It's critical to clean  wool carpet the right way

Cleaning wool carpet the right way.

To follow-up on our services about wool, the thought I would look for an expert on cleaning. In the floor covering industry Ruth Travis, is the Director of Wool Safe.   

The WoolSafe Organisation is a resource for information and advice about carpet and rug care and a range of carpet care services to carpet owners, carpet suppliers and the providers of carpet care products.

Ruth you’ve been a part of the carpet industry for a long time, how did you get started? 

Having a degree in textiles, I’ve always had an interest in fabric of all types.  From 1985 to 1988, I managed a Fiberseal office in Chattanooga and started a small cleaning company. Then in 1988, another woman and I started our fabric care service in Chattanooga, Tennessee called Interior Care where we performed fabric cleaning, protection, and inspection and color correction services for clients, interior designers and carpet mills. In 1995 I opened a retail rug store, The Rug Exchange.  I sold my share in the business to my partner in 2001 and shifted my focus to training and instructing in cleaning of rugs, carpet, upholstery and carpet inspection to other professional cleaners.

During that time I became very involved with the IICRC (a certification organization of approximately 50,000 professional cleaners and restorers) serving on the BOD for more than 10 years.  I eventually became the first woman President. After fulfilling my responsibilities as President of the IICRC from 2006 to 2008, I was named the Director of the WoolSafe Organization in North America.  In 2010, I became a consultant with ProCare in Nashville, Tennessee overseeing their new rug cleaning operation.  In June 2011, I moved to Denver to work with Chase Carpet and Rug Care in a similar capacity.  I continue to serve as the Director of WoolSafe.

What is “Wool Safe” and how did it start and what is the connection to the wool industry?

 The WoolSafe® program is actually a threefold program . . . chemical testing, technician training and company verification.  Originally established in 1991 by the International Wool Secretariat (the Wool Bureau in North America )- the WoolSafe® Organization launched an approval program for professional carpet cleaning products and technicians in October of 1998.  There are now more than 160 cleaning products that have been tested and approved for use on wool and other fine fabrics.

The WoolSafe® Fabric Care Specialist Training Course can be found on-line at www.rugladyseminars.com/woolsafena.  It provides rug retailers, professional rug cleaners, facility managers, in-house cleaning personnel, design professionals and others with a convenient and cost-effective means for advancing their knowledge of wool-rich carpet, high-value rugs and upholstery.

Once a student has completed the course, their company is eligible to apply to become a WoolSafe® Approved Service Provider.   The Service Provider’s contact information is listed on the International Registry at www.woolsafe.org/usa, Wools of New Zealand and Housekeeping Channel websites to enable interested parties to find trained and professional cleaners to maintain and clean their fine wool carpet and rugs. 

What changes are you seeing in the wool industry? 

As you are well aware, consumers are turning to more hard surface flooring alternatives for living areas, therefore area rugs have climbed to 25% total carpet production market share in the U.S.  And that figure doesn’t include the imported Oriental and specialty rugs coming from other countries.  If you include these, rugs represent about 30% of flooring. Most of these rugs are made of wool or other natural fibers.

In addition there is a new program coming out of New Zealand to bring more affordable wool carpet to the residential consumer.  Of course wool carpet has been used for years in luxury hotels and professional offices. 

What is the best thing a consumer can do to keep their carpets looking better longer?

Since 75-80% of soil found in carpet and rugs is dry particle soil, vacuuming with a CRI-SOA (www.carpet-rug.org) approved upright vacuum cleaner at least once a week is the best procedure the consumer can perform to maintain their wool carpet or rugs.

What type of cleaning is the best for wool? 

There are numerous methods of cleaning wool.  Choosing the “right” method is based on a number of factors including but not limited to: type of traffic or use, physical condition of the carpet or rug (ie. Antique hand-knotted rug), construction, pattern, style and colorfastness.  A professional carpet or rug cleaner will be able to analyze these items and determine the proper method. 

Should the consumer clean their own carpet? 

I don’t recommend DIY cleaning, especially on wool carpet or rugs.  However, as I mentioned earlier, consumers can keep their carpet and rugs cleaner, longer by vacuuming more often especially in high traffic areas or if they have pets.  Also, there are consumer spotting products that can be used to help maintain the carpet or rug in between professional cleanings.  A list of WoolSafe-approved products can be found on the WoolSafe site @ www.woolsafe.org/usa.  A listing of professional wool cleaning specialists can also be found on that site.   The IICRC also has a list of professionals @www.certifiedcleaners.org.

What should a customer be looking for when purchasing a wool carpet? 

I recommend going to a reputable carpet or rug dealer or interior designer and discussing the consumer’s specific needs: where the carpet or rug will be used? Do they have pets, kids, messy friends?  What’s their lifestyle, etc.? Consumers need to have reasonable expectations when selecting wool carpet.  There are many colors, patterns and styles to consider, but because wool is a natural fiber, it may take a little more care to keep it looking good.  As long as the consumer understands this, they will be very happy with their purchase.

Ruth Travis can be reached at R.L. Seminars, Inc., rugladyseminars.com.

Lisbeth Calandrino is Associate Publisher and Social Media Manager for Fabulous Floors Magazine. She can be reached at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com

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