Owning a fine handmade rug, especially an old/antique rug is not only a pleasure, but a responsibility. It is your best interest to maintain the look and condition of your likely investment.
Owners of quality handmade rugs should actually think of themselves as the current owner, one in a series extending from the past into the future. Maintenance is perhaps the most important and simplest aspect of owning a rug.
Rugs provides advice on the cleaning and maintenance of rugs, however, be warned - some rugs can be fragile or made with certain materials (i.e. silk and certain dyes) that can be damaged. If you are not confident that what is needed can be achieved by yourself have the cleaning or restoration done by an expert. In any case, Turkish and Oriental rugs should be professionally cleaned at least once every decade to remove fine deep layers of dust that surface cleaning cannot remove.
Rugs should be brushed or vacuumed with a suction-only appliance regularly to prevent the build up of damaging dust and grit. Rugs should also be turned occasionally to even out any areas of wear that may be occurring. Vacuuming the back of the rug every now and again will keep it dust free.
Avoid, if at all possible, placing very heavy furniture on rugs. If unavoidable place casters under small or sharp pointed feet. Shoes should be clean or use indoor sandals/sleepers when walking on the rug.
Damp, heat, direct and strong sunlight
Damp is very damaging to the Oriental carpets as they are always made from natural materials - wool, cotton and/or silk, which are susceptible to rot through dampness.
Intense heat, i.e. in front of an open fire, is generally bad for rugs as it dries out the natural oils in the wool making it weak and brittle.
Excessive direct sunlight can cause fading over a number of years. Whilst some fading is often desirable and natural, too much ruins the look of the rug and reducing its lifespan by damaging the pile. This can be prevented by blocking the direct sunlight using blinds or curtains when the room isn’t in use. Pay attention to the placement of your rug, rotating it from time to time to gain a subtle and even fade in colours.
Keeping to these practices should help you to maintain the look and condition of your rug.
A potential disaster area! If left unattended, untrained pets can use a rug as a scratching post or a chewing toy, or worse still, as a toilet. Whilst most physical damage can be repaired, pet urine, if left un-cleaned, can cause severe damage in the form of rotting and discolouration. Keep an eye on your pet when they are near the rug, unless your pet is trained and trustworthy. Having a number of scratching posts (cats), chew toys (dogs), and some form of training normally works.
Moths and other pests
Damage from moth larvae and other household rug-eating pests can be avoided as long as the rug is cleaned regularly (by brushing or vacuuming) and is exposed to light and not hidden away in damp or dark conditions.
Moths do not eat your rugs, however the females lay hundreds of tiny eggs at a time, the eggs hatch into larvae that consume wool, fur, feather, and silk fibres. A bad infestation sometimes leaves a cobweb-like veil in the area of the damage, along with fine, sand-like debris. An infestation often involves more than one rug, and can spread to (or from) woollens or furs hanging in a closet or sweaters stored in a drawer. A rug with a moth infestation is not difficult to clean if caught early, but re-weaving a large area of the rug if the damage is servere is an expensive process.
If moth grubs are discovered, vacuum the back and front sorely, use a recommended rug friendly Moth spray to finish off. If you are not sure about the result, then ask a professional Oriental carpet cleaner to ensure that any evidence of moth is completely removed. View our in-depth guide to moth damage care and prevention.
Dealing with spills
With any spillage or accident involving liquids, speed is of the essence. Immediately blot with plain paper kitchen towels, soaking up the liquid until dry.
For any spillage involving food etc. scrape up the solids with a plastic spatula or a spoon and then blot up the damp residue with (preferably white) kitchen towels.
With wool rugs, if any residue is left, a solution of carpet shampoo and warm water with a teaspoonful of white vinegar can be used. Carefully blot with a damp cloth which has been soaked and well squeezed out and/or use the foam. Dry as quickly as possible and vacuum. Carefully comb the pile in its natural direction to remove any matting.
If your silk rug becomes damaged contact your rug-dealer immediately!!!
Do not be tempted to throw on anything like salt/soap powder/white wine on red etc. This will only exacerbate the problem; most of these so-called quick fixes are worse than useless.
Do not panic! But be quick. Do not wait until the last guest has left your house and then start cleaning your rug! The majority of stains can be removed out of your rug or carpet if treated right after the spill.
Use white paper towels or a white towel or cloth. Do not use a coloured paper towels to remove a liquid stain, sometimes the colour passes through the towel to your rug.
Use a spoon to scoop the liquid or food off the carpet. If there is a lot of liquid or semi-solid (Jam) use a spoon and try to remove as much as possible but do not press down on the carpet!
Do NOT use a knife to remove anything out of your carpet. You could end up damaging the pile of the rug.
