How to Care for and Clean Your Vintage and Antique Rugs

How to Care for and Clean Your Vintage and Antique Rugs

You just spent months hunting for the perfect vintage rug, you finally get it home and cry a few happy tears inside because of your amazing score, and a few days later the unimaginable drop a crumb on it.

I know, I know - this feels like the end of the world. How on earth is that amazing photo of your new vintage runner rug in your kitchen supposed to be reposted 1,000 times on Pinterest and Instagram now that it's polluted with a friggin' crumb?!

But with my 8 tips you can rest assured that you'll be ready to tackle crumbs, wine spills, and anything else that happens to your beautiful vintage or antique rug over the years to come. 

Tip 1 - Vacuum your vintage and antique rugs properly.

long hallway runner rug persian rug antique rug

I can read your're thinking, what the heck did I get myself into?!

But the fact is, it doesn't take long to vacuum your vintage and antique rugs properly, especially if you want them to look beautiful for next 100 years.

First things first, use the right vacuum (or at least the right vacuum setting.) If you can, use a carpet sweeper, most vacuums are simply too aggressive for fine vintage and antique rugs. 

If you can't, opt for a canister vacuum set on high and use the right technique.  Only vacuum your vintage and antique rug from side to side. This lessens abrasion and helps you avoid your rug's fringe. Oh yea - don't vacuum the fringe.

Tip 2 - Remove spills the right way, quickly.

antique red rug persian rug distressed rug

(rug in photo above is Shira)

It's housewarming party time. Everything looks spotless and every single guest except Marla (uggghhh of course not Marla) has complimented you on your amazing vintage rug.

Then it's feast time. You pull out that vegan fettuccini Alfredo (you'll thank me later) and red wine and everyone raves. But in the middle of all this best-housewarming-party-of-the-year-goodness, MARLA accidentally spills her glass of red wine in the middle of her heart-felt discussion on the awesomeness of safety cones. Of course.

So you have a few options: 

A. Give Marla the wine bottle, tell her to lay down on the rug with said wine bottle, roll the rug up with Marla in it, and call Lyft to drop them off at the nearest body of water.

B. Break down in tears, kick everyone out...Marla first, and sell your new home because everything is ruined. RUINED!!

C. Calmly and quickly rush over to the wine spot with a moist clean cloth and blot the stain from the edges to the center. Then raise the rug to help the wet spot dry so your rug won't mildew and rot. Once done, beg Marla to continue sharing her thoughts on why safety cones are better without stripes.

Even though option A would be the most satisfying, option C will save your vintage rug from destruction and an expensive, emergency call to your favorite oriental rug cleaner.


Tip 3 - Don't get that amazing vintage or antique rug wet.

red turkoman rug persian rug antique rug

(rug in photo above is Hazel)

This is the biggest reason I recommend choosing the right rug for the right area in your home. If you want to buy a silk rug, the worse thing you can do is use it in the wettest part of your bathroom.

The fact is, quality vintage and antique rugs are often made of natural fibers like wool and silk. These materials don't like to get too wet. So when you're picking a vintage or antique rug (I teach you the right way to buy a vintage and antique rug here) as a bathroom rug, make sure you keep the space and materials in mind.

Tip 4 - Move that plant.

large living room rug dining room rug bedroom rug persian rug antique rug

(rug in photo above is Fergie)

Those planted fiddle leaf trees on rugs look amazing on Pinterest but in real life, they can destroy your vintage and antique rugs. Even if you're trying to hide that rug repair, don't do it with a plant. The moisture and dirt will leave a stain at best or worse, rot your rug and that's no way to take care of that new-to-you vintage and antique rug. Right!?

Tip 5 - Don't use the wrong rug pad.

large kilim rug dhurrie rug indian rugg 8x10 rug living room rug bedroom rug

(rug in photo above is Vyra)

Anyone that's used the wrong rug pad will warn you, don't do it. The cheap ones will leave a stain on your floors and will not provide proper protection for your new-to-you vintage and antique rug. If you need a rug pad (which I recommend to those trying to prevent tripping hazards on smooth/slippery floors) go with a high quality felt rug pad.

Tip 6 - Don't forget the bi-annual cleaning.

large kilim rug vintage rug antique rug afghan rug

(rug in photo above is Stria)

I get it. Your home is spotless, no one even eats near the rug, and you don't wear shoes in your home or let alone walk on the rug.

Although your family has mastered handstand walking because of your vintage and antique rugs, I assure you, your rug is still dirty. Over the years, life happens and every bit of dog hair, dust, dirt, and grime will find it's way to your amazing vintage and antique rug. No amount of vacuuming or shoe cover wearing can prevent this. It will just reduce the amount of dirt and wear.

In fact, if you've had your antique or vintage rug for a few months now, I dare you to stop everything you're doing right now, flip your vintage rug to the back and vacuum it (this is what I do before I send my rugs to get professionally cleaned) and tell me what you see.

Once you lift the rug, you will find a surprising amount of loose dirt on your floor. That was in your rug, so make sure you get a quality good wash every 1-3 years.

Tip 7 - Just say no to DIY.

large red rug 10x6 rug antique rug persian rug vintage rug

(rug in photo above is Dora)

I cringe when I scour the Internet and see all of these "amazing" DIY cleaning tips for vintage and antique rugs. Most of them involve tools, techniques, and chemicals that will ruin your beautiful vintage or antique rug investment. There are a lot of things you can do to prevent stains and damage to your rug. But there are many more things you can do to destroy it.

My best advice to you is - you've invested so much into buying a vintage and antique rug, don't ruin it with a DIY.

Just say no to the rug doctors. And don't even think about involving a washing machine. Vintage and antique rugs aren't fragile (I mean you're already buying a rug that looks amazing at 30-100 years old) but there are sure fire ways like creating DIY cleaning solutions to clean your vintage and antique rugs to ensure they don't last beautifully for another century.

Tip 8 - When in doubt, involve a professional.

I have the privilege of dealing with some of the best oriental rug cleaners in the business on a daily basis. I also have the privilege of seeing and hearing first-hand about the destruction people unknowingly bestow on their gorgeous antique and vintage rug treasures. 

If you don't know what to do and a google search yields questionable results, let a pro take care of it. And make sure to involve the right professional. Most likely, your best local carpet cleaning guy isn't the one - sorry Mr. Carpet Cleaning Guy. You need the services of an experienced professional (just search for "oriental rug cleaning") that uses the proper equipment and techniques (particularly when drying the rugs) to clean and maintain your vintage and antique rugs.

In fact, I'll end this article with a video to show how a PROPER rug cleaning is done and you'll see why an experienced professional is required, until next time folks!!


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