A beautiful vintage rug can be a piece that pulls an entire room together, adding depth, color and texture to your space. Yet as romantic as a one-of-a-kind antique rug sounds—not to mention the high craftsmanship and exquisite patterns it brings to the table (er, floor)—it can also introduce decades or even centuries worth of dirt and dust from everyday use into your home (gross). You don’t have to compromise on style, though, as cleaning a vintage rug can be quite simple—as long as you know the dos and don'ts. Here’s how to weave your way through it.
DO: Learn the rug’s history.
Because most vintage rugs are made of wool, they require professional hand washing, says Ben Hyman, cofounder and CEO of Revival Rugs, a company that works with artisans in Istanbul to to offer high-quality carpets online. “Before purchasing the rug, ask the seller the last time the rug was professionally cleaned,” he says. Ideally, this will have been done prior to you making your purchase.
DON'T: Attempt to DIY if your rug seems really dirty.
“Hand washing requires the use of a pH-balanced shampoo worked into the rug by hand with a soft-bristled brush before being rinsed thoroughly, and repeated a few times,” explains Hyman. As such, he recommends paying an expert that specializes in handmade Oriental rugs to do the first deep clean. “While an extreme DIYer might be able to pull it off, there is a risk you could damage the carpet,” he says. (FYI, you can expect to pay about $3 to $5 per square foot for professional cleaning, depending on the rug’s condition.)
DO: Make your vacuum do double duty.
For a good deep clean at home, a trusty Dyson can be your best friend. Vacuum the rug on top, then flip it over and vacuum it from the bottom as well, advises Tanya Meda, designer with House of Six Interiors. “It’s amazing how much dirt can come out of this—I’ve been known to flip a rug several times before I felt like it was completely [clean],” she says. Doing this once or twice a month should be adequate; it's also smart to rotate your rug once a year to ensure even wear, says Hyman.
DON’T: Let stains set.
Lanolin, a natural oil found in wool, is a natural stain repellent, so it can provide the first line of defense in the unfortunate case of, say, a dinner party guest sloshing a little red wine on your rug. But you should still act quickly in the event of a spill, says Hyman. His tips: If the stain is non-oily (like wine), blot it with a paper towel and sparingly add water to the spot to dilute it, repeating this process until the stain is gone. If the stain is dense or oily, remove what you can with some heavy paper, then try the same blot-and-rinse technique. No matter what, resist the urge to scrub, says Hyman, as that can damage the fibers and make the stain penetrate deeper.
DON’T: Steam or dry clean your rug.
Both can actually damage a wool rug and introduce harsh chemicals that will break down the wool, says Hyman.
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