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Q&A: How to fix Color Runs on Oriental Carpets? Migration and "Bleeding"


Hello Rug Rag,

It looks like my rug has color run: the fringe used to be snow-white and now it looks yellowish-reddish (because the rug is primarily red); the rest of the rug seems to be OK.

Should I still find a professional to treat the fringe/rug?  Do you know any professional cleaners in my area [international location] who can do a good job or do you know people who can refer me to them?


Zuli Sultan Antique Carpet with moderate color runs

*Above: Rug Rag stock image of very fine antique Zuli [also spelled "Zili"] Sultan with moderate color run.  




Unfortunately, reds blending into lighter color areas such as ivory are the most common types of color run.  The rug will need professional attention.   Homemade solutions to treating color run are not advisable, as it takes the expertise of a professional to understand how dyes chemically react to agents.  Keep in mind the following: Removing color run is an extremely challenging problem to reverse.  Presumably the color has run for a reason, which can typically be attributed to overdyeing of a particular lot of dyed wool woven into the rug.  If you rug's colors run once, they're liable to run again.

If the color run is not that bad, it may be best to opt to not have any treatment made at all as it may be more costly than the rug's value.  Also know that in shopping around, it doesn't always pay to go the cheapest route.  We strongly advise against taking the rug to "dry cleaner" or having "in home services". 

Know that even if you have the carpet treated by an expert, there is still a good change the color run may not come out at all, or even other problems may result.  Other than researching cleaners in your area, (we cannot advise on International Cleaners), this is what we may suggest for higher value rugs:


1:  Before bringing the rug for treatment, take photograph documentation of the entire piece, especially the affected area.  Capturing color run with cameras can be tricky, but it's important to get as accurate an account for the problem as possible.  This is so condition is clear prior to leaving it with anyone.

2:  Be sure to clarify specifically what the problem is, and that you would rather the fringe not be subjected to bleach treatment.  For a higher valued rug, you may want to ask the cleaner to sign the photographs you have taken so they agree to the condition they are receiving the rug in.  This is good for them, and good for you too.

3:  Whatever receipt is furnished, ensure that the necessary work will be clearly spelled out on a piece of paper for you to take home, including time frame and actual cost.

4:  Be wary of cleaners that request 100% payment up front.  50% is sufficient, but do know that you will have to pay in full even if the color run does not come out.

5:  Inspect the rug thoroughly before signing and paying in full.  Although you may not be satisfied with the job (which you will still be required to pay for) any additional bleeding or consequential damage should be the cleaner's responsibility.

6:  Less reputable cleaners will give you a quote before hand, then give you a different, higher price after without notification.  If they do not call you for approval to have this additional cost, you have no obligation to pay this expense.

7:  If you really want to be cautious, bring the rug to a dealer for an appraisal just before having it cleaned and after taking photographs.  Do not have this be a dealer who has known ties to (or is) the cleaner.  If you can have them assign a replacement cost on the back of the dated image of your carpet, or have a Certified Rug Appraisal, this could help a lot if there are any problems down the road.

When you go through this process, be very casual about everything.  Good cleaners will be understanding, however many forget that this is a rug/carpet you probably see every day of your life several times a day.  There's no reason for a reputable cleaner to have problems with the suggestions above...  So if the don't like it, don't give them your business unless you're willing to compromise.  Everything listed is good for both the customer and the cleaner to prevent issues afterwards.  Treating color run is a tricky thing, and some cleaners simply don't want to get involved in it.  You may want to consider going with a friend so there are two sets of ears. 

Hope this all helps!


-Rug Rag


Unaffected area of color "migration" or bleeding on antique Oriental Rug

*Above: Stock Rug Rag photograph of area unaffected by color "migration" or "bleeding."


We look forward to talking with anyone who may have questions on or about oriental rugs.  We are an Independent Reviewer, and will give you our opinion for any rug, new or old.  Should you have any questions you would like to submit for a blog entry response, please do so, and be sure to include photographs of your rug.  For more information, please take a look at the bottom of this page, or feel free to Contact Us at


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For all those interested in submitting a question to the Rug Rag Editors:  We'd be more than happy to help, please send some photographs of the reverse side of the rug very close up with a quarter placed on the knots, plus a picture of the fringe, the whole face of the rug and detail shot of the pile.  If the rug is worn, please include photographs of worn areas.  For rugs of any age, please be sure to check for dry areas, moth damage, odor, and whether or not the rug is straight/has right angles where called for.  If you have any questions about our assessment request feel free to send us an email.  Otherwise, we are looking for something similar to these images posted here


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