Ben Tavakolian, Persian Rug Cleaner of Dallas
Ben Tavakolian’s family has been in the rug business for three generations. His staff coddles fine Persian, Turkish and Oriental rugs, washing them by hand and drying them in the sun.
But a rug that’s well cared for won’t need the full professional treatment more than once every four to five years. Here are some tips:
Clean with care: “Everything you need is in your house,” he says. “Don’t use heavy-duty carpet cleaners. Use what you use for yourself – a soft soap or dish detergent that leaves your hands soft.” Wool fibers are filled with lanolin, an oil that’s a built-in repellent; strong cleaners remove it.
“Your rug may look cleaner right afterward, but it will get dirty again much faster because the natural protection is gone.”
For spot-cleaning, carefully wipe up what you can. Then use tap water to dilute whatever remains and blot it with a paper towel. If it’s stubborn, add a few drops of that gentle detergent or soap to a cup of plain water, wipe with this solution and blot the spot up with clean white towels.
You can clean the whole rug with a pile of white towels and two buckets – one full of plain cold water, the other half-filled with water to which you’ve added some liquid soap.
Going with the nap (the direction in which the rug feels smooth when you run your hand over it), work in 2×2-foot blocks, following these four steps: dampen lightly; soap lightly; dampen lightly again; let dry.
Take it to a pro: Tavakolian and his team follow the same basic technique. Up to six men will turn even the largest rug to follow the same procedure back and front, then dry it outside in the sun. The exposure to ultraviolet light “does miracles to rejuvenate the oil,” he says.
The treatment, which costs $3 to $5 per square foot, removes sharp, microscopic particles of pollution that cause drying and abrasion. They use mild shampoos tailored to the various types of wool fibers coming from different breeds of sheep in different areas.
Bad dog: Pet stains are best handled by the pros, who use enzymes that neutralize the bacteria in urine and other deposits.
Moths: Moth damage also requires professional help. Fight moths by moving the large pieces of furniture that sit on your rugs and cleaning their undersides.
“Moths want to nest and lay eggs in cozy spaces without light, noise or air circulation,” Tavakolian says. “Under your sofa is a good place.”
A cheap vacuum is your friend: A fine wool rug’s very worst enemy, according to Tavakolian, is “Mr. Vacuum Cleaner.”
“The housekeeper and the husband want to do a good job, so they go back and forth, back and forth, and damage the fibers. You don’t need an expensive, two-stage vacuum with a beater brush and heavy suction. A cheap, low-power one is better for your rugs.”
Even better is that oldest of household staples, a plain straw broom. Start at one end of the rug and brush in the direction of the nap, moving backward so you don’t step on what you’ve just gone over. Then lightly vacuum up the dirt and dust you’ve loosened.
For a final touch, smooth the fringe at the ends of your clean rug, which should remind you of Tavakolian’s mantra: “No rug is a carpet, so it can’t be cleaned the same way.”
Harriet P. Gross