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How to clean silk rugs

A material found in luxury floor coverings including modern and hand-woven Oriental rugs, silk is valued for its multiple desirable properties.

Crafted with exquisite patterns, motifs and colours, silk rugs are a favoured choice by owners of well-appointed homes seeking to enhance the elegance of their rooms.

While it’s true that the appearance of silk rugs is a large part of their charm, their natural materials and fine craftsmanship also make them popular investments. However, for rugs to retain their worth as well as their look and feel, expert care is required to maintain and preserve them for generations to come.

In this in-depth article, we’ll take a deep dive into these graceful luxury rugs exploring silk as a material, but why it requires considerable attention during cleaning. We’ll discuss some of the standard practices for keeping silk rugs in good condition at home, and how experts in silk rug cleaning in Essex and other parts of the UK can be relied upon to return them home refreshed and cleaner than ever before.

Understanding the nature of silk

As a material, silk is an all-natural protein fibre.

It is produced at the point when the larvae of the silkworm form a cocoon. Silk is mainly composed of fibroin, making it among the most robust natural fibres open to weavers. It is also known for its outstanding property of refracting light, which allows rugs woven from silk to produce a shimmering effect.

Exceptionally soft but also extremely strong with unique qualities that make it catch the light, it isn’t hard to see why silk is a such a sought-after material when making expensive luxury rugs.

Common mistakes when cleaning silk rugs

There are several common pitfalls that silk rug owners can fall foul to when they attempt to take on the task of cleaning.

It can’t be advised strongly enough that obtaining help from a service that understands the specific needs of silk rugs is always the best policy for those wishing to protect their investment. However, the following practices should be avoided at all costs.

Chemical-based cleaning products should not be used to clean a silk rug. It is extremely important that enzymatic cleaning agents are never used. Enzymes present in such products are designed to break down protein-based stains, and as silk is primarily made of protein, such cleaners can digest the rug’s fibres causing considerable harm.

Cleaners that contain chlorine bleach can also be disastrous for silk rugs. They will result in colour loss and can destroy the rug’s fibres.
Regardless of how mild the cleaning product you use are, silk rugs should never be soaked without a dye fix, as colours present can run together, impacting the attractiveness of the rug.

Silk is a natural fibre, and as a result, is sensitive to heat. When exposed to higher temperatures, silk can shrink or lose its lustre. For this reason, hot water shouldn’t be used to wash silk rugs, and to remove moisture after cleaning, air drying is best.

Excessive moisture is also harmful to the fine fibres of silk rugs. As a result, rugs should never be steam cleaned or soaked.

How the rug is handled during cleaning is also crucial. Never rub, scrub or wring out a silk rug, or you’ll risk damaging the fine fibres. Additionally, never stretch or bunch the rug, or you may permanently alter its shape.

Home care methods for keeping silk rugs clean

Given the minefield of mistakes you can make, it’s understandable why the best approach to cleaning silk rugs is to always enlist the aid of an expert.

However, making sensible decisions and performing preventative rug maintenance can help you extend the intervals in between professional deep cleans.

Rug placement, for instance, can help you protect your rug. With an understanding of their sensitivity and in-depth care needs, it is unwise to ever lay a silk rug in a high traffic area of your home, or in areas where food and drink is consumed to mitigate the issue of stains.

Regular rug cleaning will also help prolong how long your silk rug remains in good condition. There are two main methods suitable for removing surface dust and debris from a silk rug: vacuum cleaning and sweeping.

When vacuuming your silk rug, employ a brushless suction head to extract dust. If you use the roller or beater brush attachments, they can rip out fibres from the rug, reducing its pile and causing lasting harm.

When sweeping silk rugs using a broom, apply a gentle motion with as little pressure as possible to avoid inflicting damage to the fibres.

Can you remove stains from a silk rug?

While home remedies can be used in an emergency, the lowest risk solution for tackling a spill or stain on a silk rug is always consulting a professional cleaner.

In many cases, personal attempts at removing a stain can make matters far worse and render the issue impossible to fix, even for an expert in luxury rugs.

