How to Hang Navajo Rugs

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Navajo Indians make woolen rugs by hand after spinning the yarn and dyeing it.
Navajo Indians make woolen rugs by hand after spinning the yarn and dyeing it. (Image: Coral Coolahan/iStock/Getty Images)

A Navajo rug, rich in beauty and color and woven from dyed wools, requires protection from harsh ultraviolet rays if you want it to retain its original deep hues. You can hang the rug horizontally or vertically, whichever works in your home to best display it. The Arizona State Museum along with multiple Native American galleries and dealers all recommend hook-and-loop tape to hang your cherished Navajo handwork safely.

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The Best Location

Choose a wall or location in your home where you can artfully display the brightly colored Navajo rug without exposing it to harsh sunlight or fluorescent lighting. Take into consideration its age, its type and its weave before you decide where and how to hang it; keep it away from areas such as the kitchen, near a furnace vent or fireplace, open windows or houseplants. Smoke, grease and insects can cause deterioration or damage.

Controlled Environment

To protect your Navajo rug from damage, avoid extreme changes in humidity and temperature in the room. Continual changes in humidity can cause the rug to expand and contract with moisture and temperature changes, which causes irreparable damage to the fibers if they become too brittle. Do not place the rug on an exterior wall or in a bathroom, for example. The organic fibers in a Navajo rug also absorb odors, such as food smells, scented candles, incense and perfume. You might choose to frame and display a smaller rug under glass to protect it.

Hook-and-Loop Method

Secure a wood one-by-two or one-by-one ledger to the wall through the studs with wood screws, making it the width of the rug. Attach one side of the hook-and-loop tape to the ledger with a staple gun. Machine sew the opposite side of the hook-and-loop tape to a piece of cotton muslin cut the width of the rug. Hem the cotton muslin so its edges are finished. Carefully attach the cotton muslin backing to the rug, working between the woolen strands rather than through them by hand with a needle threaded with cotton thread. This method prevents splitting, cutting or damaging the woolen threads in the rug. Starting at one end and working across the width, press the rug onto the hook-and-loop tape on the mounted ledger. Readjust as necessary to properly drape the rug.

Care and Cleaning

Do not wash a Navajo rug, because many of the dyes are water soluble and will dissipate or bleed when wet. Some detergents can make the woolen yarn brittle, damaging it. And wetting the Navajo rug can stretch it out and strain the fibers because of how heavy wool gets when wet. The wand and brush attachment on your vacuum is all you need to keep the rug free of dirt and dust. If cleaning is needed, choose a dry-cleaning professional experienced with Navajo rugs. Have her test it first, and verify that she uses the hand-dip method rather than the tumble dry method, recommends Dr. Nancy Odegaard, Conservator, Head of Preservation at the Arizona State Museum.

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