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by Ruth Travis

R L Seminars, Inc.

I have to admit, I have a passion for rugs; hence the nickname “Rug Lady.” I consider rugs “artwork for the floor.” I owned and operated a retail rug store for five years and became familiar with all types and styles of rugs, both old and new. Unfortunately, living so close to Dalton, GA, the carpet capitol of the world, I couldn’t compete with the “big boys” and finally closed my store. But while in business, I acquired literally hundreds of rugs, several of which I still have in my home. They are not only decorative, they are functional too.

The terms rug and carpet are often used interchangeably. However, the term rug usually refers to a floor covering that is not fastened to the floor and doesn’t cover the floor completely. As the word “rug” is derived from “rugged”; thus the term also suggests a deeper, shaggier pile. A carpet, on the other hand, covers a room’s entire floor and is nailed, tacked or glued to a subfloor.

The history of rugs is the history of humankind itself. Since we humans have a natural desire for an atmosphere of coziness around us, the caveman (or more probably cave woman) felt the need to put the hide of some furry animal on the cave floor for both comfort and warmth. Although we don’t have the same inherent need as our ancestors, a similar inclination motivates us today when we put rugs on our floors.

The use of rugs as floor coverings is almost as old as recorded history. The rug started out as a sleeping mat to provide humans with protection from the elements while resting. At first, animal skins were used and, later, coarse fabrics of an ordinary weave. The rug was also used as a shroud for the dead and a bundle in which to carry possessions and tools. It was an important element for those who were forced to follow after their flocks or herds. It transformed the cold, hard ground into a bed. As populations gradually turned to a more settled life, rugs changed from being private possessions into objects for barter and trade.
Rugs are made of animal, vegetable and in more recent times, man-made fibers. Wool is considered the classic fiber for rugs because it offers a balance of resiliency, durability, cleanability, and economy. Practically all hand-woven Oriental rugs were made of wool, although a few silk pieces were made in the 17th and 18th centuries as prayer rugs. Even camel and goat hair was used. After people learned to weave, they made floor mats from grasses and other plant materials.
No one knows exactly when rug-making began. Textile fragments dating back several thousand years have been discovered all over the continent of Asia. The earliest fabric floor coverings are believed to have originated in the Orient. Egypt is given credit for the beginning of rugs around 3000 B.C. Gradual improvements in weaving and design produced more elaborate tapestry weaves.