When a spill occurs, you should gently lift any solid matter to stop it clinging to the silk fibres. With a spoon, carefully collect the solid particles present. Scoop rather than scrape to avoid any harm to the rug.

Removing all the solid matter is essential before tackling the stain, as any particles remaining will get worked into the rug’s fibres when you clean, making it worse.

Liquid stains should be handled with a soft, clean cloth. You should never rub at stains, but instead, use a dabbing motion and rotate the cloth to a clean part when it becomes soiled. This will stop you replacing the unwanted matter.

If necessary, use multiple cleaning cloths. Rather than soaking your cloth, consider using a spray bottle to minimise moisture and avoid harming the silk fibres.

How do professionals clean silk rugs?

Silk as a material has been used in the making of rugs for many thousands of years, and produces some of the finest and most beautiful rugs in the world.

Silk normally sees use in the weft, warp and pile construction of rugs, but other fibres can often be substituted in different parts of the rug’s construction. While silk is respected for its strength, expert cleaners understand that silk rugs must be cleaned gently with careful consideration. They also typically require an additional grooming stage to ensure their pile is always soft to the touch.

At the Rug Cleaning Studio, we have been called on to care for many silk rugs, and are experts in their unique needs. With an in-depth understanding of silk as a material and its use in rug construction, we have established a specialist studio equipped with carefully engineered solutions that guarantees your rug is retuned to you clean, fresh and free from any unpleasant odours.

After we have collected your silk rug and brought it to our studio, our first move is to inspect it and perform a dye test. Many handmade silk rugs get their beautiful hues from natural dyes, but these can be unstable and, when cleaning occurs, dyes can become washed out or bleed into others, muddying rug colours and spoiling their appearance. When unstable dyes are present, we prevent this problem by adding a dye fix that locks colours in place, reducing bleeding risks.

Floor coverings can amass vast amounts of dirt and dust over time, and silk rugs are no exception. Rather than using brooms or vacuums, we vibrate rugs with 40,000 miniature harmonic vibrations per minute. This non-invasive technique is a gentle and assured way of removing dry soiling that has built up in the rug without causing any harm.

With a dye fix applied, silk rugs can be safely cleaned using water mixed with a mild cleaning solution to loosen more ingrained soiling. No chemical cleaners are used, nor high-pressure water jets, avoiding any damage.

When silk rugs contain fringes, these are cleaned manually and meticulously to remove any tangles. Detergents are then flushed out of silk rugs using softened water in our rug washing pool, which replicates time-honoured traditional cleaning methods used to safely wash silk for hundreds of years. For consistent results, we have updated the process with a controlled and contemporary environment.

Smells and stains are attended to next. Whether from pet accidents or homes with smoke, odour contamination can make rugs unpleasant to share a room with. We use an effective bacteria-killing treatment that extracts unwanted odours, leaving your rug fresh and clean.

Stubborn rug stains are all treated separately at no additional cost using professional products that get results.

As mentioned, silk rugs benefit from additional grooming. As a result, at this stage, we will hand-groom your silk rugs to ensure it is soft to touch. We will also ask you if you would like us to apply a stain protection product to your silk rug. This invisible layer of defence can help safeguard your rug against potential accidents, and extend the time in between professional deep cleans.

Silk and excessive moisture don’t mix, making the rug drying stage of prime importance. Our studio is well equipped with a rug centrifuge for spin drying, and a specially designed dehumidified rug-drying room where it can be air-dried appropriately.

Do you need silk rug cleaning around Cambridge, Newmarket, Ipswich, Essex and Colchester?

Silk luxury rugs are often astonishing artworks, but need proper care to remain in pristine condition. Our experienced team understand the kind of care that a silk rug needs, and can be relied upon for a first-class service. Experts in cleaning expensive rugs, we regularly reinvigorate rugs with a value of up to £10,000.

To learn more about our process or to book a collection and clean for your silk rug, reach out to us today at the Rug Cleaning Studio.

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