Storing Your Rug
July 08, 2019
Posted by D. A. Burns
As summer approaches more people are telling us they want to store their rugs for the season, and clients often ask if they can store their rugs in the plastic tubing we use to keep their rugs clean for transport back home. Even though our plastic tubing is perforated to equalize humidity levels, we can’t recommend storing your rugs in plastic. A rapid change in temperature or external humidity can cause moisture build-up within the rug and the perforations that allow the plastic tubing to “breathe” can also allow entry for damaging insects. The best storage option will depend on the type of rug, where it will be stored and how long it will be stored.
Storage By Type Of Rug
Synthetic pile rugs don’t attract pests, so your storage preparation can be as simple as using a drop cloth for dust protection and preventing direct contact of your rug with a concrete floor. Synthetic, machine-tufted and hand-tufted rugs that use latex as an adhesive element in their construction may turn yellow with long-term storage due to latex off-gassing. This will typically go away after a few weeks or months of exposure to sunlight–but not always.
Any rug that has a stiff backing should not be rolled for storage. Bending or folding a stiff rug can cause permanent ripples or even breaks in the backing. If the rug is even temporarily stored on saw horses or another uneven surface, the “high spots” may become dents in the backing. These will appear as lumps in the rug and, depending on the rug’s backing, the condition may be permanent.
Typically rugs are rolled with the nap inside the roll. If the rug is rolled against the lay of the nap (starting from the darker end) it becomes easier to handle when rolled. Some rug types that are backed with a loosely sewn-on fabric backing, or have been assembled using a hot glue adhesive, will require rolling the rug with the face fiber out.
Hand-knotted and soft reversible rugs may be folded, or folded and rolled, to make them easier to store. Be aware that fold lines may take some time to “walk out” when put back into use. Never stack anything on top of a folded rug as there is a possibility of making a harder crease that will require professional blocking to remove. (Refer to our rug “tri-folding” instructions.)
Where To Store Your Rug
Rug storage areas to avoid:
- Attics subject to potentially damaging heat.
- Outbuildings and unheated storage lockers due to the possibility of humidity problems.
- Garages and basements due to moisture rising through concrete floors.
Short-term storage throughout a home improvement project, or for the summer, may require nothing more than putting the rug under a bed or in a closet…anywhere temperature and humidity will be fairly constant.
Longer term storage, especially for wool rugs, will require some level of preparation, as the most likely damage will come from moisture, rodents and/or bugs.
If the rug is not soiled, start with a thorough vacuuming. Even synthetic rugs are more attractive to pests if they can detect anything that could be a source of food. If soiled, this may be a good time for professional cleaning.
Moisture and Temperature
Any textile needs to be stored where temperature and humidity levels remain fairly constant. Textiles absorb water in the air when humidity is high and temperatures are low and release moisture when humidity is lower and temperatures higher.
An attic may get very hot. Heat will tend to draw humidity from the rug, and if the rug is stored in plastic or other material that doesn’t “breathe” well, water vapor will condense on the inside of the wrap. The condensed water, in contact with the rug, can lead to damaging dry rot. This can also occur if a plastic wrapped rug is placed in direct sunlight.
Condensation in plastic
Heat can also “age” or accelerate the drying out of latex adhesives, shortening the lifespan of your rug.
A barn, garden shed or unheated rental locker can have wide swings of temperature and a higher humidity level than inside a home. Sometimes a rug (especially wool rugs) can absorb enough additional moisture that dry rot damage occurs.
Garages and basements have concrete floors, and a concrete floor is a little like a hard sponge; moisture is constantly moving through the concrete from the soil below. If that moisture can evaporate into the air and then be vented to the outside it doesn’t create a problem, but if a stored rug is in direct contact with the concrete floor, the rug will block the air evaporation and absorb the moisture on the underside of the rug leading to...dry rot.
More Details About Dry Rot
If your rug makes a crackling noise when rolled or it smells musty, these might be signs of “dry rot”. The fungus doesn’t harm wool or synthetic yarns so damage isn’t noticed until a musty odor becomes apparent or the rug is moved. Often the face and back of a hand-knotted rug will look fine, but the common cotton or jute backing foundation of most hand-knotted Oriental and machine-woven rugs are food sources for mildew. Sometimes the weakened foundation fiber will allow an otherwise undamaged section of the rug to just fall out.
