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  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2005

    Caring for old Navajo Rugs

    Craftistas -

    I've been lurking about for a while, but I thought I'd poke my head out since I figured that y'all might have some thoughts on the topic.

    I've inherited four old Navajo rugs from my aunt who died a few weeks ago (metastatic breast cancer, not nice). They have been in the family since someone-or-other purchased them out west in pre-depression days. Two are small (sampler size, maybe?), one is a bit larger, and one is medium sized - about 5' by 8'. I was all set to take them to the dry cleaner, when I decided to google them and was warned away from it.

    The rugs are in pretty good shape (some uneven wear/fading from the way they were folded) and I don't think they need to be professionally restored, but they do smell like smoke since my aunt smoked and need to be cleaned before I can display them.

    Of course, one website touts handwashing as the best way to clean the rugs (and they offer such services, of course, but to get an estimate you have to ship the rugs to them), while another says that you should NEVER have the rugs hand-washed under any circumstances "no matter what you read on the internet" because this is v v bad. Instead, they suggest (maybe) dry cleaning but only by a non-automated, specialist who is familiar with the care of antique Navajo rugs. I'm in WV - so there aren't many Navajo rug specialists right around the corner.

    Can anyone help me figure out who's right and how to get the smoke smell out without damaging the wool and dye?

    Once they're cleaned, I also need to come up with a system for display. I've read that velcro won't damage the rugs - is that true? I also found a site that offers rather handsome looking "rug huggers" that are "PRESSURE ACTIVATED allowing the rug to be supported evenly without damage to the fibers." They're a bit above my ordinary budget for extras, but not outrageous and for rugs like these... probably worth the investment. I'd love anyone's thoughts.


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  3. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    yay area
    do NOT take this matter into your own hands! please!!!! try checking with a local antique dealer to refer you to a specialist, even if it's not an antique. in the meantime, just try to air them out outdoors the best you can. a gentle beating wouldn't hurt, either.

    i saw once on antiques roadshow an old farmer man that had lived a very hard life. he had inherited a very old navajo rug and it turned out to be worth over $20,000.00. you could tell that it was one of the best things that ever happened to him in his life!

    whether or not it is antique, mistreatment could seriously damage the rug and its value.

  4. #3
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Don't worry - I'm not planning on doing it myself, I'm just trying to figure out whom to hire or where to send the rugs (and whether or not I can afford it).

    I did find someone who'll give me a verbal appraisal of the rugs for a reasonable price and I plan to ask him about how to wash and care for the rugs. Thanks!

  5. #4
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    What a great thing to have! I'd suggest getting in contact with the Museum of Northern Arizona, - they may have conservation info on hand or perhaps they'd be willing to consult with you? If they are not helpful, maybe I can find a personal contact...a good friend of mine used to work there.

    I've worked on some old quilts and seen advice to fasten pantyhose over the attachment on a vacuum cleaner and use that as a gentle way to remove dust.

    Good luck on a neat project!


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