1: “Rug Cleaning Expert” Claim
When you’re searching for someone to clean your rugs, you are looking for an “expert.” When you contact regular on-site carpet cleaners or look at their wbesites, many claim to be “Oriental rug cleaning experts.” If you are randomly choosing a cleaner from the internet for your rugs, you must follow up to ensure that the company you are hiring are actually trained in cleaning Persian and Oriental rugs. Just because fitted carpet is “fuzzy,” and so is a rug, does not mean that they are the same and can be cleaned the same way.
Rug cleaning is a specialist craft, and less than 1% of the on site carpet cleaning industry has had any formal hands-on training on how to properly care for Oriental rugs. Just because they have “RUG EXPERT” in their advert or on their website … doesnot mean that they are … and does not mean that they will not ruin your rug trying to guess how to clean it correctly. Don’t let YOUR rug become their “learning experience!”
2: Uninsured Cleaners
Most Cleaning Companies do NOT have specific Liability Insurance for Oriental rugs that covers any damage that occurs during the work being performed. In other words, if a rug bleeds, warps, unravels, discolours, shrinks or fades during the cleaning process by most companies – it is not covered by their Insurance. Considering that many of these companies are surviving from job to job, you may lose not only your favourite rug, but also will have to struggle trying to collect any money to replace it … if it’s even possible to replace it.
It is absolutely vital that you ask any Cleaning Company if they have this specific type of insurance, if you have a rug that has any significant value to it. If the company owner is not sure, then move to the next company – because an owner always knows when they have that additional cover above and beyond their typical Commercial Liability Insurance. Request a Certificate of Proof of Cover if you are nervous about the situation.
3: Bait and Switch “Hand Wash”
Many Cleaning Companies and Rug Galleries advertise that they “hand wash” rugs … even though they don’t hand wash a single piece. In fact, many rugs that come in for a full-immersion hand wet wash (the recommended method) to these establishments actually end up being steam cleaned using Hot Water Extraction carpet cleaning equipment and chemicals. Why? For three reasons:
1)They do not have the correct facilities.
2)They do not know how to properly wet wash rugs.
3)They can steam clean a rug much quicker and much cheaper … so they make more money when they charge you the “hand wash” price.
If you are having an on-site carpet cleaner wash your rugs, then chances are it will be aggressively steam cleaned unless they have a separate division with specialists trained in caring for Oriental rugs. If a rug gallery does not have a cleaning facility on-site, then they are subcontracting their work to someone else … so just make sure it’s a rug specialist doing the work. Ask for any claims to be substantiated, and if they claim that their own mother will wash your large rug with her own hands - ask to meet her. (By the way, even the strongest mum or dad can’t move a wet 12 x 9 Chinese Superwashed Oriental rug.)
The point is, just because they tell you that your rug will be hand washed does not necessarily mean that it will be. Instead they may aggressively steam clean it and pocket the big difference in labour costs.
4: Wash Price Based on “Appraised” Value
This is the biggest rip-off in our industry, and is hopefully only employed by a few unscrupulous businesses. A rug specialist, who has the proper training and experience, has NO REASON AT ALL to charge anything beyond a set m²/ft² charge for his or her work, unless there is a specific surcharge for extra insurance (very rare). Some operatives charge a PERCENTAGE of the value of a rug to clean it. The scam is that they build up the value of the carpet to you first, by saying it’s a wonderful piece and worth tens of thousands of pounds, and that it will only be 10% of the value of the rug to clean it through them. Then they subcontract the cleaning to someone who charges a set square foot fee (often an on-site carpet cleaner) and pocket the difference.
If a rug is worth a thousand, ten thousand, or a hundred thousand pounds, it will essentially go through the same proper cleaning process by a rug specialist, and the only cost variance should be because of size differences or additional services and NOT value differences. When you are asked to pay a percentage, you need to ask why that’s necessary … and then take your work somewhere else. This type of scam gives the rug business a bad reputation which can hurt some of the really good, ethical rug gallery owners that do exist. If extra insurance is charged, you need to ask for proof from the insurers of the extra cover.
5: Rugs Gone “Missing”
People who own rugs that have been passed down in their families do not always know what they have, or what value they may have in the rug market. Though not all antique rugs are collectables that would command a high price at auctions … some are, and the owners may not know that. When a rug owner interacts with a knowledgeable rug trader offering cleaning services … the trader can end up taking advantage of this lack of rug education.
When a rug cleaner tells you that a rug is not worth investing in cleaning, and then offers to give you some money to “take it off your hands” … be wary. If he is very knowledgeable about current rug market values, and he is interested in buying your rug, chances are he will not be up front about the true value of your piece. In the worst case scenarios, I have heard stories of rugs worth several thousands of pounds that have been purchased for a few hundred pounds – because the purchaser convinced the current rug owner that it was not a valuable piece.
Even if you decide not to sell your rug, and to just have the person who made the offer to you clean it, be safe and take a picture of the rug before you release it. Stories of rugs that have been stolen or have gone “missing” are not uncommon, and so you want documentation of what you truly owned. And also verify that the company has insurance.