safe to wash a navajo wool rug?

posskatSeptember 26, 2011

i have an older (30's era) navajo rug, 3'x4', which is a bit frayed on the edges and has a few repairs on it. am wondering if i should attept to wash this in my new fl machine on the wool setting. it desperately needs a wash, but i'm a little gunshy.....

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Cavimum

If you do, use tepid to cold water and a good wool-friendly detergent (no enzymes or oxygen bleach) and do not use Woolite as it is not wool-friendly in spite of its name. Even simple baby shampoo would be fine, really, but NOT in a FL washer as the sudsing would be horrendous. Wool is a protein fiber and shampoo is very safe, if you wash it outdoors as I suggest below.

If you wash it in any machine, it could come out horribly wrinkled from the folding it would experience in any washing machine. And the baby shampoo would be a no-no.

Do you have a deck, or sloping driveway? You could wash it there, you just need some 'fall' for the water to run off and allow the rug to drain. After it is reasonably drained, drape it over a deck railing or lawn furniture so it can dry from the underside, as well.

--> Mix some baby shampoo or wool-friendly detergent in a bucket of cold water, approx. 1 Tbsp. to a gallon or two of water, and apply it with a broom and gently sweep it in, then rinse thoroughly with a garden hose. That's how someone I know was told by a rug dealer to wash his wool oriental rugs, and they came out fine.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 11:18AM
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asolo

Beware of color bleeding no matter what you do. There's no telling what manner of dyes may have been used. Could be fine. Could be very disappointing. Don't ask me how I know this.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 11:49AM
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Cavimum

@asolo - good point. Wash at your own risk.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 11:56AM
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posskat

good advice; i can use our rail fence; i think that would be safest

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 12:29PM
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nerdyshopper

A navajo rug is a prize possession for me. Some are quite valuable. Unless you are just tired of yours I would just spot clean it by hand to see what happens in a small area. If that goes well, wash the whole thing by hand. Choose your soap carefully. Some like Woolite and some don't. The rug is small enough to handle in a stationary tub.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 8:16PM
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posskat

wash in tub, hang on fence. why didn't i think of that? yes, i do love my rug, and don't want to chance wrecking it.
thanks for the tips.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 10:50PM
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dianne47

I spent many years working on the Navajo Nation. Rugs are cultural treasures, especially one as old as yours. You should consult an expert before you even spot clean your rug. I'm sure if you attempt to machine wash it, you can expect to destroy it.

The yarn in your rug was probably colored with natural, vegetal dyes. They will not do well being washed. I would recommend talking to someone in the textiles department of a major university or museum. Your rug is probably very valuable and you don't want to chance ruining it.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2011 at 12:56AM
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cohoss

I know I'm horribly late on this discussion but wanted to add my recent knowledge in the area. Last holiday season I discovered -- to my horror -- that we had an infestation of textile moths. It was so severe they had eaten almost completely two 5x7 and larger old Navajo rugs and started in on many others. Many of the rugs were a total and complete loss. We took the rest to a professional cleaner who specializes in Navajo and oriental rugs so salvage what we could.

They use cold water and a garden sprayer in a room dedicated to cleaning the rugs (like the driveway technique referenced above). They didn't reveal their cleaning solution (I didn't ask) but did talk a lot about how careful you have to be to avoid colors bleeding and ruining the rugs. They are also dried in a special manner (blocked professionally) to help preserve the shape and nap of the rugs. It was very expensive to clean the remaining rugs but in the long run totally worth it. We had the rugs in the house for 40 years with no moth problems and in the course of 6 months we lost some of our most treasured family heirlooms.

I did wash a very small, inexpensive Navajo rug in cold water in the tub and the colors ran on it. Thankfully it was cheap enough that I didn't mind donating it.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2011 at 9:58PM
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MarkinAZ

NO! It is not safe to wash these yourself if you don't know how to do it to prevent bleeding and color fading completely. Navajo rugs are usually made of wool and hot water, or too strong detergent could ruin them. Also, some of the smaller hand made ones can be worth a fortune. (Like 5 and 10 grand or more.) Have the one you own checked out by a pro if you don't know where it came from. Collectors pay major bucks for these things and the older and rattier they may appear to you, the higher prices they'll bring! (True if they're very old and an unusually rare pattern, etc.)

    Bookmark   November 28, 2011 at 11:33PM
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