How to wash your oriental rug

Posted by Ahmad Mohammadian on 3rd Oct 2018

A quality handmade oriental rug can completely change the feeling of your home or office and become a beloved focal point for decades to come. They become not just part of your decor, but a part of your home which should bring you joy every time you look at it. However, despite your best intentions and attempts to mitigate the inevitable soiling of your rug - whether it is refusing to wear shoes indoors or vacuuming daily - the fact is that over time your rug will accumulate dust and dirt that a standard vacuuming or rug beating just cannot get out. Here we will show you how to wash your handmade wool rug to bring back the shine and color which can often be dulled by years of ground in dirt. 

Before you begin

All handmade rugs are unique and therefore may have specific requirements to cleaning, do not proceed unless you are sure that your rug can handle it and that you have the proper tools and space.

Be aware that rugs can become very heavy when wet so you may need additional help especially when hang drying – improper drying can leave water trapped within the rug which can severely damage it.

What you will need

-All natural carpet shampoo

-A bucket

-A hose or watering pail

-Flat space to clean the rug (back patio or driveways work well)

-Gentle hand brush

How to wash your rug

To begin washing your handmade oriental rug, we should first start by removing dust that has been ground into the fibers. To do this, place the rug face down on a hard and level surface like a concrete or hardwood floor. Slowly vacuum the back of the rug while the brush or beater bar is on. Doing this vibrates the rug and shakes the fine dust which has been trapped inside the fibers and causes it to fall out. If there is lots of dust in the rug you will see fine dust on the floor when you turn it over. Turn the rug over and vacuum the floor and the face of the rug. Repeat this process as many times as necessary to get out all or most of the dirt and dust from inside the rug.

The next step is to check if your rug is color-fast (meaning the dyes will not run). This test is important because it determines if your rug should be washed by you or if you need to bring it to a professional. To perform the test all you need is a cold, damp white towel. Place the damp towel on a portion of the rug you would like to test and press down for 30 seconds. Do not rub or move the towel to avoid pulling out wool particles and cause the colors to bleed onto the rug itself. After 30 seconds lift up the towel and look to see if the dyes from the rug have bled onto your towel. If you find that the color is running, stop and wait to bring to a professional cleaner. Be warned that this method may not always work so if you have any doubts check with a professional or contact the person you purchased the rug from – generally vegetable dyes will not run.

-It is highly recommended that the following process be continued outside as you will need to completely soak the rug in order to properly clean it-

Once you are sure that the colors will not run, begin soaking the rug with COLD water using a hose or gardening can (under no circumstances should hot or warm water be used, including steam cleaning). A gentle wool rug shampoo is best to use however when in doubt, go with all natural soaps which will be gentle on handmade rugs and avoid stripping the lanolin from the wool. Combine the shampoo and water in a bucket – generally around 3 or 4 ounces of shampoo per half gallon of water. If the water and shampoo mixture is too soapy, add more water to avoid having soap get stuck in the rug.

Begin by washing the back of the rug with a soft brush. Once you have gently scrubbed the entirety of the back of the rug, rinse it with plenty of cold water and flip the rug over to the front (Be aware that wet rugs can become very heavy so you may need another person’s help to turn it over).

Repeat the process on the front, being sure to pay attention to any areas of the rug which may be stained or heavily soiled. You may need to scrub problem areas multiple times to fully remove stains or discoloration. Quality handmade rugs are tough and should be able to withstand vigorous scrubbing with a gentle brush. However, if your rug is very old or has areas of significant wear/damage this process may pull knots from the foundation and is best handled by a professional.

After you have scrubbed the entirety of your rug proceed to rinse the front and back thoroughly in order to remove any soap which may be trapped within it. When doing so, be sure to brush the rug along with the direction of the pile so it is all going the same direction. There are several ways to determine the direction of the pile, however, the easiest is by hand. Run your hand over the top of the rug and notice how in one direction the pile lays down smooth and in the other direction it sticks up, much like the direction of a dog or cat’s fur. Comb the pile so that it all lays down flat, this will assure that when it dries the knots are in their natural position.

Now that the rug is thoroughly washed and rinsed it must be hang dried to be sure air can circulate throughout it and the water can drip out the bottom. Be sure whatever you are hanging your rug on, such as a railing or a fence, has been wiped down as well in order to avoid getting your newly cleaned rug dirty again. Be aware, handmade rugs, much like hardwood floors, will begin to rot if they remain wet for too long. A large heavy rug should be completely dry in no more than three or four days. If you notice your rug remaining wet, improve air circulation using a fan.

When hang drying your rug outdoors it is best to dry it with the back facing up so as to avoid any sun fading to the front (a quality handmade rug should not become discolored by a few days in the sun but it is better to avoid it if possible). In many cases, depending how you dry the rug, you may notice the pile of the rug going in the wrong direction in some places and not returning to normal directly after washing and drying. This is perfectly normal for wool rugs and it should return to normal and lay correctly after a few days of lying flat or with the help of some vacuuming or light brushing.

Good luck washing your rug and if you have other questions you can contact us at homarugs@homarugs.com