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How to clean a tapestry

Updated March 23, 2017

A tapestry is a patterned or pictorial cloth wove using materials such as wool, silk or linen. The term applies to both hand-woven and mechanically woven works. Early tapestries date back to the eighth century. Many art enthusiasts decorate their homes with wall-hung tapestries. Like other types of art, tapestries inevitably collect dust and dirt over time. To keep your tapestries in good condition, familiarise yourself with the correct cleaning techniques for these fabrics.

Attach upholstery or brush attachment to the vacuum before treating the tapestry. Remove dust by vacuuming the front and back sides twice a year, or more frequently for tapestries that are regularly exposed to smoke.

Do not machine-wash tapestry products. Remove stains by taking the item to a textile restorer or dry cleaner that specialises in cleaning carpets and rugs.

Spot-clean a tapestry if an area requires immediate treatment, for example after a spill. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of gentle liquid dishwasher detergent with 1 quart of warm water. Test the solution for colour fastness before attempting to clean the tapestry. Dip a cotton swab into the liquid and rub it against an inconspicuous part of the tapestry, such as a corner. Proceed if no colour is removed. Use a sponge to scoop up the suds from the top of the liquid, picking up as little water as possible. Apply the suds sparingly to the tapestry surface, rubbing gently. Use a clean, damp sponge to completely remove the suds before they have a chance to dry or they will leave residue that will attract more dirt to the tapestry. Prevent a spill from spreading by cleaning its outer edges first and then working your way toward the centre.

Hand-wash the entire tapestry using a gentle carpet detergent if you wish to give the fabric a faded, antique look.

Air-dry the tapestry by hanging it up or spreading it across a flat surface.

Tip

Leave the tapestry hanging while vacuuming it. Not having to take the tapestry down and hang it up again later will save you time and energy.

Warning

Exercise caution when removing wrinkles or creases from a tapestry. You will need to use a steam iron, which can damage the tapestry's delicate fibres. Select the medium heat setting. Begin by ironing the back side of the tapestry. If wrinkles and creases remain, cover the front side of the tapestry with a thin towel and iron over the towel.

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum and upholstery or brush attachment
  • Textile restorer or dry cleaner
  • 1/2 tsp liquid dishwasher detergent
  • 1 quart warm water
  • 2 sponges
  • Carpet detergent
  • Steam iron
  • Towel
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About the Author

Aksana Nikolai is a graduate of the New York Institute of Technology with a bachelor's degree in language studies and international affairs. Nikolai is currently working in online marketing and communications. She has been writing since 2008, specializing in made-for-Web content and maintaining her fashion and beauty blog.