The earliest known fabric made with pile is called the Pazyryk rug. It was made around the 400 B.C. and was discovered in a tomb in southern Siberia. Pile fabrics are materials consisting of a strong backing of ordinary weave with extra threads knotted in to form a somewhat raised surface.
The weaving of pile rugs developed in India before the 12th-century a.d. and spread to the rest of the East. In the Orient, rugs usually were made of pile fabrics knotted by hand, although other weaves were employed as well.
Crusaders who traveled to the Middle East during A.D. 1100 and 1200 probably brought rugs to Europe. Hand-knotted rugs were made in Europe by the Saracens of southern Spain as early as the 13th century. Rug making evidently was widespread, because the Moors who invaded France in that century, are known to have founded several rug factories there.
Rug making was a flourishing business in Persia in the 14th and 15th centuries, reaching its height during the reign of Shah Abbas in the 16th century. Isfahan (location?) was the center of the Persian rug industry, which created intricate patterns in rich colors and in deep pile weaves. Fine Persian rugs often had as many as 1,000 knots per square inch. These rugs, as well as those made in Turkey, were imported into Western European countries as early as the 15th century. England started making pile rugs in the 1500s.
During the reign of King Henry IV, 1553–1610, a group of Persian weavers was persuaded to leave Isfahan and work in the Louvre Palace in Paris. In 1628, a carpet factory was started in a former soap factory (savonnerie) at Chaillot, France. French weavers of Savonnerie rugs created designs in vibrant colors on deep backgrounds based on Oriental motifs. Later designs followed French period styles.
During the 1700s, England was the center of the European rug and carpet industry. English inventor, Edmund Cartwright, developed the power loom during the 1780s.
Tapestry rugs were crafted in Aubusson, a small town in central France, which has since become the trade name for carpet and rug designs woven there. In 1825 the factory was transferred to the Gobelin family and is still active. The same name is given also to rugs of this type made at Aubusson and elsewhere in France. Brussels became an important center of tapestry weaving in the 16th century and, by the 18th century, had become one of the principal sources of floor tapestries.
A similar floor covering was developed in the town of Wilton in England. Here, an important refinement in the hand-knotting technique, known today as a “Wilton weave,” was perfected.
In North America, the most common rugs during colonial times were braided rugs, hooked rugs, and rag rugs made from scraps of cloth. In the United States, the first factory for carpet weaving was started in Philadelphia in 1791.
The Jacquard mechanism was invented about 1800 by the French weaver, Joseph Marie Jacquard. Erastus B. Bigelow, a Massachusetts inventor, perfected a power loom for making carpet in the early 1840s. In 1841 a steam engine was harnessed to an in-grain loom, raising daily production more than threefold. The first looms produced carpet about 68 cm (about 27 in) wide, which were cut into appropriate lengths and sewn together. A power loom for producing Axminster carpet was patented in 1856.
In the West until the 19th century, the most common floor coverings were flat-woven fabrics, because few families could afford the more costly Oriental and domestic hand-knotted pile rugs. The demand for hand-woven rugs, whether Oriental or European, continued throughout the 19th century. They were the preferred floor covering in rooms furnished with English, French or Italian furniture.
During the early 20th century, decorating became much simpler. In the early twenties, Oriental rugs went out of style, being replaced by machine-made carpet of a single color, or of an overall pattern. Decorators found it easier to integrate a carpet of one color into a room scheme, rather than a rug with designs that were bold and complicated.
During the twenties, the favorite decorator carpet color was aubergine (eggplant). Aubergine carpeting was popular until the mid-forties when it was replaced by gray carpeting, which remained neutral whenever the room’s color scheme was changed. Next in popularity came beige, which has remained the most popular carpet color even today.
The tufting machine for carpeting was introduced in the early 1950s. By the mid-1950s, more tufted rugs and carpet, rather than woven ones, were being produced in the United States.
Today, rugs are more popular than ever, especially with the reintroduction of hard surfaces, such as wood, laminate, stone, marble and tile in our homes and offices. They come in many shapes and sizes to fit the needs and decorating styles of consumers.
Room-sized rugs are like wall-to-wall carpet and can be used in almost any room. They extend to within eight to twelve inches of the wall, leaving a border of flooring exposed around the room.
An “area rug” is a medium-sized rug used to delineate a section of the room in which particular activities take place, such as dining, music, conversations or games. An area rug can also be a variety of shapes: oblong, oval, square round or even free-form.
“Accent rugs” are smaller than area rugs. They are used primarily to give a touch of color or interest to the floor. Also, they can have a utilitarian purpose, such as a “walk-off mat” at a doorway to keep soil from being tracked into a home or office.
Just like carpet and upholstery, rugs get soiled, and you, the cleaning professional, need to be knowledgeable about them before you attempt to clean them. I hope this brief history gives you a better appreciation and understanding of the rugs your customers may ask you to clean. Knowing the type of rug, the approximate age, the construction and the fiber content will save you a lot of time, effort and possibly money in the future. Because rugs are usually more delicate and more expensive than carpet, you have much greater liability. Be very cautious!


I’m Ruth Travis aka the “Rug Lady” and I’m a “Rug-a-holic.” Of course, if you know me, you already know that I’m quite obsessed with or even “addicted to rugs.” However, if you don’t know me let me introduce myself and explain how I became “hooked.”

I’ve been in love with fabric and textiles all my life and actually received a BS degree in Textiles from the University of Tennessee. In 1985 I was hired as the Manager of a Fiberseal franchise in Chattanooga, TN and without taking any classes, started “spot cleaning” client’s furnishings and rugs. I soon learned that to be a good cleaner, I needed some education. In 1988, my partner, Ginger and I started our fiber care service. Not long after, we began our education through the IICRC and eventually I achieved Master Textile cleaner, Master Fire Restorer, and Journeyman Water Restorer status.

In 1995, I opened a retail rug store called The Rug Exchange. That’s when my true obsession with rugs began. After all, you have to have an inventory to have a store. Right? I owned the store for five years and became familiar with all types and styles of rugs.

