Care Guides: How to Care for Antique Rugs

Care Guides: How to Care for Antique Rugs

Keep your antique rugs in top condition with our tips and tricks to avoid wear and tear.

For millennia, rugs have adorned the dwellings of human beings. Providing warmth when the weather turns cold, used as a trading commodity, and a shining representation of tribal and cultural art, antique rugs have beguiled collectors for centuries. Today, the use of rugs has changed significantly. From dampening noise and protecting hardwood floors to grounding furniture in an open space and used as decorative wall hangings. 

Whether it’s a classic Persian rug you’ve chosen, an iconic Berber-style Moroccan rug, or a one-of-a-kind Caucasian design, you’ll want to keep it looking its best. While there are many tips and tricks to clean antique rugs, we’ve found that simple solutions are often the best. As treasured pieces, and valuable ones at that, it’s essential to keep your antique rugs clean. Our handy how-to guide will show you how to take care of your antique rugs for generations to come.

Image: An antique rug in a bedroom. Vinterior Seller: Sharafi & Co

How to clean antique rugs?

Cleaning an antique rug may seem daunting, especially if you’ve never cared for an older piece of home decor before. But it couldn’t be simpler. Just take your time, be careful and considerate, and follow our advice below.

How to remove dust from an antique rug?

Remove dust from your antique rug by gently beating it. Traditionally, a cane beater would be used. Lift your rug and gently tap, or beat, it on the floor-facing side to remove dust and debris from the rug. If this is done regularly enough, you shouldn’t need to beat your antique rugs too much. 

If it has been a while since you got the dust out of your rugs, you might need to beat them more vigorously. It’s important to beat firmly but without damaging the rug. It might take a little longer this way, but it will ensure your antique rug stays clean and in good condition.

Image: An antique rug in an open-plan living space. Vinterior Seller: Sharafi & Co

Can you vacuum an antique rug?

However, a more time-saving way to remove dust from your antique rugs is to vacuum them. Unlike contemporary rugs that have been designed to withstand vacuuming, it is important, however, to delicately vacuum them. Use the gentlest setting your vacuum cleaner has and don’t vacuum any fringed edges, as these could be pulled off in the process.

An additional note, avoid vacuuming heavy-pile, hand-tied pieces like Boucherite and Berber rugs, as it could damage the rug. These pieces are better off being beaten, as detailed above.

How to spot-clean a rug?

Much like spot cleaning any other fabric, you’ll find warm water, baking soda, and white vinegar to be your best friends. Mix about 100ml of warm water with 15ml of white vinegar and 5g of baking soda. Then, with a clean, dry cloth gently dab the solution onto the area you want to clean. 

Do not rub or scrub the stain, as this will likely damage your antique rug. Spot-cleaning an antique rug must be done gently to preserve it. Once you’re happy with how much of the stain you’ve removed, leave the rug to dry and then lightly vacuum or beat the excess dried solution off.

What is the best way to clear up spills on an antique rug?

Any spills on your antique rug should be cleaned up immediately so that a stain doesn’t set in. Use a clean, dry, undyed cloth and blot the spill up in dabs. Do not rub at the spill as this will likely push the spill further into the pile. While clear liquids and certain foods may be easy to clean up yourself, for tough stains such as coffee and red wine, you might need a professional cleaner to sort out your spill.

Image: An antique Qum rug in a living space. Vinterior Seller: Sharafi & Co

How to store antique rugs properly?

If you need to store your antique rug for an extended period of time, make sure you take preventative measures so it looks as fresh as always when you roll it back out again. 

Make sure you’ve cleaned the rug thoroughly first, following the advice above. Then, with a fabric-appropriate product, spray it to ensure mites and moths don’t get into it while it’s stored. Lay a thin, clean cotton or soft linen dust sheet over the face of the rug, then roll tightly into a cylinder from end to end. Wrap the rolled-up rug in a quilt or other soft fabric and secure it with twine or straps. Then, store in a cool, dry place away from moisture and sunlight. 

If you’re planning on storing your antique rug for longer than three months, ensure you check on it regularly. We’d suggest rolling it out once a month. This will help you catch any dust or bug infestations early. Plus, a monthly vacuum will keep it looking fresh and new.

Image: A rolled-up antique rug. Vinterior Seller: James Broad Interiors

Can I freshen up an antique rug?

Get your antique rug smelling and feeling fresh again by simply shaking some baking soda over the rug. Leave the baking soda on the rug overnight and vacuum up or beat the soda off in the morning and enjoy a fresh-smelling antique rug.

Should I get my antique rug professionally cleaned?

Professional cleaning of antique rugs can be expensive. However, if you’re unsure of cleaning them yourself or you’ve had an unfortunate accident, a professional cleaning can be extremely helpful. 

Take your time to find the right cleaner. You might be able to have your antique rug cleaned at home or you might have to send it away. The best advice we can give you is to shop around for the right cleaner. Find one that specialises in cleaning the type of rug you own. Ask friends for recommendations, do thorough research, and get your antique rug back in shape in no time.

Image: Antique Turkish rug hanging over a bench. Vinterior Seller: Campbell Vintage

Have any antique rug cleaning tips of your own? Want a little advice on getting out a tough stain? Or need the details of a great cleaner? Reach out to our experts in the comments below.

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