ITHACA/ELMIRA carpet cleaners

Dry Rot

What is Dry Rot?

Dry rot is a condition that can occur in older textiles and furnishings, especially those with a cellulosic fiber such as cotton, flax (linen), jute, and similar fibers, that can slowly degrade over time.

This lengthy, slow but relentless deterioration and weakening of the fibers leads to eventual damage that can be seen as rips, tears, slits or other structural damage in the fabric, carpet or rug. It may take a few years to manifest itself, or it can take decades; sometimes 40-50 years or more.

'Dry rot' is really a misnomer because it implies rotting or damage that took place in the absence of moisture. Actually, the damage was previously done during some conditions of wetness and mildew.

It should be understood that although presently 'dry,' pre-existing conditions created localized or smaller concentrated areas of moisture buildup and damaging fungus growth. Once dry, the result is weakened fibers which can easily be broken and have a dry appearance, feel or sound.


Plant Watering Overflow

One condition which may have contributed to the onset of this condition is prior uncontrolled wetness for long periods of time. Typical of this is the section of rug or carpet underneath plant pots, especially those planters made of clay, which can tranfer moisture and dampness into the carpet.

Pet Stains and other Residues

Another contributing factor may be residues in the base of the rug or carpet such as those typical of animal pet stains. The buildup of salts from the pet stains becomes hygroscopic or 'moisture-attracting,' keeping that section slightly damp for long periods of time.

This damp condition in the textiles can cause moisture to be continually absorbed from the air and dampness to accumulate in the rug or fabric. The result is a slow but continual process of fungus growth and deterioration in the affected fibers, yarns, and rug or fabric. Rugs suffering from this condition may often smell during hot, humid weather.

Cellulosic Fibers in Foundations of Certain Rugs

The most common type of this damage occurs in cellulosic fibers that often make up the foundation (or unitary backing) of rugs and some woven carpet. Although the rug pile or face yarns may be wool or another fiber, it is actually the backing or foundation fibers that are more likely to be damaged.

This ongoing condition of dry rot shows no outward or obvious signs while the damage is slowly accumulating. That is, until the real damage is done and some normal moving or handling of the textile brings this condition to light.

Eventually, the affected yarns become stiffer, less supple, and brittleness sets in. This late condition typically results in a subtle but distinctive 'crackling' or 'snapping' sound when an older rug or carpet is bent or rolled between the hands.

Very fine quality, very dense or tightly knotted oriental rugs are especially prone to such damage. In advanced conditions, merely lifting or moving the rug, textile or fabric for cleaning or restoration can result in slits, rips or tears in the foundation of the rug, carpet, tapestry or fabric. It is not caused by customary and normal handling, but by the progressive 'silent' damage that has been occurring for years prior.


Unfortunately, there is no remedy to reverse this premature aging process in the affected fibers. The damage has already been done and has occurred due to pre-existing conditions during use.

The prescription is for a careful, thorough professional cleaning and then any additional repairs (which can be done right here in our plant) needed to rebuild or reinforce the area of obvious damage.

An anti-microbial/anti-fungal treatment to arrest some of the inherent conditions leading to damage may also be considered. But there is no assurance that the damage will not appear again in the same or other areas of your rug or textile in the future.

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130 Cecil Malone Drive Ithaca, NY 14850


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