The Best Ways to Take Care of Your Antique and Area Rugs

A wall-to-wall carpet can easily be cleaned and maintained if you have the right vacuum. Area rugs can’t be cleaned the same way as wall-to-wall carpet. Some are antiques and no match for the rough brushes of modern vacuums. Other types of area rugs may not need vacuuming at all if they’re small enough to take outdoors and rinse.

Customers should always stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations and instructions as well.

Here are some tips from the Rugs house on how to maintain your antique and area rugs.

Flat-Woven Rugs

Vacuum these reversible, tightly woven, long-wearing rugs as regularly as you would carpets. If the rug is small enough, take it outdoors, rinse it, hang it over a clothesline, and brush it with a soft brush. Check the label for care instructions before washing, shampooing, or dry cleaning.

Some rugs can be hand washed or machine washed. Test a small rag rug for colorfastness; if it is, put it in a pillowcase and machine-wash it. Or hand-wash it in warm water with soap powder. After washing, gently pull the rug back into shape, and air-dry it flat.

Oriental Rugs

Because these area rugs are generally handmade, maybe old, and may not be colorfast, they need special care. The rotating brush of a newer upright vacuum cleaner is too harsh, so use a canister cleaner or an upright vacuum with a beater bar. To prevent the fringe along the edges from being sucked up, use the attachment nozzle covered with an old nylon stocking or a vacuum setting that turns off the rotary brush and provides suction only. Always vacuum in the direction that the pile is supposed to lie.

Pile Rugs

Wool pile rugs should generally be wet-cleaned; silk-pile rugs generally should be dry-cleaned, and rugs with rayon pile must be dry-cleaned exclusively. Rub a damp white cloth over dark portions to check colorfastness. If the color comes off on the cloth, the rug will bleed during cleaning.


For shag or other high-pile carpets, utilize a canister vacuum. An upright cleaner with a rotating brush can damage shag or become entangled in the loop or pile carpeting. Use it with suction only; most upright vacuums have a setting that turns off the rotating brush. You can also use a carpet rake on shag rugs to loosen tangles. To ensure all the piles are in the same direction, rake the carpet after vacuuming.


Vacuum according to the scheduled plans. Blot liquid spills instantly when used with a clean white cloth, working from the spill’s edges toward the middle. To remove stains, fill the area with a mild detergent solution or white vinegar, and then blot up immediately with a clean white cloth. Do not rub, because rubbing will damage the fibers fast.

Sisal, Coir, Rush, and Split-Cane Rugs

All of these area rugs are manufactured from plant fibers. Most are sold with a rubber backing. Vacuum regularly to remove dirt and debris caught between the fiber and the backing. For spills, first blot, then apply an absorbent dry powder. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the best way to shampoo or dry-clean.

Deep-clean or shampoo about once annually. For sisal or coconut mats, shake to remove dirt and dust, vacuum both sides, and occasionally take them outside and sponge them with warm, soapy water. Rinse and air-dry thoroughly.

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