I recently had a client call me for advice. She had purchased a seagrass carpet (not from us). She explained that the latex backing on the rug had disintegrated and had stuck to the floor. My thinking was this was a relatively minor issue that might require that some dust be swept or vacuumed. Was I ever wrong! Here’s a picture of the damaged floor:
The wood floor is absolutely gorgeous, except where it is damaged. What a shame. The rug is beyond saving. I immediately had two thoughts:
- How do we fix this wood floor?
- What can be done to prevent this from happening.
If this should happen to you, this is what I suggested
Removing the Latex Backing that is Stuck to the Wood Floor
- Use a plastic scraper to remove as much latex as possible without vigorously scraping. I have a plastic scraper we use to clean dinnerware at home that has rounded edges. Something like that sounds perfect for this.
- Apply a solvent to the latex rubber to soften it. When we find a solvent that softens a material, the material may be softened for a while, but then the solvent evaporates and the material will reharden. So leaving a solvent on for “several days” does no good. Usually about 15 minutes or so is good.
- Assuming we’ve found a solvent to soften the material, use the plastic scraper again to remove the latex material.
- So, which solvent should you use? Mineral spirits are usually (but not always) safe for floors. I’d start with that. If that does not work, then I’d try denatured alcohol next.
- BEFORE USING ANY SOLVENT, always test the solvent in an inconspicuous area of the floor first, to be certain it will not affect the finish. We do not want to remove, soften, or haze the existing finish. Do not proceed until you are certain that the solvent you are considering will not damage your floor.
- Once the latex material has been removed, one last swipe with a clean rag or towel and a little of the (tested for safeness) solvent can help restore the floor’s luster.
All of this may be for nought. We’ll know fairly soon if we are successfully removing the latex backing that is damaging the floor. If not, then the floor may need to be sanded and refinished.
How Do We Prevent This?
The Wood Floor Covering Association (WFCA) does not recommend putting anything over your wood floor with a solid rubber or latex backing. They don’t breathe, and condensation can accumulate under the non-porous material and damage the finish. Non-slip rug paddings are made with ventilation so this is not an issue for non-slip products.
A quality felt rug padding would have been a small investment to protect the floor.
Our client acknowledged this and added in response: “As you see, this is an incredible mess. In reading the labeling that comes with the carpet, it recommends using padding, but it doesn’t explain why the recommendation is made. I thought padding was to make it softer to walk on and prevent slippage. Do you think the average person would expect this type of disintegration would happen without a more specific warning?”
No. The average person would not expect that type of disintegration and damage. I’m in the rug business, and I wouldn’t expect that either. Even given the recommendation of the WFCA. Even given the label on the rug that “recommends” a rug pad. (It does not say a rug pad is required). This is a defective product.
This seagrass rug is the type of product that is commonly sold by catalog retailers that import cheaply made Chinese products. The initial savings can potentially cost hundreds of dollars in damages, stress, and aggravation. Our client probably did not buy this product for price, but looks. And if she knew that there is a difference in quality, and what the difference is, the small additional cost for a quality product would be negligible to her.
So how do you, a consumer, know the difference? You can’t be an expert in everything. So here are some guidelines:
- If you want to buy a rug, purchase it from someone who sells rugs. They are specialists in that. Catalogs and store that sell “everything under the sun” can not possibly be experts or knowledgeable about everything they sell. This is true for any product.
- Manufacturers of quality products are proud to put their name on it. Cheap imports often hide behind the anonymity afforded by being in a foreign land, using a different language, and not putting the manufacturer’s name prominently on the product. This does not mean that products that are not made in the U.S.A. are not good quality. There are many quality manufacturers around the globe. But see if they put their name on it. That’s often telling.
I don’t know the brand of this seagrass rug. I didn’t ask if it had one. There is always the possibility that it was made by a maker with a good reputation that just had something go wrong. But again, a maker with a good reputation will stand behind the product. If you don’t even know who made it, it can be more difficult to get service.