After selling my share of the cleaning business to my partner in 2001, I shifted my focus to training and instructing others in the fiber care industry. I eventually focused on Rug Cleaning and Color Repair and even wear “rug themed clothing” when I teach. A part of the rug cleaning course requires the instructor to have at least 60 or more sample rugs to display in the classroom. Of course, that was like adding “fuel for the fire” for me and gave me a legitimate excuse for collecting more rugs!

Over the years, I’ve taken just about every rug related course available in our industry. And although I’m a very good rug cleaner, each time I took a course, I realized how important rug I.D. was to becoming a great rug cleaner. Knowing that blue weft yarns in Persian rugs can bleed, that Afghan rugs shrink like crazy, that many Pakistani rugs have post production side cords that can tear off during cleaning, that Stark wire Wilton rugs MUST be blocked because the jute foundation yarns shrink, and spot cleaning chemically washed 90-line Chinese rugs can cause color damage is very important.

I’ve been to Turkey, Australia and England and, of course, brought rugs home from every trip. I buy rugs on E-bay and Esty, and haunt rug stores for my next “treasure.” Even my friends find rugs for me to buy! Insane, huh? My rug collection has grown exponentially!

In 2013 I took the Master Rug Cleaner course and just last year completed the ARCS Certified Rug Specialist . . . a 5-day, very intensive rug ID course. At the suggestion of my instructor Ellen Amirkhan, to help “cram” for the test (which included visual ID of more than 60 rugs) I created “index cards” which included the name and physical description of the rug. I also took photos of the rugs on my phone. Being able to tie the descriptions to the photo was very helpful. The great news! I passed!!!!!
I’m sure by now you’re saying, “What’s your point, Rug Lady?” Well, Confucius said, “True wisdom is knowing what you don't know.”
If you’re in the carpet cleaning business, I’m sure you’ve been asked by more than one client to clean their area rugs. It makes sense that, if you have the chemicals and equipment to clean their furniture or carpet, you can handle cleaning an area rug also, right? Well, maybe . . . maybe not!!!

Can you properly identify the rug? Do you know how it was constructed . . . machine or hand woven, hand-tufted, hand-loomed or machine loomed? Do you know the fiber used in the pile or face, backing system yarns, filler yarns? Is it knotted, hooked, braid or chain stitch? Colorfast? Will it bleed, or dry or wet crock? What’s the dye system or type? What’s the country of origin? What about age?

There are thousands of different types of rugs being purchased by your clients these days. They can be purchased from discount stores, department stores, over the Internet, from catalogs, furniture stores and carpet retailers, as well as the finest Oriental rugs dealers in your city. They can be made of either natural or synthetic fiber, or even a combination of both. They can be tufted, hand-knotted or woven. They can be pre-dyed or posted dyed. The fringe may be sewn on or may be an integral part of the rug’s construction. The combination of rug characteristics is endless.

Unfortunately, consumers don’t always know what type of rug they’ve purchased. Being able to identify a rug for your client is quite impressive, as well as informative. Conversely, not knowing what type of rug you’re cleaning can be quite costly. It’s up to you as a professional to know what you’re cleaning and the potential limitations or potential problems the rug may have.

Let’s face it . . . the best way to learn a subject is to really, really study it. So in January I challenged myself to create rug ID flash cards not only to help improve my rug ID skills but also as a training tool for my staff and technicians. My goal was to create 10 cards each month for a year. Yep, 120 cards! Whew, I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into.

And if collecting rugs wasn’t bad enough, I now dream about rugs . . . the ones I have in my collection . . . and the ones I don’t, but really need. I scour the Internet for more rugs to buy and then to justify my purchases, make new flash cards. No doubt, I am truly “addicted” to these beautiful examples of “art for the floor!

To be perfectly honest, to be a good rug cleaner you don’t have to be a collector like I am (although I know quite a few who are), but you do need to have good working knowledge of rugs. Taking the time to learn your “profession” will not only keep you from ruining a rug but will also give your clients more confidence in your ability, and ultimately make you more money in your business.


Rug experts agree that in-plant rug cleaning is highly recommended for proper maintenance of Orientals and other loose-laid rugs. They should not be cleaned on location like synthetic, wall-to-wall carpet for many reasons:

  • Rug fibers are very different from those found in residential and commercial broadloom carpet. There is far more natural fiber such as wool, cotton, silk and jute used in rugs than in broadloom carpet.
  • Backings are very different, as natural foundation yarns are more prominent in rugs as opposed to separate synthetic backing fabrics for tufted carpet.
  • Construction is different: woven constructions are most prevalent in area rugs, as opposed to tufting being the dominant construction in the broadloom market.
  • Cleaning technology is different due to the potential for dye migration and fiber distortion.

