A great add-on sale typically not thought of by the client or cleaner is to replace the backing on a tufted wool rug. Replacing the backing can improve the look and add better structural stability.
1. Remove the backing
Removing tufted backing
Removing tufted rug border
Water-stained tufted rug
For this article, we’ll use a water-damaged rug as an example. When we first received the rug, most of the backing was already loose in many areas, so peeling it off was pretty simple.
It did have a border, as many tufted rugs do. For the time being we left the border on, but removed all other backing. Using fabric scissors, we snipped the tiny bit of thread securing the border down around the entire perimeter.
**Note** There are some borders on tufted rugs that are simply glued on and not actually part of the construction of the rug. It just so happens that the border on this rug is actually leftover canvas that all the wool yarns are gunned to. To see how tufted rugs are made, check out this great video by Jaunty Company.
Once the border was no longer secured to the backing, we simply pulled the fabric off. Although there were many areas already loose, some areas were glued down quite well and it took two of us to get it all off as one pulled the fabric and the other held on to the rug. We did this slowly so that we would not damage or stretch the rug. Once the backing was completely removed, we dusted the rug with a rug badger and thoroughly vacuumed it to remove any loose debris, glue or other contaminants.
**Note** If the rug backing does not come off easily, let it soak in water (preferably hot water) for a couple hours; this should help loosen the backing from the adhesive.
2. Get it cleaned and sanitized
Completely submersed in anti-microbial treatment
Loosely rolled and place in can
The cleaning method used may depend on the type of damage, or the type of rug. Because this rug was water-damaged we wanted it to soak in an anti-microbial treatment for at least a few hours. We decided to use a clean trash barrel to soak it. Larger rugs will likely have to soak in a rug wash pit, or if you’re handy you can build something that will allow the rug to be fully submerged.
The rug was loosely rolled up and placed in the trash can. We then filled the trash can with fresh water until the rug was completely submersed.
As far as what type of anti-microbial to use, there are several manufacturers that make something suitable. We chose to go with Microban Clean Carpet Sanitizer. It is a fungicide, bacteriocide and deodorizing cleaner.
You can find the product at
It runs a proud $75 per gallon but is ultra-concentrated. The recommended use is two ounces per gallon. We added about 30 ounces to our trash can and stirred it the best we could.
After submerging the rug for several hours, we emptied the water from the trash barrel and brought the rug over to our rug wash platform. We thoroughly rinsed the rug and then cleaned it with wool-safe rug detergents, much like we would clean any wool, woven rug. Once cleaned, we pushed off as much water as possible and then dried it on a drying table. We’d recommend using a drying table and not hanging it because a tufted rug without the backing doesn’t have great structural stability; hanging it might stretch the rug or cause irregular shape.
3. Glue the backing
At this point the rug should be cleaned, sanitized, dry and free of any soils. The items you’ll need are:
- Glue for the backing – The recommended glue is Roberts 6700 indoor/outdoor carpet adhesive, found at Home Depot: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Roberts-6700-1-gal-Indoor-Outdoor-Carpet-and-Artificial-Turf-Adhesive-6700-1/100117949
- Trowel – We prefer cheap plastic trowels found at Lowes, but any precision trowel with 1/16 or 3/32 notches will work.
- Gloves – You’ll get a little messy, so wear some gloves!
- Towels – Again, you’ll have glue ending up in places you don’t want it, so keep towels close to clean up spills.
- Iron – Any iron used to press clothing will work.
- Fabric backing
- Border (if needed)
- Glue for the border (if needed) – The 6700 glue can be messy. To secure the border we prefer to use a fabric glue as it’s much easier to control; we like Fabric Fusion at Hobby Lobby: http://shop.hobbylobby.com/products/aleene-s-4-ounce-quick-dry-fabric-fusion-adhesive-183640/
Where to buy the fabric backing used on tufted rugs
There are many different names and types of fabric that are used on tufted rugs for backing. A few examples are: Scottish linen, canvas, jute and burlap. You should probably consult with your
Painters’ drop cloth
client, informing them that finding the same backing as was originally glued to their rug can be difficult.
