Caring For and Storing For Antique Textile And Rugs

Antique rugs and textiles have long been a favorite among collectors. They are beautiful objects that can do more to change a room’s mood than a colorful area rug. The appeal of antique textiles is exactly its biggest danger. Unlike an antique table or armoire, rugs are walked on, have furniture placed upon them, and are subject to spills. As beautiful as they are, rugs are exposed to destructive forces most antiques are spared.

There are a number of environmental elements that are working to destroy your prized antique rug. Bright light, moths, humidity, and mold all can mar your textiles beyond repair. In this article we will discuss these threats and methods to combat them.

It is amazing how often you visit antique or rug merchants who fail to protect their rugs from strong light sources. While those high intensity display lamps might make the rug look more attractive and highlights its array of colors. However, that bright light is also fading those colors.

Unless you seal the rug in a darkened vault and never enjoy it you cannot protect the rug from light entirely. You should take whatever precautions you can to limit an antique rugs exposure. Resist the urge to place a spot lamp so it shines directly down on the rug. It may look beautiful but don’t do it. Defuse light by aiming it away from rugs and use as low a wattage bulb as you can get away with.

If a rug is stored or displayed in areas of warm stagnant air and dampness, mold becomes a serious risk to your rugs. Ideal conditions for rug preservation are between 60º and 70º F. with a relative humidity around 65%. If the humidity is much lower than that your rug can dry out and become brittle. This is a particular danger if the rug is already somewhat faded or worn. If it is much higher it encourages the formation of mold. The storage area should also be well ventilated which will also discourage mold growth.

Moths, while fascinating creatures, are a menace to textiles. If you see a single moth in the area where you keep your rugs it is time to act. Where there is one moth there is undoubtedly many, many more. Unfortunately, without using dangerous pesticides, it is impossible to protect your textiles completely from our little winged enemies but there are a number of things you can do to limit the risk. The simplest thing to do is keep the storage or display area as clean as possible.

Moths count on dirty corners and dusty nooks for breeding and dirty fabrics attract moths more than clean one do. A well-dusted room with carefully cleaned textile should have few problems with moths. However, if this doesn’t work you will have to use a chemical insecticide but make sure you find the safest ones possible as some contain chemicals that could be dangerous to pets, children, and others who might lie or sit on the rug. Keep in mind that if your textile is worn or damaged to start with, you probably don’t want to put any chemicals on it yourself. Find a professional who knows which ones will not damage the rug further but also rid it of pests.

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Silas Finch is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Collectible Antiques Etc. He can be reached at Content and Solutions.

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