As all professional carpet, upholstery and especially rug cleaners know, color migration is their worst nightmare. To avoid or prevent a rug from “bleeding” and being permanently damaged a true professional rug cleaner must be knowledgeable of and be able to perform minimum moisture cleaning methods in their rug cleaning operation.

All methods of cleaning begin with dry vacuuming for particle soil removal prior to cleaning. Several options are: 

    • upright vacuuming - Vacuum the rug’s face, back, face until particle soils are removed.
    • “dusting” - Using a mechanical rug beater, or place the rug face down on a smooth surface and securely attach two centrifugal airmovers to each corner.  Gentle flapping action allows soils to sift downward and out of the pile over time.
    •  compressed air “dusting” - Specialized tools may be used in conjunction with high volume compressed air at 110 psi and 100 cfm.  Appropriate PPE (e.g., eye, respiratory protection) must be worn when air washing or compressed-air dusting rugs.

In unusual cases, vacuuming may be the only “safe” cleaning process you can use.

The following is a list of some of the minimum moisture methods I’ve used over the years to successfully clean rugs.  All of these methods are recognized by the WoolSafe Organization when the cleaning solution has been tested and approved by WoolSafe (www.woolsafe.org/usa).

Damp Dusting – neutral detergent sprayed on a clean, absorbent towel.  Hand-wipe or “dust” the surface of the rug.  Repeat as needed.

Dry Solvent Cleaning (hand and machine) - dry solvents dissolve oily binders and dry solvent detergents suspend fine particle soils.  Dry solvent rinse solutions flush suspended soil from the rug.

Absorbent Com­pound - absorbent carrier emulsified with deter­gent, solvents and moisture. The detergent emulsifies oily soils, deflocu­lates particles; suspended soil is attracted to absorbent carrier; excess carrier with at­tracted soil is dry vacuum extracted.

Absorbent Pad or “Bonnet” - emulsified deter­gent in a water‑based carrier is spray applied to the rug; defloculation oc­curs; then a damp (H2O) cotton/rayon bonnet is "spin-buffed" over surface to "extract" soil.  Caution: adequate lubrication is essential to prevent pile distortion. 

Dry Foam – a high-foaming surfactant; neutral or with mild alkaline builder hand sponged or brush or machine application; detergent deflocu­lates and emulsifies soil; drys to crystal; vacuumed from the rug along with attached soil. 

Crystallizing or Encapsulating detergent or surfactant containing embrittling agents. Agitation of the pile with a twin-brush machine similar to the one used in the absorbent compound method or a twin or triple brush rotary shampoo machine. The crystals encapsulate the dirt particles, which are subsequently removed by thorough suction cleaning. Except for spotting there are no other cleaning agents.

Shampoo (Rotary) - foaming surfactant is fed onto a shower‑feed, nylon‑ bristled, rotary brush.  The “shampoo” is created by agita­tion bet­ween brush head and rug’s pile.  Defloculation occurs followed by wet vacuuming; embrittling agents cause shampoo to dry to a crystalline form.

No matter what method a rug cleaner chooses, the ultimate objective of professional rug cleaning is to remove the maximum of soil with the least amount of damage to the rug. Using minimum moisture cleaning methods will help achieve that goal. 

[Ruth Travis holds a degree in Textiles from the University of Tennessee.  She is the immediate past president of the IICRC, an IICRC-approved Senior Carpet Inspector, and an approved instructor in Rug Cleaning and Color Repair.  She is a rug cleaning consultant with Chase Carpet and Rug Care in Denver, CO. She serves as the North American Director of the international WoolSafe Organization – www.woolsafe.org/usa.]


As you may know, I ran a fabric cleaning business in Chattanooga,Tennessee for about 15 years.  And now I’m back working in the “business” again in Denver. I maintained a lot of repeat customers over the years and was very successful.  I attribute my business accomplishments to a few simple things . . . consistently hard work, persistence and trying very hard to avoid some costly mistakes I see other cleaning companies do all the time. 