Years ago, when we were doing this for the first time, this was one of most difficult things to find. We looked locally at Jo-Ann Fabrics, Hobby Lobby and even Walmart, and we found some fabrics that were kind of similar. We ended up settling on antique tapestry 100 percent linen backing.
We’ve found that this fabric adheres to the rug much better than other fabrics, especially painters’ drop cloths. The problem is we can’t find it in larger widths than 54″. Luckily the rug we were working on for this article was 48″ so it was a great fit.
If the rug you are repairing is larger than 54″, painters’ drop cloths are a good option. These drop cloths are very durable and seem to be of higher quality because they are more tightly woven. They come in a variety of sizes, are inexpensive and are readily available at any hardware or paint store. There are a few drawbacks with these, however. The larger drop cloths have a seam running down the middle where two drop cloths are sewn together. They are also treated with a water repellent, and if you’re a painter that’s great, but we want a fabric that is more absorbent and will adhere properly. My suggestion is to wash the drop cloth with hot water to remove some of the repellent and then iron it to remove the wrinkles.
Here are a few online retailers that sell backing:
Tufted backing glued in sections
Once you have all your supplies and are ready, lay out the rug with the back facing up, on a clean, flat surface. We recommend laying it on plastic sheets because it can get a little messy. If your new rug backing has wrinkles, lay your new backing on the rug and use an iron to smooth them out. Make sure that the new backing you are installing is at least a few inches over-sized; don’t worry, we’ll cut the excess later.
Remove the backing and start applying the 6700 glue evenly at one end with the trowel. You can do this one of two ways: either apply glue over the entire rug and then lay your new backing over it, or apply glue in sections and fold the backing over the glue, section by section. We recommend using an iron, pressing down on the newly placed backing to evenly distribute the glue, and pressing the new backing material into the back of the rug.
**Note** Make sure that every single square inch of the back of the rug has glue on it. If you miss ANY spots, you’ll have a bubble in that area once it’s completely dry. You don’t need or want globs of glue, but you do want to have a consistent, even amount throughout. Leave about 1/2″ unglued along the edges; the border will cover the perimeter.
Once the backing is glued, let it sit for at least 24 hours to dry.
4. Installing the border
The border, also called binding, is the fabric glued around the perimeter of the rug. It’s typically about 2″ width and many, but not all, tufted rugs will have this. We’ve found it easier to complete this project when there is a border: it is very difficult to get the backing lined up nicely on the edge of the rug, but a border is much easier to line up and will overlap the backing. So even if the rug you are working on does not have a border, ask your client if they are OK with having a border, as it will make your job easier.
Where to buy a border for a tufted rug
You can find something suitable for a border just about anywhere. Many retailers, like Jo Ann, will have something that matches closely with the canvas backing. To get an idea, check out http://www.joann.com/2in-twill-rug-binding-oyster/8574162.html#q=binding&start=9. Try and find a border of at least 2″.
Once the glue on the new backing is completely dry, go ahead and trim the excess canvas backing along the edges. Don’t cut too much off as to where your border will not overlap the canvas backing. Lay out your border and begin gluing it down using the fabric glue. When you get to a corner, let the borders overlap, but cut one of them at a 45-degree angle to make it more visually appealing.
Border of a tufted rug
Laying out the border
Once complete, let the rug stay flat and completely dry for at least a day, and then you’re done!
Generally we charge about $5 per sq ft for this service, but it depends on the size of the rug: if it’s a small rug we’ll charge more, a larger rug maybe less. So for a typical 5×8 rug we would charge $200 just to replace the backing; that does not include the price to clean and sanitize.
For this 4×6 rug it took us about 15 minutes to remove the backing, 45 minutes to apply glue and set the new canvas backing, and about 20 minutes to set the border.
Final product – Front
Total time replacing backing: 1 hour 20 minutes