Caring For and Displaying Navajo Textiles

Regular Maintenance

  • 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.

Avoiding Pests

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.
  • 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 or plexiglass that is cut just a little smaller than the rug that I’m hanging.  If you are concerned about acid leaching out of the particle board, cover it with washed muslin.   I use self-adhesive Velcro strips on all four sides of the mounting 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.   They are also more vulnerable to humidity which can be an issue if the rug is prone to curling.  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.



Particle board and Velcro mounting for a contemporary rug.


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.

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  1. Mary Walker on January 15, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Since Velcro method supports the full weight of the textile, you can hang it at any angle you’d like.

  2. Jan hauk on January 12, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Will use your velcro method. I am curious if small rugs 2×4 and 3×5, should be hung in a straight up and down position or if they can be hung at an angle (for a little more interesting eye appeal)

  3. Mary Walker on January 4, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    I think that the stretched or board approach will work beautifully. It probably depends somewhat on the size of the weaving.

  4. Darrell Moerch on November 20, 2014 at 7:48 am

    Hi Mary,
    I have a Navajo friend that wants me to make her some picture frames for her Navajo rugs. I understand not to use glass. What would be the best method for framing? Do you have any suggestions on what type of wood is best to use for the frame? Should I use a stretched canvas frame with Velcro for the backing board or a thin piece of hardboard? If I use the canvas backing, where would I get one large enough?
    How should the owner then maintain it after it has been framed and hung on the wall?

  5. […] Navajo Rug on Loom …. Choosing to hang a Navajo textile requires the consideration of several factors including the type of textile yarns and structural condition … Caring For and Displaying Navajo Textiles – Weaving in Beauty […]

  6. Mary Walker on January 10, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Framing an artwork does help to enhance it. What I would discourage you from doing, though is putting the work behind glass because that prevents both sides of the work from being equally exposed to light. There is also a risk of insect infestation on the side that’s not displayed. If it happens, it’s difficult to see until damage has already occurred. The glass barrier prevents the texture of the tapestry from being fully appreciated by the viewer.

  7. Ann-Marie on January 10, 2014 at 8:50 am

    I’m looking to have shadow boxes or frames made for a tree of life tapestry. It’s 24×18. I also have a larger one. We are doing a camp over southwestern style. I’m clueless as to how to display them but I think they will add a really nice touch. I see you recommend velcro, but thought something with the dark cabernet frame would match the rustic beams. Any suggestions??

  8. Mary Walker on December 30, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Jane, what are you doing to wash it?

  9. Jane on December 28, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    I have an Indian rug that I have had by my front door for a few years. Consequently, I have washed it several times. I have now decided it is too nice a piece for that use and want to hang it. It measures approximately 6’x3′.
    I was going to have it dry cleaned until I read your post not to. What cleaning process would you recommend? May I continue to wash it without damaging it any further?

  10. Mary Walker on January 28, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Yes, Julie, it will if you use the wide Velcro and put reinforcing strips at several intervals on the backing surface.

  11. Julie on December 18, 2012 at 8:08 am

    My rug weighs twelve pounds; will the velcro method offer enough support for hanging?

    Thank for your expertise and this wonderful website!

  12. Mary Walker on July 29, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    I suppose that depends on the odor! You can eliminate moth ball odor and mildew by exposing the textile to UV light (direct sunlight) for a few hours. Be careful to turn the textile and don’t leave it there too long!

  13. K. Martinez on July 16, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Your information is very helpful. My problem is with odor from 60-year-old Navajo rugs that have a bad (storage) odor. What to do? Thanks!

  14. Mary Walker on June 15, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Use an iron set on wool. Cover the creased section with a dampened flour sack towel and press the creases.

  15. Carole Baginski on June 15, 2012 at 8:48 am

    I have a 9X6′ Navajo rug which we plan to hang via your Velcro method. It has creases in it from shipping that we want to remove prior to hanging. What do you suggest to remove the creases and fold lines?
    Thank you in advance.

  16. Helen on April 8, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I had wooden “frames” made for my rugs with the velcro hook tape on all four sides. Only the decorative corners or top of the “frames” show around the rug.

  17. Paula on February 27, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    Do you have any suggestions or tips on the best way to hang Navajo Rugs?

  18. Maureen on March 27, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Glad I happened upon your site! This information is especially helpful to me.

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