Rug cleaners and rug owners call me a lot to ask for help with rugs that buckle. They want to know how to fix it.
My answer to this question is… It depends.
There are many reasons for a rug to buckle on someone. Some of these causes are fixable. Some of these reasons are correctable.
Below is a list of the different causes of buckling.
A hand-woven rug will never be perfectly symmetrical. The carpet will always have a slight variation in width and length and a fluctuation in weaving tension.
The quality of a city rug will be higher than that of tribal weavers. The tribal rugs are my favorites because they have more personality and character.
In some weaving centers tribal, particularly in war-torn areas like Afghanistan, consistency can go beyond an exciting weaving feature to be seen as a flaw in weaving in extreme cases.
Afghanistan is one of many countries that experiences this. This is common in many weaving countries. In most cases, they are regarded as unique features of a rug. They are like a few laugh lines or dimples on a smiley face.
You can’t simply remove those dimples or lines with a steam iron. There is no “Rug Botox.”
A weaver, especially one who uses a nomadic loom, may not realize that the rug is “buckling” until it has been completed and removed from the loom. A rug manufacturer may apply a starch-like substance to stiffen it.
It is difficult to reapply to size if it washes out. If you’re buying a new rug or cleaning an old one, pay attention to the back side of the rug to see if there are any problems.
In these situations, you can think of weaving variations as no more than one foot being slightly larger than the others. Imagine what it would take to make the two feet perfectly equal. Now, apply this to the rug. You may need to work an inch more on one side than the other.
This is almost always impossible. You should be realistic about your expectations. You may want to pass on the rug if the variations seem excessive.
Buckling can occur with embroidery, needlepoint, and hooked rugs. This is especially true if the backing material is heavy.
Although this type of weaving is often elegant, it can also be not perfectly symmetrical. When you have two pieces that are not symmetrical, the material backing and the hand-crafted needlework, they can buckle and create waves.
Seam tape may split due to foot traffic or age. It can also break from cleaning. Some fibers expand when wet, while others condense. Some fibers are stronger when they are wet. Others are weaker. Some absorb moisture more and dry slower, while others dry quickly. These variations can cause a seam to split if not handled with care.
Tufted Rugs (Latexed Material Backing)
Latex is used to hold tufted rugs together. Over time, latex deteriorates. It crumbles. This is why it’s often covered with material.
Rugs should be placed on a hard floor, not a soft carpet. Sometimes, a soft surface is the only choice.
A tufted rug will not flex as easily over a soft surface. Woven rugs, where you can see the pattern on both the front and back of the rug, are more forgiving.
Furniture that is too heavy on a rug over carpeted flooring can cause the rug to stretch and, in worst-case scenarios, create holes and tears. You can get waves in your rug with tufted rugs with latex backing.
Once the rugs have been stretched by heavy furniture and the latex backing has cracked and bent, they will be damaged and difficult to flatten again. You can’t return an over-stretched elastic band to its original form.
You can wash and reshape a rug with woven rugs if it has buckles from the furniture. You can use a stiff pad between the rug’s carpet and the floor to protect both types of rugs without putting them directly on a hard surface.
A good rug pad can help prevent people from tripping over your rug if it buckles and moves even on a hard surface. Plus, pads act as “shock absorbers” and prevent rugs from being worn down by foot traffic. They also deter bugs that may want to nestle under wool rugs. Durahold is my favorite pad for rugs placed on hard floors.
Edge Finishing (Machine or by Hand)
The rug can curl if the edges or ends are too tight or overdone.
Curling may occur immediately or after the rug is damp. How the fibers respond to water will determine how much buckling occurs. Some fibers become tighter after being wet and loosen up when dry. It is most evident in oriental rugs, which are very tightly woven. The cotton foundation fibers also tighten when wet. Think about the clothes you remove from the washing machine. Wool items will be more flexible and looser than cotton. Wool face fibers are twisted around cotton warps and weaves in most woven rugs. This can cause buckling when “wet” but will disappear once dry.
When dry, a wool hand-woven rug that is flat when dry will return to its original shape. Don’t panic.
Navajo weavings and those of other American Indian tribes are an exception. The outside wrapping threads, often not pre-washed, are used to weave the rug. These strands can shrink during cleaning and give the impression that the entire rug has shrunk.
The first time you clean a Navajo carpet, the cords on the outside will shrink. This will prevent future buckling. There are also other issues to consider when cleaning American Indian textiles. These include dye migration and wool fuzzing. The rugs are valuable and should be handled by someone experienced in dealing with them.