Rug StorageI recently bought a house from a widower who had remarried. His new wife didn’t want stuff from the house that he’d shared with his first wife in their new home, so he gave me first dibs on many valuable things — among them a 9-by-12 beige wool rug with a pretty pattern of flowers, leaves and vines. After unsuccessfully trying to pawn the rug off onto each of my daughters, I realized that I’d have to store it away.

Now I’m a maven on many subjects, but the care of valuable rugs is not — or was not — one of them. I surfed the web assiduously for advice on proper rug storage, but I didn’t find information that I deemed trustworthy — at least not all in one place.

In the course of searching, I learned a lot about bugs that damage carpets. Did you know that there are at least three different kinds of carpet beetles? It’s not the adults but the larvae that attack carpets. Moths are another carpet menace to be reckoned with when preparing natural fiber rugs for storage. Bugs can’t eat synthetic fibers, so you don’t have to worry much about them when storing rugs made from nylon, polypropylene (olefin), acrylic or polyester — except for the fact that it would be inconsiderate to transport any bugs that had been making their living on food spills and/or pet dander on a rug in your home to a storage facility.

Dirt is another enemy to carpet fibers. It needs to be removed before a rug is placed in storage. Most carpet cleaning services recommend having rugs professionally cleaned prior to being stored. Why wouldn’t they? If you have a valuable rug, it’s probably a good idea. You can wash a rug yourself, but it’s difficult to manage, especially if it’s a large one.

Dampness is another threat, since it promotes fiber-destroying mildew. Having learned all this, here’s what I did to get my wool rug ready for storage:

  1. Vacuum the rug on both sides. I laid down a couple of strips of wire-mesh fencing on my driveway, took the rug outside and laid it face-down on the wire to keep the rug out of direct contact with the pavement. First I vacuumed the back using the beater bar attachment. As I was flipping the rug over, it was interesting to see how much dust and dirt had been deposited on the grid. I vacuumed the good side of the rug in the same way.
  2. Wash the rug with a gentle detergent. I wetted the rug with a garden hose and mixed some Woolite in a bucket of water. I scrubbed the face of the carpet gently with the detergent solution and a soft nylon brush, then rinsed with water from the hose.
  3. Dry the rug thoroughly. I used a wet/dry vacuum to extract as much water as I could from the rug, then I got a friend to help drape it over a patio table and chairs so that air could circulate all around. It was a warm, clear summer day, and the rug dried in about 10 hours.
  4. Spray with insect repellent. To render the carpet fibers unappetizing to bugs, I mixed a solution of 4 parts water/1part vinegar in a spray bottle and applied it to both sides of the rug. I let the rug dry for another couple of hours. Some experts also advise spraying with a proprietary insect repellent such as Off! or Repel.
  5. Roll the carpet into a cylinder. I had learned that it’s better to store a carpet rolled up, rather than folded. To roll a carpet correctly, it’s important to roll from the “bottom” to the “top.” To find the bottom, run your hand over the fibers to determine which direction is “with the grain” and which is against. Follow the direction that is with the grain to the edge, and start making a tight roll from there. It’s okay to roll most carpets with the pile inward, but one expert says that silk and older, fragile wool rugs are better rolled with the good side out for less strain on the foundation.
  6. Wrap the rolled carpet for storage. Most rug cleaners wrap finished work in brown craft paper — never plastic — to protect rolled carpets in storage. The paper breathes and allows moisture to escape. But I decided to wrap my rug with house wrap — the material applied underneath siding in construction projects to protect sheathing from moisture infiltration. House wrap is more tear-resistant than paper, and it’s selectively permeable, so it allows water vapor to escape. I threw some moth-repellent crystals into the package before taping it up.
  7. Store the roll off the floor. Experts say that it’s best to store carpets in a climate-controlled space and better to store a rolled carpet standing on end rather than laying it flat. In any case, they recommend storing carpets off the floor to keep them from getting wet in the event, God forbid, of a flood. The ceiling in my storage room wasn’t tall enough to allow me to store the 9-by-12 rug in standing position, so I laid it horizontally on the bottom shelf of an array that’s attached to the storage room wall.

More than one expert recommends checking and fumigating rugs that have been left in a storage facility before bringing them back home. But with the preparations I’ve made, I’m pretty confident that this pretty rug will be in good shape when one of my girls is ready for finer furnishings.

Michael Chotiner is a home improvement expert who writes about rug storage, floor care and other homeowner topics for Home Depot. Michael has a background as a general contractor and his rug storage tips are based on his many years of experience in the renovation field. To see the large selection of new rugs available at Home Depot, visit the website.

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