Cutting Edge Technology

If you’ve owned your rugs long enough to have them cleaned a time or two, you’ve no doubt heard it explained that for centuries, rug weavers and nomadic owners have cleaned their own rugs by beating them with sticks, throwing them in rivers and drying them in the open air on the massive rocks that line the rivers. And while every bit of that is true, a few things were left out. First, the rugs are made to sound as though they’re not only able to withstand this treatment, you’re led to believe they somehow prefer it!!! Second, while cleaning techniques hadn’t changed much until recently, the rugs themselves have been in a quality of construction freefall! From instable dyes, manufacturing shortcuts, painted foundations, mixed construction materials, to designers requests for unusual colors, mass production, and cheaper prices, today’s rug cleaner has to possess far more knowledge than the did generations that preceded us. This is not to say that the techniques were wrong for their time, but with the changes in rugs and the technology available, a cleaner with the option wouldn’t dare to do the things his grandfather did for a modern rug, and an antique rug can be cleaned far more completely and far more gently by using a modern spin on a traditional approach.

The Four Steps of Rug Cleaning

Let us explain. You see the part our ancestors had right was that to clean thoroughly required four steps: dusting, washing, rinsing and drying. But the perversions of that process that exist today are so frightening that we were literally pushed into this business because we couldn’t stand to see what was being passed off as clean by our local rug cleaners.

Dusting – The importance of this can’t be overstated. Before the rug is wet, loose particles have to be removed. Failing to dust or dusting poorly means that particles left in the rug will become sticky mud when the rug is wet and be infinitely tougher to remove. Cleaners have a variety of methods to dust rugs, from a basic vacuum, portable beaters, forced air blown through the rug over grates, or mechanized beaters that evenly beat the back of the rugs as they’re fed through a larches auto mated machine. In our experience, only forced air or a mechanized beater is thorough enough, and that’s all your rugs will see in our care.

Washing – the differences in techniques used here are terrifying. We saw steam cleaning in homes – not only is this ineffective, (obviously! they decided not to dust), but it’s brutal to the fiber of the rug and even worse on the hardwood floor beneath. If your rug cleaner has been using this technique in your home, pour yourself a drink before you pull up the corner of you rug to look at your floor, there’s a very good chance you’re going to find significant and irreversible hardwood damage. We also saw non-steam, truck mounted or portable extraction techniques in the home. Why? Because its easier and you didn’t know enough to protest. The top of you rug will look great, but the health of you rug’s pile and the health of those crawling around on the rug is a different story. But far more common are the guys taking your rug to their shops to do an actual washing… but Buyer beware!!!. While washing rugs far and away a better method, washing rugs comes in many forms. The most common is pit washing. Here your rug is placed in an inflatable pit, submerged, and scrubbed WITH A ROTARY FLOOR SCRUBBER like the one used to polish your high school gym floor. Soaps are pushed into the rug and agitated by the scrubber at high speeds. We both nearly fainted the first time We witnessed a Tabriz put through this. Not only is the fiber being abused by an abrasive scrub head or bonnet but the river current concept that our ancestors relied to push the soaps and contaminants through the rug and out the other side has been omitted by sheer laziness at the rug’s expense. Rest assured, your rug can withstand this, but each time it does it’s remaining life is reduced; partly from the abrasive technique and in part from the amount of chemical and soil left in the rug.

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In some instances, the largest and oldest cleaners in the country possess a true American Masterpiece, the Moore Machine! Few remain of the Ohio-based company’s relics, but they’re nursed along by those lucky enough to have them because they’re gentle giants that are fast and that evenly flush the rug with water to recreate the current of a river and cleanse through the rug as opposed to working over only the surface. And yet, even the great Moore machine has been surpassed in the time since the Moore’s stopped making their monsters in the late part of last century.

Using a Turkish bath, a gentle paddle wheel and 1200 gallons of circulating water, progressive cleaners are able to fully submerge rugs and let the hydraulic action of the water push cleaning agents and water through the rug without any abrasive scrubbing. Not only is the surface cleaned but the pile, foundation and even the backing are decontaminated gently, effectively and completely! This was another ‘must have’ as we drew up our needs list, and it’s the primary cleaning method at Cunningham’s

Rinsing – With a Moore machine, the rinse was achieved with spray nozzles, the drying aided by two rolling pin ringers that squeezed the water from the rug in a reasonably effective manner. For the others not possessing the proper equipment (98% of today’s “experts”), rugs are laid over a pole and rinsed with a garden hose in a dangerous game of Plink-O. You’ll be told “we do this until the water runs clear” with the hope that you’re reassured that if the water looks clean there’s nothing left to get out… But that’s not the case at all! All the undusted ‘mud’, the sticky soap, the loose particles, or in some instances the remaining pet urine or sewage is simply stuck, clinging to fibers while the clear water runs right past. Most of the contaminants cannot be removed with a simple flushing. And, btw, the contaminants and dye bleed that WERE flushed out ran right through your once white fringe…

But this another area where the technology of today has experienced a quantum leap. If your rug cleaner does not rinse your rug with a centrifuge, and 99% do not, your rug may be better left uncleaned than exposed to the old world of dangerous rinsing and drying techniques… We see rugs that come in literally frothing like a rabid dog because of the amount of chemical left in the rug, we see rugs with rotted fringe because the cleaner relied on a drip dry technique and needed to bleach the fringe to hide some of discoloration he’d caused. We see rugs with POUNDS of sand, dirt, and pet hair accumulated over years in spite of topical cleaning. But more than anything, we see rugs with dangerous levels of bacteria all because they were improperly dried in an “old world” way. Not in the open air, on a sun bathed rock in a dry climate, mind you… but in a lazy manner assumed to simulate the old world but instead exposing the rug and its owners to unthinkable dangers. Our centrifuge spins the rug at roughly 1,000rpm. The rug is spun and rinsed with clean water again and again while the contaminants are physically pushed through the rug (not the fringe!) and out the other side through the holes in the walls of the centrifuge. After almost three minutes, 98% of the water is removed and kneeling on the rug in khaki pants won’t yield even a hint of dampness, and your fringe is still original color and softness; no color bleed or browning here!

Drying – With traditional rug cleaner, you rug (remaining contaminants and all) is still dripping wet and will be hung to dry. This will be where most of your dye-bleed and fringe damage will occur. Over the next three days, your rug will be in various degrees of damp, hot (almost everybody uses heat and dehumidification to speed drying times), and in a dark room with other wet rugs waiting to dry. In this bacteria breeding ground, rugs are often exposed to more contamination than they were when it was determined they needed cleaning in the first place. Who knows what was in the rug hanging next to yours, whether or not it was cleaned properly, and whether or not bacteria, mold and mildew is actively growing within it like a Persian petri dish!?

A Cunningham rug doesn’t drip dry! It almost completely dry when it came out of the centrifuge, and will completely dry in the next 12 hours. But with no water to facilitate dye bleed or wick into the fringe your rug is in a far better state. But lets not forget safety. By removing the water so quickly, we’re able to avoid the dangers of traditional drying, and we’ve got the science to prove it! Each rug is tested for bacteria before it is returned, and we’ll happily show you the results.

Call or contact us today to discuss our rug cleaning processes and technologies. We are proud to offer you the finest, safest and most effective rug cleaning in the world and would love to share our passion with you.