Those mistakes typically include:

1. No pre-inspection – Inspect to know what to expect.  And then communicate your findings to consumers.  Thorough pre-inspection and documentation of the carpet, upholstery or rug you’ll be cleaning is essential in all situations to avoid a variety of costly misunderstandings with customers.  When damage or potential problems are discovered during pre-inspection, you should document the condition in writing, notify customers and obtain proper authorization before performing cleaning, repair or restoration services.  If you clarify potential problems up front, then when they happen, you’ve given an explanation, not an excuse.

2. Lack of knowledge of fiber type and characteristics:

  • Each fiber type has certain characteristics that affect performance and appearance over a period of time and traffic.  Some fiber characteristics may be blamed on cleaners, if they don’t know what they’re cleaning.
  • An understanding of fibers also allows us to determine how much effort and what cleaning chemicals will be needed to get a carpet clean, and
  • Finally, it allows us to predict whether or not, or how hard it will be, to remove spots and stains.

Probably the classic example is olefin fiber.  In some carpet styles, olefin pile yarns are not very resilient.  When crushed by traffic, customers want to know why cleaning won’t bring them upright again.  Lack of resiliency is simply a characteristic of the fiber.  And then there are wool carpet and rugs, which we find in many high end homes, office and hospitality installations.  Wool carpet often is woven and it is expensive, so you can’t afford to take chances cleaning it.  Wool has specific performance characteristics, and it requires special knowledge of proper cleaning chemicals and pH.

3. Understanding the chemistry of cleaning.  pH is the relative alkalinity or acidity of a water-based solution.  It’s measured using litmus paper that’s colored with an indicator dye:  alkaline solutions turn the litmus paper dark green or blue;

  • neutral solutions turn the paper green, and
  • acid solutions turn the paper yellow to red, depending on their strength.

The problem that cleaners encounter all the time is that, highly alkaline cleaners can cause immediate or delayed or progressive bleeding or color loss in nylon or wool carpet.  They can also damage wool fiber and eventually, in strong enough concentrations, they dissolve wool fiber completely.  That’s not my idea of good customer service!

Now you ask, “Can’t you just neutralize an alkaline residue in carpet by using an acid rinse?” 

Answer: “Not necessarily.”  You see, some alkaline cleaners are buffered.  That means their pH is stabilized, and an acid rinse won’t neutralize the alkaline residue.  Further, some strong alkaline builders are hygroscopic – that is, they attract humidity from the atmosphere, which causes carpet to resoil rapidly after cleaning.  Another bummer.

When cleaning nylon, polyester or olefin carpet, the recommended pH of the prespray or in-tank solution should be 10 or less.  Got that; 10 or less!  Rather than increasing pH to clean more aggressively, consider increasing agitation or dwell time.  Same result, fewer problems.

With wool, I highly recommend a product that has been tested and approved for use on wool through the WoolSafe® program (www.woolsafe.org/usa).  Generally, that means a neutral or slightly acid preconditioner followed by an acid rinse, to leave the wool fiber in its natural state – pH between 3 and 5. 

Oops, I got side tracked . . .I’ll talk more about wool in another article!  Now back to the next big mistake.

4. Choosing an improper cleaning technique – there are numerous methods of cleaning.  In fact I can name at least 10 distinct methods, plus combinations of those methods, that I have used over the years . . . and each has benefits and limitations.  They range from dry solvent cleaning, to minimum moisture methods, to complete submersion. 

A professional cleaning technician should have the knowledge to choose the best cleaning method for the particular circumstance or item being cleaned.  If you don’t have a good understanding of methods, then you need to get some education.  Get to an IICRC-approved certification class now!  Go to www.iicrc.org for a listing of classes in your area.  And don’t be surprised if you have to travel to go to a quality course.  It will be worth every penny you spend.  Promise!

5.  O.K.  Last, but not least.  You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  Well, in this case, I’m advocating just the opposite.  It’s the little things that matter, especially to women.  And if you don’t communicate with your customer both during the job and afterwards, and with a follow-up call, you’ll wind up with a very unhappy customer. 

For example, if you just couldn’t remove a two-inch stain in the middle of the living room carpet no matter what product you used, then explain that some stains are permanent.  Give your customer an analogy: compare it to stains on clothing.  I promise, she’ll understand and appreciate the fact that you took time to talk to her.

