Do you love your oriental rugs and carpets? If you say yes, then more likely than not, you hope to extend their beauty and useful lives as far into the future as possible.
After all, you’ve made a significant financial investment in a traditional hand-loomed original that fits your unique personality and lifestyle, or you’ve inherited one or more and there exists a deep and abiding emotional attachment. Either way, you probably feel that good care of an artful object matters and that as a good steward of the rug-making craft you are doing right by your carpets to vacuum them regularly.
If so, you may be surprised by what I have to tell you, which is that your housekeeping effort is probably accelerating the demise of your rugs and carpets, generating more dust in the house and costing you more money than you need to spend on upkeep. There is a better method. It’s effective. It’s gentle. And, it’s respectful of our shared resources.
All conservators know that objects deteriorate when subjected to use, atmospheric conditions, insects, microorganisms and the like. The process of deterioration is especially acute in objects, such as textiles, produced from animal and vegetal fibers. As natural fibers age, they become increasingly dry and brittle. When subjected to stress, such as abrasion, wool, silk and cotton fibers break. Fresher fibers, like those found in new carpets, are more resilient and can better withstand abrasive action than old fibers, but all fibers begin to break down when assaulted continuously by the likes of foot traffic, or worse — the modern household vacuum cleaner.
The truth is that modern vacuums, chiefly those with powerful rotating brushes, harm all oriental rugs and carpets, but especially old and antique specimens whose wool fibers tend to be dry and brittle. Pushing and pulling an upright vacuum or canister vacuum wand across a carpet with high speed brushes turning literally breaks off minutely fractional amounts of wool fiber together with the other stuff the brushes are meant to dislodge. The bottom line? Years of useful life are being sucked from your carpet into the vacuum bag or canister. There’s a better way. I promise.
Vacuum cleaners also cause structural damage to rugs and carpets. Their powerful rotating brushes “grab” and tear at fringe and can even rip off critical side selvedge, resulting in the need for expensive restoration.
Too, vacuums dust up household air. Even vacuums equipped with HEPA filters are only as good as the dust particles they trap inside the vacuum. I have been around a significant number of vacuums, but I haven’t seen one whose rotating brushes feed into the vacuum 100% of the fiber, dust, lint and other allergy-feeding rubbish they dislodge. What goes up is breathed in before it settles down.
Yes, the brushes, on some models, can be disengaged. Some vacuums automatically adjust for pile height, or can be adjusted manually to minimize and even eliminate aggressive sweeping action, but pushing and pulling a vacuum in suction-only mode is a chore over thick, plush wool pile and it, too, is invasive.
Let’s face it. Vacuums are cumbersome in use and in storage. They’re destructive. And, they consume electricity.
If you cherish your carpets, vacuum them rarely, perhaps no more than once a month. Then, after two to five years, depending on use and traffic patterns, have a true oriental rug cleaning specialist give your rug for a thorough restorative cleaning. In between the monthly vacuuming regimen, pick up dust and dirt using the method I recommend to all my clients. It will minimize damage to your precious rugs and carpets, reduce the level of microscopic particles generated by vacuuming and save time and electricity; plus, my recommended method is quiet, lightweight, easily stored in a small closet and is less cumbersome than a standard household vacuum.
Sometimes the best solutions to problems are the simplest ones. Certainly this is true regarding the routine light cleaning of oriental rugs and carpets. The simple solution to effective carpet care is the traditional hand-powered, mechanically driven carpet sweeper. Invented in 1876 by Melville Bissell, the manual carpet sweeper is still the most efficient, least invasive, and less costly approach to daily maintenance of oriental rugs and carpets. I insist that my clients get into the habit of using one on carpets they purchase from me.
Essentially, the sweeper is a small dust box on wheels connected to a rotating brush. When the turning brush rubs against the carpet fibers, an electrical charge builds up and it literally pulls much loose material into the sweeper. The turning brush sweeps up heavier material, like sand. The critical difference between the brush that turns by hand power and the brush of the power vacuum is velocity and torque.
Use the traditional hand-held carpet sweeper with electrostatic action and see how it literally picks up dust, pet hair and sand and deposits them with ease into its small, easy to empty bin. It will take you less time to sweep than to vacuum and you will be amazed by the results, as I was when I first experienced the efficacy of the carpet sweeper on surface dust and dirt and realized the added benefits of a low impact, non-electrical approach to oriental carpet care.
Your handmade carpets are more than decorative objects to be used up and cast off. They belong to the ancient traditions of culturally diverse ethnic groups who, in part, express their unique human qualities through their textile objects. Love your carpets and respect their makers by giving better carpet care with and for less. Leave your vacuum in the closet and reach for the traditional carpet sweeper the next time your fine orientals need grooming. It’s a good thing you can do for yourself, your carpets and your local and global neighbors.