Learning how to clean an antique rug is essential to maintain its beauty and maximize its lifespan. Antique rugs can be immensely valuable heirlooms, and they should be treated with the same care and concern as fine art.
Mehraban specializes in caring for and cleaning antique rugs. Our experts are happy to discuss the best ways to protect your investment and ensure your rug’s beauty for generations to come. Here are our most important tips.
Keep Your Rug Dry
Moisture seeps into the bottom of an antique wool rug and sits, which can cause issues like mold and mildew to develop. Moisture and mold can destroy your rug quickly, so avoid getting the rug wet as a top priority. Ideally, the only time you should get your rug wet is to get a stain out.
Avoid this potential pitfall: never place houseplants on an antique rug. Plants require and emanate moisture, and this can lead to a concentrated area of accelerated deterioration on your rug.
Learn the Material and Origin of Your Rug
How you clean an antique rug depends on what material it’s made out of and how exactly it was made. Most antique rugs are made of wool, but the type of weave can also determine how you clean your rug and how much pressure you can use to clean it (i.e. if you can beat it or not).
If you acquired your rug without knowing how old it is or where it’s from, consider taking the rug to a professional to have it analyzed. They will be able to pinpoint the material and weave and advise you on the best cleaning methods.
Do Not Over-Vacuum
Too much vacuuming will loosen and deteriorate the delicate fibers that make up your antique rug. Additionally, you should keep your vacuum in a low-power setting so you don’t tug on the fibers unnecessarily. Even if you have pets who lose a lot of hair, resist the urge to over-vacuum and consider keeping your pets away from the rug.
The rotating brushes of some modern vacuums are not advised for antique wool rugs. Use a different attachment nozzle. If your rug is small enough, you can also take it outside and beat the dust out of it on a clothesline.
Vacuum your rug, at maximum, once or twice a month. Flip the rug over and vacuum it from the bottom as well; vacuuming the rug while upside down makes a significant difference when removing dust and dirt.
Avoid Chemical Solutions, Steam Cleaning & Dry Cleaning
Strong chemicals typically used for modern textiles and dry cleaning can be very harmful to antique wool. Not only can these chemicals compromise the dye and coloring, but they can also cause damage to the wool fibers themselves and accelerate their decay. For these reasons, do not use strong chemical solutions or steam when cleaning antique rugs.
You might find yourself asking the unfortunate question: how do I remove a stain from my antique rug without the use of chemicals? Assuming you catch it right away, most stains can be removed if you act within about ten minutes. Blot with cold water and use salt to remove stains like red wine. If the stain is set in, a simple solution of water and white vinegar or a mild detergent may work. Do not scrub — blot only.
Naturally, one should avoid eating or drinking anything that might cause a stain in the proximity of an antique rug, but accidents can always happen. It’s good to know what to do in the event of a spill because a set-in stain is much harder to remove than a fresh, wet stain.
Keep Your Rug in the Right Place
For your antique rug to last, you should display it in a place where it is not subject to the elements or constant wear and tear. Your rug should be kept out of direct sunlight to prevent fading, away from a place with high foot traffic such as an entrance hall, and away from doors or windows that lead directly to the outside so you avoid tracking mud. You should also ensure the air inside the room is relatively dry year-round; as we mentioned above, antique rugs do not handle moisture well.
You may also consider displaying your rug on a wall like a piece of artwork if the rug is seriously damaged or fragile.
Rotate Your Rug Annually and Use a Rug Pad
How you display antique rugs is as important as how you clean antique rugs. To ensure the wear on your rug is even, you should rotate your rug once a year.
A rug pad will also help ensure your rug stays in the right place and doesn’t shift throughout the year. This will prevent the fibers from stretching and weakening over time. Rug pads are commonly available and come in all sizes.
If You’re Unsure How to Clean Your Antique Rug, Contact a Professional
The best way to ensure your rug is cleaned properly is to contact a professional. If your rug is significantly dirty or damaged or if you’re not sure the best way to clean it, you should consult a professional rug cleaner. Professional cleaning is especially important for antiques a century old or more. Even with regular cleaning and upkeep, we still advise a professional rug cleaning every few years.
Mehraban has three generations of experience restoring, preserving, and collecting antique rugs from around the world. If you have any questions about cleaning antique rugs or purchasing a rug for your interior, do not hesitate to contact us anytime to speak to our experts and/or arrange a viewing at our Los Angeles location.