How to Care for your Navajo Rugs
Navajo Rugs are extremely durable. When well-cared for, a Navajo rug can last for a hundred years or more. Many of our antique weavings were woven in the 19th century, and many are still in excellent condition. Read below for recommendations on cleaning, display, and storage of your Navajo weavings to ensure they stand the test of time. These suggestions were compiled by Bill Malone from the Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona. When properly cared for, your Navajo weavings can be passed onto your children and grandchildren in the same condition you now enjoy them.
Click here to more about the history of Navajo rugs, how they are made, and how to select your weaving.
Never wash, steam clean, or iron a Navajo rug. Some rugs will have fold marks when purchased but these will come out naturally over a period of time after they are mounted or allowed to lie flat. Never shake a rug to clean it as the whip action can break the fibers.
Rugs should be lightly vacuumed on a regular basis. When vacuuming a textile, it is recommended to use a non-brush attachment. Make sure to avoid sucking the corner tassels into the vacuum. For a floor weaving, place your foot over the tassels when vacuuming the corners.
Most light stains and dirt can be dabbed clean with a damp cloth. Be sure to avoid getting the rug wet as this can cause dyes to bleed (particularly red dyes into white). Rugs should only be dry cleaned in an emergency; for example, if there is a severe stain. Repetitive dry cleaning will remove the natural lanolin oils from the wool and is not ideal for the long term preservation of the Navajo weaving.
After years of floor use, a weaving may need to be washed. We recommend using a professional textile cleaner who specializes in Persian, Oriental, or Navajo weavings. If a professional cleaner is qualified to clean Persian rugs, then they will also be able to safely clean your Navajo rug. Persian rug cleaning companies can remove all types of stains and there are also services to restore weavings that have been damaged. There are many qualified Persian rug cleaning companies across the world. If you are unable to find one in your area, feel free to contact us and we can recommend one.
Sunlight is a major factor in the deterioration of Navajo rugs. Direct light can fade the colors of the rug and intense sunlight can structurally damage the rug fibers over time. It is best to keep textiles away from direct sunlight, spotlights, and other sources of bright illumination. Even if displayed in indirect sunlight, a weaving's colors may fade to some degree. To ensure that the fading is uniform, rotate and turn the rug over on a regular basis. One to two times per year is typically sufficient. Regularly flipping your rug, and vacuuming, also prevents moth activity.
A weaving's dye sources are a factor with fading. Weavings with vegetal dyes will typically fade faster than weavings with aniline dyes or natural wool colors. This should be taken into consideration when selecting the area to display your weaving.
Moths, and also crickets and carpet beetles, can quickly render a major investment worthless. The treatment of Navajo rugs to prevent moth damage is a matter of some debate even among experts.
Regularly inspecting and vacuuming your rug every month or so is perhaps the best preventative measure and should largely eliminate moths and their eggs. Mothballs are sometimes suggested as a treatment for infestation. However, this can result in lessening the lanolin content in the textile.
One recommended procedure, in the event you have an infestation in your rug, is freezing. Wrap the rug carefully in plastic to prevent damage from condensation and place it in a freezer for at least 24 hours. This procedure will kill any moths but there is some question if it will kill their eggs. The normal hatching period of moth eggs is about 18-20 days. Because of this, the procedure should probably be repeated about 25 days after the initial treatment.
Dry cleaning will kill a moth infestation but the treatment outlined above (freezing) is a far safer, non-chemical solution. Any chemical treatment of rugs can potentially result in a deterioration of the fibers over a period of time.
For everyday prevention, we recommend keeping a moth trap that attracts moths through pheromones in the room where your weaving is located.
If you intend to use your textile as a rug and place it on the floor, some type of padding should be purchased. We recommend a pad with a non-slip rubber bottom and a felt top that will grip the weaving and keep it laying flat. If you would like a pad recommendation, please contact us. Just like wall-displayed weavings, we recommend flipping the rug occasionally to ensure even wear on both sides.
Most textiles purchased today are hung rather than placed on the floor. This minimizes the potential of staining that can occur or damage from pets.
In our experience, Velcro is the easiest way to hang a rug. If you purchase a Navajo Rug from Garland's and wish to hang it on a wall, we will provide you with an appropriate amount of 2" self-adhesive velcro tape for free.
Please note, some antique weavings with less “fuzz” may not stick adequately to the Velcro. In this case, we recommend using carpet tack strip to hang your weaving.
Read our Full Guide on How to Hang your Navajo Weaving
If you own a number of rugs and some require storage, be sure that they are rolled rather than folded. Rugs should be rolled in the direction of the warp threads. This prevents creasing. If possible, wrap the exterior of the weaving(s) with cotton cloth.
The weaving(s) can be kept in a chest or closet. Cedar chests do prevent moth and insect activity. You may choose to use mothballs. Mothballs can be hazardous to people and should be used with caution. Mothballs should never be left in an open container and should always be used in a well ventilated area. The mothball vapors are heavy and they should be placed above the weavings. Never let the mothballs touch the rugs.
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