- Surface clean your Navajo textiles regularly using an upholstery or other non-brush vacuum attachment. Rugs used on the floor should be vacuumed and turned every couple of weeks. Rugs displayed on the wall should be vacuumed every couple of months or at a minimum with the change of the seasons.
- Do not beat or shake textiles; this can damage the warp threads.
- Use a pad under rugs used as floor coverings.
- Roll rugs for storage; do not fold them. Use acid free archival materials to wrap rugs which will be stored for long periods.
- Turn rugs periodically to expose each side to light equally.
- Blot spills and stains immediately and contact a professional regarding appropriate removal.
- When thorough cleaning is needed, look for a professional trained in proper cleaning of Navajo and Oriental rugs. Do not dry clean. I clean rugs at a rate of $6 per square foot. You can contact me for more information on the process.
If you’re in a situation where you have to store your rugs or if they’re displayed in a seasonal home, you’ve got to be really careful to avoid infestations. If you’re storing rugs, roll them and make sure that any wrapping is acid free. I like to store textiles in air tight containers, which keeps critters from getting in and restricts the air available to them. I love the Container Store. You may want to consider pest strips that are impregnated with an insecticide called dichlorvos, one being a product called Pro-Zap. Dichlorvos is used widely in control of pests around livestock and in flea collars. I use it only in containers and closed cupboards where I’m storing wool or eliminating an infestation in a rug that I’m fixing. The strips last about four months, so they make a good solution for seasonal homes when used carefully. I’m not a big proponent of insecticide, but used judiciously it can help you avoid large and expensive problems.
One of the most effective ways that you can keep moths and other pests away from your collection is to never, ever bring raw wool into your home. Quite frequently, the moth eggs are already there when the sheep is sheared. If you don’t process the wool right away and the wool sits in a nice dark bag in your nice warm house, you’ve got a nice moth nursery. Store unwashed wool outside, try to process it as quickly as you can, and be very suspicious of any handspun textiles or yarn that you buy. It’s usually a good idea to wash those thoroughly as quickly as you can. I’ve purchased several handspun rugs that some wool that was spun in the grease, which is charming, but a magnet for dirt and bugs and I get them washed as soon as I can.
Something Bugging You? Dealing with Insect Infestations
It’s happened. They’re flying! They’re crawling! They’re holding hands in your best Two Grey Hills rug. This is one time in life where a little panic and fast action is OK. Ruthlessly search for the source of the problem. You may decide to discard infested items, but if you’re not going that route, follow the steps below to eliminate the pests and go on with your life.
- Vacuum the item with using an attachment without a brush. This will remove surface larvae and eggs. Discard the vacuum cleaner bag or empty the vacuum and remove the contents from your home. Do this each time you vacuum during this process.
- Wrap the item in plastic or put it in a plastic bag and put it into a freezer for two weeks. What you’re doing is stopping the carnage by killing any larvae that you missed with the vacuum.
- On a nice sunny day, remove the item from the freezer and put it outside in the sunlight for two to three hours on each side. What you’re doing is using the ultraviolet rays in the sunlight to kill the eggs that might be present. Vacuum once again with an attachment that does not have a brush.
- Return the rug to the freezer for another 48 hours to kill any larvae that may have survived.
- As a final step, consider sealing the item in a plastic bag or airtight container with a dichlorvos strip like Pro-Zap (discussed above) for about two weeks to eradicate any remaining eggs. Vacuum once again when you remove the item from the container.
- Put the item on a regular maintenance schedule and watch for any signs of continuing problems.
Flaunt it! Displaying Your Navajo Textiles
Using a Navajo textile on the floor is pretty simple. Use an appropriate pad and enjoy. There are some rugs that aren’t woven as floor coverings, but that’s pretty obvious. Most questions that I get about display involve how to hang a rug. The answer basically is one word: Velcro.
New rugs will adhere right to the hook side of Velcro. You don’t even need the loop side. I use a piece of particle board that is cut just a little smaller than the rug that I’m hanging and use self-adhesive Velcro strips on all four sides and two or three down the center. This supports the rug without much or any strain on the warp. People sometimes ask if this damages the wool when the rug is removed for cleaning and rotation and the answer is that I haven’t observed any problems. Of course I’m careful when I take the rugs down; I’m not ripping them off the wall and I’m not doing it ten times a day. I’ve also seen rugs hung with one strip of Velcro at the top, but I this leaves them loose on three sides where they can get caught by passing jewelry, clothing, people and pets. I also think that it’s harder on the warp threads over time. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t need support.
You’ll find that many older rugs have lost the fine hairs that allow them to adhere to Velcro. There are also some collectors who don’t like to press the wool directly onto the Velcro. In that case, you can carefully hand sew the loop side of the Velcro to one side of the textile to attach it to the board. Don’t even think about using a sewing machine for this or Spiderwoman will haunt you and so will I if I find out about it. Once again, you should support all four sides of the weaving. This is the method that most museums use to display textiles. It takes awhile to do it and has the disadvantage of not allowing you to turn the textile to display both sides and even out the exposure to light. You’ll need to be conscientious about vacuuming the side that faces the wall on a regular basis.
Another hanging solution that you may see is a decorative rug hanger that clamps the fabric between two pieces of wood. I’m don’t recommend these because they put a lot of strain on the warps and they crush the fibers at the clamp, leaving a permanent dent at that point. Collectors are also tempted to put especially fine pieces in glass frames. This is a bad idea in several ways. First, only one side of the textile is exposed to light. Second, insects can do significant damage before you can see it. Third, the texture of the textile is obscured by the glass. A better framing solution is to use a pre-stretched canvas and attach the textile to it with, you guessed it, Velcro and then place the canvas a frame as you would a fine oil painting.
Because it’s kind of hard to find 2″ wide self-adhesive Velcro strips in small quantities, I have it in the Mercantile at $1.60 a foot. Click here to go to the Mercantile to buy it. We’ll try to ship it within 24 hours. If you elect to sew the loop side of the Velcro onto your rug, you can find it easily at craft and sewing stores like Michael’s and JoAnn.