong detergents containing ammonia, and use a laundry brush to brush the rug in the same direction as the pile. Then rinse thoroughly with cold water, and dry well away from direct heat. However, for minimum fuss and spectacular results, there are many professional carpet cleaners that offer a hassle-free alternative that will make your carpets look as good as new. – Antonella Desi

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