Most typical homes undergo two types of cleaning, the routine daily (or weekly) chore and the less frequent efforts sometimes referred to as Spring cleaning. Kilim rugs should also be cleaned routinely, along with the rest of the house, and be subjected to more thorough cleaning at longer intervals. In olden days rugs were hung across a wash-line and beaten on both sides to dislodge the dirt and grit, a method still highly regarded, and still practiced in many parts of the world, but mostly impractical under modern urban living conditions. Today, most routine cleaning is done by vacuuming, called ‘hoovering’ by the British. Three main points to note when vacuuming a kilim area rug are: don’t use high suction settings, vacuum on both sides, and don’t vacuum the fringe since with repeated applications some of the fringe may be torn off.
Less frequent periodic cleaning consists of washing the kilim rug, and the consensus of expert opinion suggests this should be done every three to five years or…”when a rug begins to look dirty”. These Western authorities, presumably addressing their compatriots, advise sending kilim rugs out to be washed by professional services specializing in this type of work, not dry cleaners or general cleaning companies who often use chemicals that can cause damage. These are safe recommendations with which we find no quarrel. We would be remiss, however, not to share with you some “secrets of the trade”, the knowledge and practices of Turkish housewives who grew up with kilim rugs, having learned from their mothers and grandmothers the cleaning procedures they still use. In a survey we did among experienced housewives to find out how they do it in practice, we found very few variations in their methods, and when we asked if they were not worried about the bleeding of colors all respondents expressed complete confidence in the color-fast qualities of their kilim rugs.
The procedure followed is to place a kilim rug on a flat surface, then wash it with a relatively condensed solution of grated pure olive-oil soap dissolved in cold water. This solution is then run through the kilim rug with a) the edge of the palm of the hand, b) the rounded upper edge of a wood scouring brush (the type where the bristles are embedded in a wood body by which the brush is held in the hand, i.e., without a bristle-free handle), and c) a medium-sized cooking-pot lid with rounded lip. In applications a) and b) the soap solution is run through the kilim rug along its length without using too much pressure, in relatively short strokes, with each stroke overlapping the previous one. In this way the dirt is loosened and moved progressively toward the end of the rug. In application c) the reported movements are circular/oval, but gradually progressing toward the longitudinal rug end. These procedures are repeated approx. 3-5 times on both sides of the rug and repeated again several times with clean rinse water to get the remains of the soap out of the kilim rug. For drying, the kilim is never hung but laid out on a flat surface - preferably slightly inclined - and left, alternating both sides to the sun, until thoroughly dry.
The methods described above are still used not only in Turkey but in many other parts of the world, but the contemporary metropolitan kilim owner will probably find it more convenient to send it out to be washed by a professional, qualified cleaning service. In that case make the job easy and bring it to Rug Ideas for a professional deep cleaning!
Dr. Khosrow Sobhe (Dr. Kay)
Certified Rug Specialist (CRS)