The term “dry rot” implies that the damage occurs in the absence of moisture, but exposure to moisture for weeks or months is required for a fungus to damage plant-derived fibers. Dry rot in a rug is typically caused by ground water in a basement or an unnoticed plumbing leak, or a potted plant that sits directly on the rug. Dry rot can also occur just from continued high humidity or improper storage. Sometimes a pet stained area will build up enough urine salts to draw moisture from the air and remain wet enough to sustain mildew growth, even in otherwise normal conditions.
If you notice either cracking sounds or a musty odor, please let us know when you’re having your rug cleaned. We can apply an antimicrobial treatment to kill the mildew, and can reinforce the weakened areas before cleaning to minimize further damage.
Dry rot from pet stain/repair
Dry rot that doesn’t show and dry rot from garage floor storage
Even if you don’t use your barn or out buildings for rug storage, critters may be able to get into your rug. Judging by what we’ve seen over the years, the inside of a rolled rug seems to be a popular nesting spot for rodents. It seems that rodents rarely work at getting through even a lightweight protective barrier, if they can’t sense food or warmth behind it. Even if they could chew through the protective barrier, wrapping the rug is important to keep them out.
Stored wool rugs can provide the perfect feeding ground for moths and beetles. Undisturbed and dark inside the roll, a wool rug can be subject to a high degree of insect damage in as little as a few months. Since wool-eating insects can smell their food through a wrapping – and they prefer soiled wool to clean wool–they will work to find a way in. Even if your rug is well-wrapped, insect eggs may have been previously deposited, which is one of the reasons professional cleaning before storage is recommended.
The material chosen for the wrap needs to have “pores” to allow for changes in humidity, and those pores need to be small enough to keep insects out. All creases, folds and edges need to be taped securely closed.
Wrapped and taped rug
For more information, please refer to our previous Carpet Moths blog.
Materials To Use For Rug Storage
We wrap rugs for storage in Kraft paper. It breathes well, is easy to tape and seal, doesn’t cost a lot, is recycled material and easily recyclable. Paper can be torn though, so if rough handling may be part of the storage process, using some type of fabric may be needed. A painter’s canvas drop cloth, a bedsheet, or any fabric that has a tight enough weave to keep the bugs out will work.
If a rug will be placed with a moving and storage company it may be best to use Tyvek for the wrap. Tyvek is a woven synthetic fabric used as a breathable moisture barrier in construction. For rugs 9’ x 12’ and smaller, Tyvek storage bags can be found online. Larger rugs will require purchasing bulk Tyvek, with a downside that you usually have to buy more than you’ll need and it isn’t easily recyclable. Be aware that some “rug storage” materials sold online are just regular plastic and are appropriate for protecting a rug during a move, but not for storage.
Clients with multiple rugs in storage, or those that have a rug collection that they rotate into use, often ask how they can identify one of their wrapped rugs. No complicated tagging and computer archive is needed, just take a picture of the rug before rolling and tape a copy to the wrapped rug.
As always, if you have questions, drop us a note or give us a call. By the way, after cleaning at D. A. Burns, we can apply a treatment that repels wool-eating insects and can wrap rugs in paper for storage.
P.S. Be aware that many web pages about antique textile storage are only mostly correct. For example, several reputable museums recommend the use of plastic wrap for storage to protect against flood damage. The only protection against flood damage is to keep your rugs out of the flood water, and if they do get wet, get them dry quickly. Read rug storage suggestions with care.
More Details About Tri-Folding and Rolling Your Rug
If you have no place to store a long, rolled rug (a 9’ x 12’ rug will be 9’ feet long when rolled) you may be able to fold and roll it into an easier-to handle package. This technique is called tri-folding, and should only be used for rugs that are soft, flat-woven or hand-knotted rugs. Folding could cause damage to a rug with a stiff backing.
Step 1. Lay out the rug on a clean, dry surface.
Step 2. Fold either side over about one-third of the width.
Step 3. Fold the other side over to overlap the first side fold.
Step 4. Roll the rug, making sure you tuck the folds in so the roll doesn’t get wider.
Step 5. Tie the tri-folded rug with strips of fabric.
String or twine ties may leave creases when a rug is rolled and stored in this manner.
Now you have a roll that is approximately three and half feet wide. Avoid stacking other items on the stored rug, as the weight may make it more difficult to any remove wrinkles. When the rug is returned to use, it will have soft folds that disappear with a little time in use.
To inquire about our cleaning and rug repair services, or request a service proposal, contact us today.