Bottom line, there are a number of simple things you can do that will make you more professional, effective and safe in your cleaning practices, as well as help you have a more successful business.  And, by the way, if you’re a trained, contentious, professional, you deserve to be paid well for your services.  Believe me your customers understand that concept!


I love pets.  As a “kid” I grew up with dogs, cats, horses, cows, ducks, chickens and even quail.  At one time I was “supporting” thirteen outdoor cats (I’m a sucker for strays), two indoor cats, three dogs and two horses. 

I also love rugs.  I owned a rug store for five years and have accumulated quite a few Orientals and other wool and synthetic rugs that cover the hardwood and tile floors in my home. Unfortunately, rugs and pets don’t mix!  No matter how careful I was in keeping my pets out of certain rooms, accidents happened. 

The following statistics were compiled from the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey.


  • There are approximately 77.5 million owned dogs in the United States
  • Thirty-nine percent of U.S. households own at least one dog
  • Most owners (67 percent) own one dog
  • Twenty-four percent of owners own two dogs
  • Nine percent of owners own three or more dogs
  • On average, owners have almost two dogs (1.7)
  • The proportion of male to female dogs is even
  • On average, dog owners spent $225 on veterinary visits (vaccine, well visits) annually


  • There are approximately 93.6 million owned cats in the United States
  • Thirty-three percent of U.S. households (or 38.2 million) own at least one cat
  • Fifty-six percent of owners own more than one cat
  • On average, owners have two cats (2.45)
  • More female cats are owned than male cats (70 percent vs. 65 percent respectively)
  • Cat owners spent an average of $203 on routine veterinary visits

These stats are good news for the professional cleaner, since animal urine odor, stains and discolorations are reported as one of the most common consumer complaints with textile furnishings.   You can make a lot of money in your cleaning business by becoming a deodorization and decontamination “expert.”  Just keep in mind, however, that dealing with urine problems is never as simple as pet owners thinks or some product manufacturers claim! 

Years ago – 1989, I think – Dr. Steve Spivak wrote a classic article entitled “Pet Peeves.”  His insightful comments then are just as true today. 

Two things to remember:

  1. Foremost, it’s the pet owner and their “darling” pet that are responsible for damage resulting from pet “accidents.”  Don’t assume the blame when you can’t make your customers’ furnishings look or smell like new!  The stain or discoloration was there to begin with and is purely their fault, not yours.  As a professional cleaner, you can attempt to clean, deodorize or remove spots and stains, and/or recolor the fabric; but if your actions can’t remedy the damage, that’s unfortunate.  It’s the pet that caused the problem, not your effort to improve a difficult or impossible situation.  Cleaners are not responsible for circumstances beyond their control, although many times, pet owner try to shift that responsibility to them. 
  2. There are some great products and procedures available for professionals to use for decontaminating and deodorizing, but remember there is NO magic one-step treatment or product that you or your customer can use to completely eliminate pet stains or odor.  When the fabric has been stained or discolored from the pet urine, it takes a lot of time and effort to attempt to reverse the damage. 

Why?  Because urine components have the ability to stain (dye) and/or bleach (discolor) fibers, especially fibers like nylon or wool.  Don’t forget, when theses fibers are manufactured they are contact-dyed with acid dyes.  When urine, feces or vomit are first excreted from the body, they are highly acidic, just like the dye solution used to fix color on nylon and wool fiber.  If customers act quickly, removing urine's yellowish stain can be accomplished with almost any cool, neutral detergent solution.  If they don’t act quickly – and who has time to follow their animal around all day - then more complex oxidizers and professional techniques usually are required to remove the stain.   Keep in mind also that the color of the stain can be affected by the age of the animal, the amount of water, and food or medications it has ingested.

Further, if the contaminating substance has not been diluted, neutralized and extracted quickly, then as bacteria in the urine multiplies and produces enzymes, the deposit becomes highly alkaline (smells like ammonia, doesn’t it?), and actually “bleaches” color from fibers.  It’s the ammonia that causes the loss of color in rugs, not necessarily the presence of the yellow pigment in the urine itself.  The loss of dyes caused by prolonged exposure to ammonia is another story entirely. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the yellow color can be removed with a simple cleaning solution.  Correcting color loss caused by alkalinity can only be accomplished by adding color or spot dyeing fibers.

