Lowcountry Clean Care
Author: Paul deVere | Photographer: M.Kat
The beautiful Oriental rug you inherited from your grandparents graces the spacious entryway of your home. You have just returned from the Hilton Head Humane Association’s shelter with Rex, the cute Boxer-Golden Retriever-Beagle mix puppy you and the kids picked out. You are excited. The kids are excited. Unfortunately, so is Rex… on the rug. There is a solution.
Authentic Oriental rugs can be the height of craftsmanship. Many consider them works of art. Count Gerald and Kim Brant in that camp. Their company is also the solution to young Rex’s unfortunate “accident” on the family heirloom. Lowcountry Clean Care will wash Rex right out of your precious rug.
Yes, wash. With extreme care, the Lowcountry Clean Care crew vacuum and blow out all the loose dirt in these valuable rugs, wash them in a large tub, then ring them out in a special centrifuge and hang them up to dry. The main ingredient used to clean the rug is filtered rain water.
“Rain water is softer than tap water and gentler on the rugs,” Gerald Brant explained, referring to the pH of the water. Rain water is close to seven, the perfect balance between an acidic and alkaline solution. Brant collects the water that runs off the roof of his plant in Hampton, South Carolina into large containers. It is then piped back into the plant.
The Brants started cleaning things up in 1979 with a carpet cleaning business. Over the years, they became certified in a long list of services, from water and smoke damage restoration to general and contract cleaning and, pretty much everything in between. But in 2011, on one of the many trips Gerald took to gain more training, experience and certification for the company’s growing customer base, he discovered a new service: cleaning and washing Oriental rugs, a highly specialized service.
“Over the years I learned how to clean just about anything,” Gerald Brant said in the reception area of his new plant. He took extensive courses from experts and learned how to clean a wide variety of textiles. A few years ago, he was able to save some very delicate antique baby clothes that suffered smoke damage in a fire. “They weren’t something you’d send to the dry cleaners,” he said.
But Oriental rugs really caught Brant’s fancy and he made a considerable investment in his small plant in 2011 to enter this specialty field. He went to school, becoming a member of the Association of Rug Care Specialists (ARCS) and getting certified as a Master Rug Cleaner.
Gerald Brant describes the cleaning process to CH2 writer Paul deVere. The team traveled to Hampton in February to watch Gerald and his crew in action.
“You train for a week and when you come back you take a picture of every rug that comes in. You try to identify it, where it was made, just by its construction, then send your evaluation in,” Brant explained. “They review everything, tell you if you are right or wrong and help you. Identifying the rug gives you a clue about how you’re going to clean it.”
Brant said the term “Oriental” paints a big swath. “These rugs are woven in China, India, Tibet, Iran, Egypt. I picked up a tribal rug in Bluffton recently. It was very simple, maybe eight feet long and made up of variegated oranges,” Brant said. “There were no designs on it, just about six people. It was a real simple rug, a nomadic rug, so it was wool on wool. It was very pretty.”
Authentic Oriental rugs are hand woven. They are usually made with a combination of cotton (the warp and weft or foundation) and wool, which is tied in individual knots to create the pile, which is what we walk on. An Oriental rug can have anywhere from 16 to 800 knots per square inch.
Brant’s “wool on wool” reference was to the warp and weft and the pile. Tribal rugs are usually all wool. “The people making tribal rugs don’t usually have access to cotton, but they have wool and use it for all parts of the rug,” he said.
If there is a worn spot or fraying at the fringe or a tear or, as Brant said, “a dog bite,” in an Oriental rug, he has an associate in Denver, Colorado who can fix anything. “Of course that can be costly, but the rug could be a family heirloom and important.” Oriental rugs of any size can cost thousands of dollars, and it is not unusual for one to be a part of someone’s will.
Brant said an Oriental rug “is just getting broken in at 50 years. They can easily last a couple hundred years if they’re taken care of.”
Which is what his business is all about. Brant knows about the natural dyes, the hand-spun wool, the city looms and the nomads who must tie fewer knots because they, and their looms, are always on the move. And it is he and his crew who can make it possible that your family’s heirloom Oriental rug can again grace your floor without any traces of young Rex.
THE CLEANING PROCESS
1. Dirt is blown out of the rug then flipped and blown again.
2. Rugs are then vacuumed two to three times on each side.
3. Some rugs with especially tough stains are put into a large washtub.
4. Rugs are then sprayed with water to rinse away any remaining residue.
5. The next step is rolling them up for the centrifuge.
6. Rugs are placed in this giant tube that spins so fast water is sucked out quickly.
7. A special rake is used to comb the fibers.
8. The rug is hung to dry with large fans circulating air nearby.
To have Lowcountry Clean Care pick up your rugs, call 803.943.4416 or visit yourcleancare.com for more information.