Never scrub or brush any stain out of your carpet. You will make it worst, you might even damage the structure of the carpet and risk the dyes running!
If you have stain removal, TEST it before trying it. We do not recommend commercial stain removers, but if you want to use it be cautious and always read the label. Test the stain removal in a very small section before applying it to a large area, they can sometimes the remove colours out of your carpet!
In general, hand knotted wool rugs may require a full wash once every a decade. Often, the fringes may show a bit of dirt; this can be cleaned without the entire rug being washed. However, to renew the appearance of your handmade carpet, you can give it a quick "face wash".
To begin, find an area suitable for dusting the rug. Hang the rug or lift one corner at a time, using a broom handle or wooden stick to beat the rug repeatedly; doing this should remove the majority of the deepest dust particles. If you have a helping hand: place the rug face down on to the floor and stand on one corner while the other person grabs the diagonally opposite corner and shake the rug strongly; repeat the process for each corner. The shakes/beatings should be gentler with older/aged rug as they may tear. Once you’ve removed as much dust as possible vacuum the rug thoroughly on both sides.
Next you need to test the rug for colour bleeding before the whole rug is tackled. Spot-testing the cleaning product is highly recommended as many over-the-counter products may strip the rug of its natural colour.
Wool-Safe shampoo is quite simply shampoo that is safe to use on rugs! These shampoos, available in powder and liquid forms, removes stains and help keep colors bright. The powdered shampoos can also have enzymes to break up tough protein stains. Colour-safe bleach is not diluted bleach. The gentle bleaching action in liquids is from hydrogen peroxide. Powders commonly use sodium perborate. These color-safe bleaches also have optical brighteners. This ingredient is like an invisible layer on fabrics. It reflects light, making colors appear brighter.
In a large bowl of warm tap water mix the shampoo to instructions (sometimes it is better to half the concentration if you are worried about colour run or damage). Whisk the solution until plenty of bubbles are produced. With a large sponge or cloth collect some foam and clean a small patch by rubbing the rug surface with the sponge in the direction of the pile (run your hand across the surface of the rug to determine the direction of the piles which should feel resistance). Note that the rug should barely be wet as we are mainly using foam. If the dye on your rug starts to run then stop immediately. Otherwise, wait for 10-15 minutes and if you’re happy with the result repeat the process with remainder of the rug, if you run out of foam make more following the same procedure and measurements mentioned above.
Finally using clean water and an almost dry sponge, go over the entire rug removing/rinsing the residues before leaving it to dry; change water as necessary. Note the back of the rug should not feel damp if surface washed according to instruction.
Note we do not recommend you clean the fringes by yourself as bleaching can damage the materials. If you decide to do it we would suggest the following: Place the rug on a declining surface as washing its fringes is a delicate task; care should be taken to avoid any solution contacting the rug. If the rug fringes are wool use the same solution make up as above, and a brush to clean fringes. Again, try to minimize the solution contacting the body of the rug, then rinse well with water and dry with cloth. Cleaning the fringes of a cotton based rug requires a different mix of chemicals. Mixture is a large bowel of water, 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach powder and 4 tablespoons of hand-wash washing powder. Using a brush and the solution cleaning the fringes; again make sure not to get any of the mixture on the pile of the carpet. Leave the fringes for 10 to 15 minutes allowing the bleach to take effect then rinse as meticulously as possible. The rug fringes should be dried as soon as possible to reduce 'browning'. Note the main body of the rug should be dry within few hours, you may want to use the hair dry to dry the fringes faster.
If you have a full silk rug let a professional do the cleaning, otherwise you could potentially damage it; a rug with little silk details may be ok if colourfast. A rug made of viscose reyon (a meterial used as fake silk) will run colours all over place and be completely ruined.
Stop dusting/de-soiling the rug if you hear cracking or tearing noises from the rug whilst beating or shaking it.
Avoid cleaning the larger rugs (bigger than 8’ x 12’); because of their sheer size you may risk a back injury and it could be too hard to dry fast enough without the right equipment.
Stop if you notice colour mixing/run when test washing a patch.
Avoid cleaning silk, antique or otherwise fragile rugs.
If you decided you do not want to take the risk or you see the caution signs above then contact a reputable handmade rug specialist and let them do it for you.
The best way to store rugs is to roll them (width) up tightly, starting the roll from the side that is opposite the direction of the pile.
To prevent the rug from unrolling, use rope, string or ribbon to tie around the rug. Three or more pieces of rope may be required, ensure that they are evenly spaced through the width of the rug. The rugs should then be wrapped in polythene with some moth balls and stored in a dry place.