How to Clean Oriental Rugs and Carpets
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The best way to keep a rug clean is to keep it from getting dirty in the first place. Removing outdoor shoes when entering the house (as people do in most rug-weaving countries) is a good idea if this accords with your lifestyle. Bare-foot or sock-foot traffic is much gentler to a rug than a hard outdoor-shoe sole (or spike heel), and leaving your outdoor shoes at the entrance to the house tracks in much less dirt.
Have your rug cleaned only when it really needs it. For rugs in some areas this will mean a yearly cleaning. Rugs in other areas can go several years and more without needing professional cleaning.
To judge how dirty a rug is, try one of these methods:
- Pick up a corner of the rug and while holding it, kick the back of the rug sharply. If a cloud of dirt flies out of the pile, the rug is dirty and needs cleaning. NOTE: some dust and wool fibers are normal!
- Kneel down on the rug and rub the pile vigorously with your hand in a short arc for 5 to 10 seconds. Look at your fingers and palm: if your hand is dirty, the rug needs cleaning.
- With the pile facing UP fold part of the rug back upon itself so that the pile opens along a line of knots. Look down into the base of the pile at the foundation of the rug. If the warp and weft look dirty, there is dirt deep in the pile where a home vacuum cleaner cannot reach it. The rug needs cleaning.
Clean It Yourself
It's easy to clean small rugs yourself. The process is best done in a utility room or garage (on a clean floor) or outside on a clean driveway or paved walk on a nice, sunny day:
Rug First Aid….
Always try to work on the spill so as not to increase the area of the spill.
Food spills/Pet urine
Of the most common spills, urine presents the most severe problem. It can cause severe color run in the rug, and the odor can be very hard to remove or disguise. Urine can also chemically damage the structure of a rug by making the foundation hard and less supple, and the presence of urine in a rug can help attract moths. Repeated wettings can cause the foundation of the rug to loose mechanical strength to the point where the rug cracks and breaks when rolled or folded.
In case of a food spill or urine on a rug, the problem is much more easily handled if the spot is treated promptly, before the spill is allowed to dry. Blot up as much liquid as possible with paper towels or a clean, white cloth. Try to rinse out as much of the spill as possible.
A smaller rug can be taken outside and rinsed with a hose and cool water (try not to saturate the whole rug–it will take much longer to dry if you do). With a larger carpet, the corner or edge can be laid in a plastic dishpan and saturated with cool water or a bucket or plastic garbage can can be placed under the wet area of the carpet and cool water poured through the rug (make a hollow in the carpet over the container before you pour, and don't exceed the capacity of the container under the rug!). Add about 1 cup of white vinegar per gallon to the rinse water–vinegar helps prevent colors from running and will help neutralize the urine odor.
After the rug has been rinsed, blot dry and sponge with rug shampoo or with the solution given below. Let dry thoroughly (drying a wet area of a larger carpet can be hastened by arranging the carpet so that air can circulate both top and bottom–drape the end of the carpet across a lawn chair, or put a sawhorse or painted bench under the rug in the area of the wet spot).
Pet stool, regurgitation
If a pet regurgitates on a rug, you are faced with removing a complex mixture of foodstuffs, saliva, and stomach acids. Depending on the foods involved, this mixture can actually work as a dilute dye to stain the pile a different hue. If a pet regurgitates or defecates on a rug, clean the area immediately by picking up as much material as possible with paper towels or with a clean, white cloth. If necessary, use a tablespoon to scrape up all the foreign material. Blot the area dry and immediately sponge several times with rug shampoo or with the cleaning solution listed below. Don't scrub hard–too much manipulation of the pile can spread the stain. Sponge in the direction of the nap.
Spot Cleaning Solution
*Most Oriental rug dyes are acid-fast. By adding a little white vinegar to the wash water you make the wash water more acidic, and this reinforces the bond between the dyestuff and the wool in the rug, and so helps prevent the colors from running.
Finally, sponge the area with cool, clean water to finish. Use absorbent towels or a firm, non-shedding sponge. Don't use a brush so stiff that it pulls fibers from the pile. Don't scrub hard at the pile. Sponge in the direction of the nap. Place some towels under the spot to keep floor or pad from getting wet. Dry thoroughly. When the nap feels dry, check the back of the rug to be sure the area is completely dry.