O.K.  So how to we solve the customer’s problem?  First, you must locate all areas of discoloration.  Discolorations from animal urine may show up readily under high‑intensity inspection lights.  Black (ultraviolet) lights also may be used quite effectively.  Ultraviolet light causes urine salts to "fluoresce" and glow brightly.  Their major drawback is that the room you're inspecting must be fairly dark.  To avoid having to inspect for urine exclusively after dark, close the draperies or blinds, or alternatively, invest in some black plastic sheeting that you can tape temporarily to the customer’s window or door frame.  Remember, too, that if the customer has been using household spotters, like Resolve®, optical brightener residues that these products leave behind may be mistaken for extensive animal urine damage.  Urine usually reflects a yellow or yellow-green color, whereas optical brighteners glow white or blue-white.

Once you’ve pinpointed the areas of concern, it’s time to begin the decontamination process.  Here’s the step-by-step color restoration procedure I teach in my Color Repair class:

  1. Thoroughly clean affected areas on the rug both front and back. Then, flush spots completely with water.  I highly recommend that you use a “Water Claw®” spotting tool to extract as much moisture and contaminant as possible.
  2. Ensure that the urine spots have been properly neutralized with an acid spotter.
  3. Rinse again.  A mild oxidizing bleach may be required to remove residual yellowing from the urine deposit.  Be careful working on natural fibers!  There are products available that have been specially formulated for wool and silk.
  4. Check pH of the affected area to ensure that it is between 4 and 7 for nylon or wool rugs.
  5. Adjust your dye bath to between 2-3 in pH; then, evaluate the amount of color loss or gain.
  6. Find the missing primary color or colors to determine what color is required in the dyeing process.  Make the appropriate dye bath by mixing dyes in concentrate and then adding them to several ounces of hot water a little at a time until the desired shade of color is reached.
  7. Apply missing colors one at a time, using either an eye dropper or an air brush.  Start in the center of the color-loss area and apply the dye sparingly in a circular motion.
  8. Ensure that dyes penetrate all the way to the primary backing.
  9. Feather dye into the area surrounding the color repair spot and blend the color into the outer perimeter of the spot.  Start light and deepen the color as needed.  Don’t over-apply color to avoid a dark ring.
  10. Apply any toning dyes or finishing dyes after the missing primary color(s) has been replaced to dull the color to the proper level of intensity.
  11. After the dye repair is performed, use a groomer to align carpet yarns.

Now that you’ve cleaned, neutralized and repaired the discoloration in the rug, there’s a very important basic fact that you and especially your customer must understand.  It con­cerns the territorial nature of animals.  If animals are present, urine will be present.  It is very likely that the animals will return (even after deodorization and recoloration) to remark their territory!  It's simply part of their psychological makeup.  If the animal smells his peculiar scent, he's happy; otherwise, he's not.  Never guarantee urine stain removal, discoloration correction or odor removal if the animal is still present in the home!

Now let’s discuss discoloration from mold.  Since mold is not water soluble, it may create a stain in carpet that may be bleached safely with hydrogen peroxide.  Just like urine, the bacteria that feeds on the waste products of mold off-gases ammonia.  Ammonia can remove color from carpet or rugs, causing a discoloration that requires re-dyeing.  The steps for repairing the discoloration are basically the same as for urine or feces.  However, keep in mind that the mold may have “digested” the rug’s cotton or wool fibers causing permanent damage.  In this case, the only solution is to repair or reweave the damaged area. 

So, are you ready to tackle color correction for rugs?  Not as easy as it seems, is it?  Before you jump into this lucrative add-on service, I would highly recommend you get more intense training at an IICRC-approved certification class . . . specifically, Rug Cleaning, Odor Control and Color Repair Technician.

[Ruth Travis is a 25-year veteran of the cleaning and restoration industry.  She has served as an industry volunteer in many capacities, including as President of the SCRT and the IICRC.  She is an IICRC-approved instructor in color repair and rug cleaning.  She currently serves as the WoolSafe® Director for North America (www.woolsafe.org/usa) For more information go to:  www.rugladyseminars.com.]

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R. L. Seminars, LLC
WoolSafe North America
437 Alfred Ladd Road East
Franklin, TN 37064

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