Rug Cleaning Guide: Tips for Cleaning Oriental and Area Rugs

Margaret Wack
Written by Margaret Wack
Updated September 13, 2021
Oriental rug in living room
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In most cases, you shouldn't clean your area rugs like you would your carpet

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An elegant, handwoven rug can spruce up any room and add color and texture to bland spaces. However, area rugs can be expensive, so it’s important to care for them properly. If your home features area rugs, like Persian or Oriental, as well as regular carpet, you shouldn’t clean them the same way. Steam cleaning Oriental rugs at home might be tempting, but it could cause damage. The proper cleaning methods depend on the specific material of your rug or carpet.

While steam cleaning is ideal for wall-to-wall carpet, you should never steam clean an Oriental rug at home. This type of rug is typically made with natural fibers like wool, silk, cotton, or jute.

These types of fibers require more thorough cleaning, which means that it’s a good idea to get them professionally cleaned. Steam cleaning will not properly clean an Oriental rug, and it might even damage it.

Because of the delicate nature of Oriental rugs, it’s a good idea to hire a professional to clean it. They’ll be able to determine what type of fiber your rug is made out of and the best cleaning method.

Spot Cleaning Oriental Rugs

If you have a minor spill or stain on your Oriental rug, you can spot clean it in between professional cleanings. 

Here’s how to spot clean your Oriental rug:

  • Prepare a solution of one part one vinegar to two parts water

  • Use a clean white cloth to apply the solution and blot the spot or stain, avoiding rubbing the stain further into the rug

  • Allow to dry to assess whether a professional steam cleaning will be necessary

How to Clean Area Rugs

The majority of area rugs or Oriental rugs are made with wool, which contains small crevices that can trap dirt and soil. Handmade area rugs are also made entirely of fiber rather than fiber held in place with a backing like carpet. 

This means that to get a rug 100% clean, it must be cleaned all the way through, not just on the surface, which is how steam cleaning carpet is performed. Remember, steam cleaning Oriental and Persian rugs at home isn’t recommended.

Area rugs can also be made of many other natural fibers such as silk, cotton, or jute, which means that cleaning an area rug is a custom job every time. Proper rug cleaning cannot be performed by simply running a steam cleaner over the front and back. 

At best, that type of cleaning would be cosmetic and only temporary; at worst, it could cause irreversible damage. Getting your area rug or Oriental rug professionally cleaned is the best way to protect it and ensure that it brightens up your room for years to come.

How to Clean Wall-to-Wall Carpet

Having your household wall-to-wall carpets steam cleaned from a carpet cleaning company will ensure all dirt and grime is removed, and that it dries quickly. Especially when dealing with carpets made from nylon, polyester, or other plastic-based fibers, using a steam cleaner is more than adequate.

It’s a good idea to steam clean your carpet about once a year. In between steam cleans, you can spot-clean small stains using homemade detergent solutions or diluted vinegar. You should also vacuum regularly and treat any spills or stains immediately when they occur.

Carpet vs. Area Rugs: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between wall-to-wall carpet and area rugs is how they’re made. The wall-to-wall carpet in your home is typically manufactured on a machine that uses synthetic material to produce 15 feet of carpet per minute. The carpet’s primary components are a face fiber held in place with latex adhesive and a plastic backing material.

In contrast, most area rugs are made entirely by hand from all-natural rug materials like wool, silk, cotton, or jute. It can take as little as a month to make or up to two years or longer to produce a single handmade rug such as a Persian or Oriental rug.

FAQs About Rug Cleaning

Dogs on oriental rug with their owners
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Should I hire a professional cleaner?

Your area rugs are a one-of-a-kind investment, so don’t trust their cleaning and care to just anyone—especially since steam cleaning Oriental rugs at home can cause irreversible damage. 

Look for a cleaner with the education, experience, and expertise to care for your rugs safely and effectively. A professional rug cleaner in your area can help walk you through your options.

How do I maintain my rug?

Regular rug maintenance can go a long way toward extending the life of your rug. You should try to vacuum your rug about once a week in order to remove dust and debris. It’s also a good idea to periodically rotate your rug in order to evenly distribute wear.

If you spill on your rug, you should dab the stain and use only water to clean it from the rug, avoiding soap, bleach, and other cleaning products.

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