6 Steps to Clean Oriental and Persian Rugs at Home

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated May 18, 2022
Couple sit on oriental rug
Photo: YakobchukOlena / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images
Difficulty

Intermediate

Perfect for handy homeowners.

Time to complete

2 hours

2 hours for cleaning and up to 72 hours, including the drying process

Your Oriental rug requires careful cleaning to keep it in pristine condition as it is a unique, one-of-a-kind statement piece

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What you'll need:

TOOLS

  • Vacuum or straw bristle broom
  • Water bucket
  • Soft brush or cloth
  • Squeegee tool

SUPPLIES

  • Neutral pH, gentle liquid cleaner
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda

Oriental rugs feature unique, hand-woven, intricate designs, often made from natural wool fibers. One of the most popular types is the Persian rug. With such detailed artistry, these durable rugs make a statement in any home.

Cleaning and maintaining Oriental rugs requires special care and attention to keep them looking as good as new. Over time ground-in dirt can damage the rug fibers, mildew can develop, and unsightly stains can spoil the beauty of these pieces of floor art. Knowing the proper way to clean your rug can make all the difference. Learn how to clean your Oriental rug like a pro with these tips.

  1. Remove Debris From Your Rug

    Vacuuming an oriental rug
    Photo: bradleyhebdon/ iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

    Ensuring you remove as much dirt and debris from down into the pile is important. This ground-in dirt can do a lot of damage to the rug fibers over time. Start by flipping the rug over to expose the back side. 

    Run your vacuum over the back surface. If it has a beater bar on it, you can leave this down but set high as it will agitate the rug surface and help to loosen any ingrained debris. Going over the whole back side of the rug a couple of times will help to remove as much excess debris as possible.

    When you vacuum the top side of the rug, make sure you retract the beater bar to prevent damage to the rug fibers. Move slowly over the surface, always move in the direction of the fibers, and take care at the edges—you don’t want the fringes to get damaged if they accidentally get sucked up. If you want to vacuum the edges, use the upholstery attachment with care. Again, repeat the process at least twice.

    If you have concerns about your vacuum being overly powerful, you can opt for the old-fashioned method. Shake, gently beat, and then sweep the carpet using a dedicated soft, straw bristle brush from one end to the other in the direction of the fibers. This is especially useful if you have a braided or hand-hooked rug rather than a flat weave variety.

  2. Apply a Natural Cleaning Solution

    You can wash wool Oriental rugs using cool water and a natural, neutral pH liquid cleaner. Never use harsh chemicals or boiling water. Cleaners designed for woolen fabrics or carpets work well.

    Test the cleaner on a small section of the rug first if you have concerns about color run, but this is generally not a problem with a high-quality Persian rug.

    Fill a bucket with cool to warm water and add the cleaning solution to form a sudsy mixture. Use a soft bristle brush or cloth to scoop up some water and suds to apply to the rug. Always move in the direction of the rug's fibers, work in small one square foot sections at a time, and don’t scrub too hard. Repeat this process if necessary.

  3. Use Vinegar and Baking Soda to Target Stains and Odors

    Ideally, you want to deal with any spills straight away. Blot up the excess liquid with paper towels. Don’t rub the fibers back and forth, as this may further ingrain the stain. 

    Use a quarter cup of white vinegar with some warm water—you can even mix half a teaspoon of your natural cleaner in too. Apply the mixture to the stain using a clean, white cotton cloth and let it sit for a few minutes before blotting off. For tough stains, mix up a solution of white vinegar and baking soda. Apply, and leave it for an hour or so before cleaning the whole carpet using the technique described in step two.

    If the rug has a musty odor, sprinkle some baking soda over the rug before vacuuming it off. Don’t allow pets or kids to tread over the baking soda before you clean it off—you don’t want it to rub into the rug fibers.

  4. Clean the Rug Fringe

    If your Oriental rug has a fringe, you’ll need to clean this separately. First, comb it out so that it’s lying flat. If the fringe is particularly grubby, you can first apply a vinegar and warm water solution to lift off any stains. Then apply a water and natural detergent solution and gently scrub any dirt from the fringe before rinsing it with clean water.

  5. Rinse the Rug

    You can use a squeegee to remove any loose dirt and sudsy detergent from the rug. Always use it in the direction of the fibers. If you need to rinse any excess detergent off the rug, do this with a light spray of water before going over it with the squeegee.

    To pick up as much excess moisture as possible, you can also lay some dry white towels or other absorbent fabrics on the rug and gently walk over them. Avoid saturating the rug, as it will make the drying process more of a challenge.

  6. Dry the Rug

    Quickly and thoroughly drying your Oriental rug out before putting it back in its usual position is a crucial step. If you don’t do this, it can lead to the formation of mildew, bad odors, and even weaken the rug weave, causing it to rot.

    Dry your rug in an airy location, rotate it, and keep it flat. Consider using a fan to speed up the drying time. Although you don’t want it in the direct sun for prolonged periods to prevent the weave pattern from fading, a sunny spot will be fine just for the day or so drying duration.

    Wool loves to retain water, so it could take two or three days for your Oriental rug to fully dry out.

DIY vs. Hiring a Pro

Properly caring for an Oriental rug is of the utmost importance, as the detailed natural wool can be damaged if you don’t know the proper cleaning method. That said, once you get the method down, it just takes about two hours of your time (plus several days to dry). 

But if you want to spare yourself the headache, you can hire a local house cleaning service or rug cleaner near you to take care of the work. Professionals can also do a much deeper clean than you can at home. The cost to hire a pro is $1.25 to $8 per square foot of rug, and about $50 to $300 for full projects. 

Do You Have to Clean Oriental Rugs?

Depending on where your rug is, the foot traffic it gets, and whether kiddos and pets are part of the equation, you’ll need to have an Oriental rug deep cleaned at least once a year. Like all rugs and carpets, Oriental rugs can collect dirt, dust, and other debris over time. If you don’t give it a good cleaning, that buildup can become… super gross.

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