People in our neighborhood love handmade rugs. They also love pets. So if you think about it, heartbreak and tragedy are pretty much written in the stars above our otherwise happy village. I may be more conscious of this drama than most, because I repair rugs. In Dave Eggers’ book “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” about a young man raising his brother after their parents died, the most heartbreaking part for me was the description of the fraying rugs, needing only a little work, but doomed to neglect.

When I walk around my neighborhood in the evenings, I sense impending disasters behind the serene lighted windows. I know that somewhere a cat is poised to pounce on and claw at a defenseless loop in an American hooked rug. (This is all the more tragic because the domesticated American house cat is probably the closest living thing to a rug itself – they both come in beautiful colors and patterns, and lie around on the floor all day. Why can’t they just get along?)

I also know from years of experience that when it comes to storms with lightning and thunder, even the most well-behaved dog may get anxious and “go” on a rug.

So, what can we do? There are many common issues with rugs that can be easily fixed, and, usually, the sooner the better.

The sides and ends of rugs, which tend to wear first, can generally be overcast and finished. Holes and tears obviously should be repaired or secured before they get any worse. Also keep an eye out for moths, though they are easy enough to deal with by vacuuming underneath the rug and using common products.

Unfortunately, animal stains are a trickier problem and can really hurt the value of a handmade rug. Although there are lots of products to remove animal urine, they don’t work. Rinsing with club soda or water will get urine out if you get to it soon enough, but if it sits too long, the acids in urine burn the wool, and nothing will fix that. So you really need to flush the stain out thoroughly with club soda or water as soon as possible. Just dabbing and dampening the area won’t help much.

Before rinsing out the stain, you’ll want to make sure the dyes in your rug won’t run. If the rug has been professionally cleaned, it shouldn’t. To test it yourself, get a white cotton cloth and plain hot water (about the temperature of tea or coffee) and see if a small wet area of a strong color will rub off onto the cloth. Try this on all the intense colors in the rug.

When rinsing, I recommend putting a pan under the rug to run water through it.  If possible, you might take the rug outside, press a hose to the back of it and run the water right through it. Once you’ve rinsed it out, the rug needs to dry, from both sides, if possible. If the rug is too much to handle, you might need to get it professionally cleaned. However, rinsing the stain out as much as you can – and as soon as you can – helps prevent the irreversible aspects of animal stain until you can get it cleaned.

I hope these rug-cleaning tips will help maintain domestic tranquility in your neighborhood.

Fred S. Miller has been repairing rugs for more than 10 years. His business is Rugwork, at He can be reached at (502) 471-9364 or by email, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .