Water Damage on an Oriental Rug
The beauty of an Oriental rug can be destroyed forever if proper care is not taken to protect the rug from long term exposure to water. Most varieties of Oriental rugs have a wool pile and these rugs can be cleaned and dried thoroughly by an oriental rug cleaner and never have any problems. Sometimes you may have some unstable colors to deal with but if the rug is being cleaned by a knowledgeable rug cleaner they should be able to control that in their wash process. So the normal cleaning and washing process does not harm a rug, however here are some instances in which water could harm your rugs.
Many rugs have cotton warp and wefts. The warps run from end to end on the rug and are what make up the fringe of a hand knotted rug. The warps are also what the knots are tied to creating the pile. The weft runs over and under the warps and between rows of knots. This gives the rug strength from side to side. This cotton foundation can be weakened, and sometimes actually rotted, if the rug stays wet for an extended period of time without being properly dried.
In our oriental rug cleaning plant, we commonly see such damage from potted plants being placed directly on a rug. When the plant is watered either the pot leaks or the plant is over watered and some drains out the bottom of the pot and the rug under the pot stays permanently damp. Within a couple of weeks the foundation of the rug can become so weak that chunks of the rugs pile can be torn from the area by hand. If you put a potted plant on or near a rug, put it on a stool, or something that is up off the rug. This will let you see under the pot and make sure the rug stays dry as well as allowing for ventilation.
Another form of water damage would be caused by using a rug directly over a damp concrete floor. Even though the concrete floor is not noticeably wet to the touch, there can be enough moisture to allow the warp and wefts to degrade. A concrete slab sitting on the ground will naturally have water vapor coming up through it. If a rug is laid directly on the concrete, then the rug can absorb the water vapor coming out of the concrete. Over time this will affect strength of the rug's foundation. A rug that has this kind of damage will often feel peculiarly stiff when moving it around. The rug could be so stiff it would make it difficult to roll. A rug with this kind of damage will also have cracking and popping noises when the rug is creased or folded. This noise is actually the warp and weft fibers breaking. As a note, rugs placed on top of tile, wood, or even carpet do not generally have these problems.
The good news with any of these damaged rugs is that an experienced rug repair person can reweave the dry rotted or damaged areas of your rug, thus allowing you to be able to continue to enjoy your rug for years.