Professional Tips on Rug Cleaning and Care

Rugs need proper care to ensure their longevity and to keep them clean. Proper maintenance also ensures you reduce the number of allergens in your home for a more hygienic environment.

Here are some professional tips to keep your rugs clean and well-maintained.

How often should I have my rugs cleaned?

For rugs under moderate usage, you should have them professionally cleaned every two years. Entry rugs that get high traffic, or those in areas with activity from small children or pets, should be cleaned annually.

Wool can hide a significant amount of soil and contaminants before it appears dirty, so a consistent vacuuming routine is essential to help you extend the length of time in between professional cleaning.

Can I safely vacuum my rugs at home?

Yes, you can. It’s an essential thing that you can do for your rugs. Here are some tips you can follow…

  • Ideally, if you are vacuuming weekly, you should use a non-beater bar vacuum or a handheld upholstery attachment to run over the top of the fibers. The intent is to pick up the dust that has settled on the tips of the fibers before they work their way down to the foundation and become abrasive material that causes wool to wear and break down over time.
  • If you use a beater bar vacuum, set it on the highest-level setting and run your vacuum strokes from side to side to side will not accidentally suck up the fringe tassels).
  • 1-2 times a year, turn your rug face down on a smooth surface, use an upright beater bar vacuum cleaner, and slowly vacuum the back of the rug (again on the highest setting). The vibrations from the bar will shake out some of the deep-down dirt. Pull the rug over, and vacuum the dirt from the front of the rug. Sweep up the dirt from the floor (if you vacuum the floor, you will prematurely wear the bristles on the beater bar).
  • If you have hard floors in your home, you know how much fine grit and the dust settles on your floors … this also settles on your rugs daily, but you do not notice this because it works its way down to the base of the fibers. A regular dusting routine will help your carpet last longer and will also let you extend the time between professional immersion cleaning.

I want to store my rugs at home. What should I do?

Rugs should always be stored, cleaned, and mothproofed if going into long-term storage (longer than six months). For storage, wool and cotton rugs should be rolled with fibers facing inward and silk rugs with fibers facing outward. Blankets and flatweaves can be folded. Items should be wrapped in Tyvec™ or acid-free paper, not plastic. They should be elevated off the floor (in case of flooding or dampness), and nothing heavy should be stacked on top.

Is my rug worth cleaning up and fixing?
There are many interpretations of “value” regarding a rug. What it would cost to buy another in a retail store and what someone would be willing to pay you for could be two very different amounts. A rug that you grew up with may make it particularly valuable to you, but an appraiser may say that the same rug has a meager value.

If you like a rug – if it reminds you of your childhood or a favorite trip overseas, or it fits your home décor perfectly – then you should keep it clean and in good condition.

If you have no sentimental attachment to the rug and it can be easily replaced for less than the cost of “fixing” it – then you should make a decision that you feel is the wisest. We will give you the information you need to make the best decision.

Do rugs need to be dry cleaned?
Oriental rugs have been wet-washed for as long as rugs have been woven. The preferred cleaning method for natural fiber rugs is an immersion wet wash because it is gentle, and thorough rinsing removes residue from the fibers.

Dry cleaning leaves a chemical residue that can lead to discoloration and irritation for sensitive people or pets. Also, with no dusting step, the majority of the soil in the rug remains after the dry cleaning process is completed.

Why don’t you put the new fringe on by machine?

One of the benefits of doing work by hand is that the needle and thread can be wrapped around the warps and wefts so that there is no structural alteration of the rug itself.

When machine work is done on a handmade rug, the industrial sewing machine does not feel around the warps and wefts – it pushes its way through them. Repetitive stitches from a sewing machine can cause damage to a rug’s foundation that cannot be reversed.

It essentially “perforates” the rug so that, over time, that part of the rug that is weakened will pull away from the body of the carpet, leading to the loss of hundreds of wool knots that devalue the rug.

Does cutting off a worn fringe, or putting on a new one, affect the rug’s value?

In most cases, the fringe does not affect the value of a rug – it is just a by-product of the weaving process. So cutting it off (as long as it is not so short that knots begin slipping off), or putting on a new fringe by hand, will not affect the value positively or negatively.

The exception would be some weaving countries incorporating elaborate embroidery kilim designs in the fringe base. In these cases, it is obvious that time to weave in designs has been invested, and we would, of course, not recommend removing it.

What about fragile rugs? Can they be hung?

When rugs become too fragile to walk on, hanging them becomes a way that you can still enjoy looking at your rug without worrying about causing foot traffic damage. However, some fragile rugs have foundation fibers that are so weak that even the weight of their knots can cause tears while hanging.

Antique and semi-antique hooked and needlepoint rugs woven on jute foundations exemplify this. Over time, jute deteriorates, so these rugs fall apart whether walked on or hung on the wall. The foundation is the “skeleton” of a carpet, and when the skeleton becomes so brittle, it deteriorates.

When hanging these pieces (also antique tapestries), we recommend attaching the entire weaving to a separate piece of firm cloth (usually linen or burlap, depending on the rug).

Strategically placed stitching attached the pieces to this cloth to help distribute its weight at many different points, thereby avoiding too much weight from focusing on one particular area that could cause a resultant tear.

The cloth is then the focus of Velcro, sleeve, or frame, and it carries the majority of the weight of the rug or tapestry.