How to Prevent Rug Bleeding

Colorful Persian rug on cherry wood floor

Area rugs are a great way to add color and character to a room. They break up visual monotony, make the space more comfortable, and provide an air of sophistication that's hard to beat. That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that even high-quality area rugs are prone to color bleeding if they are not cleaned by professional rug cleaning services. But what exactly is rug bleeding and what can you do to prevent it? In this post, the team at Steve's Carpet Care & Restoration tackles the vexing problem of rug bleeding.

Five Reasons Why Rug Bleeding Happens

Rug bleeding, sometimes referred to as "dye migration", occurs when the fibers in a rug release color when they get wet. This color often migrates to other parts of the rug - particularly white or light-colored areas - where it can cause discoloration. Rug bleeding happens most often in rugs with intense colors such as red, blue, and black. But while rug bleeding is fairly common it does not have to be inevitable.

Let's look at five reasons rugs bleed and then look at some ways you can prevent it from happening.

Dyes that aren't colorfast

Oriental rugs in particular are often made using traditional methods and pigments. That's one of the things that make them so desirable. At the same time though, traditional pigments are not always colorfast, and flooding a rug during cleaning can cause the colors to bleed.

But it's not just expensive hand-woven rugs that are susceptible to bleeding. Sometimes manufacturers add excessive amounts of color to inexpensive rugs in an attempt to make them look richer and more luxurious. More on this in a few moments.

Harmful cleaning methods

There is a right way and a wrong way to clean area rugs. Especially Oriental rugs. Dry cleaning is certainly the wrong way while steam cleaning is bound to make a mess the rug may never recover from. Likewise, attempting to clean an Oriental rug at home using a can of rug cleaner you bought at the store is asking for a truckload of trouble.

Commercial carpet cleaning products are intended for wall-to-wall carpeting that is often made from extremely hardy, artificial fibers that contain very little color and are usually all one color to boot. So even if some of the color bleeds as a result of the rug cleaner, it's almost impossible to notice.

Excessive amounts of dye

We alluded to this in reason #1 and it's true. Manufacturers of inexpensive throw rugs often add excessive amounts of dye to the fiber in an attempt to give the rug a richer, more luxurious look. And for a while, it might work. Until that is, it comes time to clean the rug.

In such cases, unless you are extremely careful or you hire an expert rug cleaning service, it is likely a fair amount of that excess dye is going to bleed out, muddying the rest of the colors and ruining that luxurious effect. To be sure, a certain amount of bleed is to be expected the first time a rug is cleaned. Even if it is a very expensive genuine Oriental rug. But not so much bleed that it would alter the look of the rug.

Water Soluble Dyes

Rug makers, particularly those who make imitation Orientals or other less expensive rugs, will often use whatever dye is available to them. In some cases that means water-soluble dyes. Water-soluble dyes are just that, meaning it will be very difficult to prevent them from bleeding, especially during the first few cleanings. Water soluble dyes are the most difficult bleed to prevent and fix. It's as simple as that.

Unfortunately, it's also nearly impossible to tell if a rug is made using water-soluble dyes until you try to clean it. Experienced carpet cleaning companies like Steve's will know how to test the rug for colorfastness before they attempt to clean it. One more reason you should always seek out professional rug cleaning services.

Frequent Pet Accidents

We love our pets even when they make a mistake and relieve themselves on the carpet. Forgiving them is easy, but cleaning up after them sometimes is not. If your rugs receive regular doses of pet urine it can cause the colors to bleed. This is true even if the rug was made using colorfast dyes. That's because pet urine is corrosive.

When left unattended on the rug it will cause an acidic stain that will become alkaline with time. Once that happens the colors in the affected area(s) will bleed and there will be permanent damage to the colors of the rug. The only way to prevent pet accidents from morphing into permanently damaged rugs is to clean up those accidents as soon as they occur.

How to Reduce the Chances of Color Bleeding

Color bleeding is a vexing problem but the good news, as we said at the beginning of this piece, is that it doesn't have to be inevitable. To help ensure your area rugs retain their beauty and value for years to come all you need to do is keep the following tips in mind:

  • Clean up after your dog or cat immediately - We can't tell you how many people we've talked to whose area rugs were ruined by pet urine. Most of those people were completely unaware of the danger caused by pet accidents and often took only cursory steps to clean up afterward, like covering the affected area with a paper towel. Some even wait for the pet urine to dry thinking it will be easier to clean. But if the urine is allowed to dry the damage is already done. Clean up quickly and thoroughly.
  • Don't expose your area rugs to direct sunlight - UV rays are the sworn enemy of area rugs, furniture, wall-to-wall carpeting, artwork, and more. The power of UV rays to destroy the bonds that hold dyes to the fibers in your rug should never be underestimated. If you want to help ensure the colors in your rug don't fade or bleed, keep those rugs out of direct sunlight.
  • Always have your rugs cleaned by qualified professionals - This is probably the most important item on this list because if you try to clean your area rugs yourself or you take them to the wrong cleaning company chances are good you're going to regret it. Top professionals will accurately assess the type of dyes and fibers at play and determine the best, safest way to proceed to minimize or even prevent color bleeding during the cleaning process.

Trust Your Area Rugs to Our Rug Cleaning Services

We have been helping the people of Westminster, Boulder and nearby communities keep their homes and businesses looking great for over 45 years. If you have area rugs and you are worried about color bleeding let the carpet cleaning professionals at Steve's clean them for you.

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