Sustainable Ways to Clean and Care for an Antique Rug

Antique Rugs

Something about an antique rug adds a unique sense of depth, texture, and color to a bland space. A beautiful vintage rug can transform any space into a masterpiece; it is sure to get the job done if you want to change your space and make it livelier. The patterns, shades, and feel of your expensive rug are a welcome sight for anyone sharing your space. But the same cannot be said when your rug is dirty and clearly needs some Tender Loving Care.

Owning an antique rug is a privilege, but many aren’t aware of the responsibility required to keep the rug looking clean and well-maintained. If this sounds like your dilemma, you’re in luck. Today, we’ll look at taking care of an antique rug and to how clean it sustainably.

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Photo by Ryan Christodoulou (Unsplash)

How To Clean an Antique Rug

For your antique rug to remain durable and attractive, you must learn to clean and care for it like a pro. Antique rugs need as much care as fine art paintings. One wrong move and your valued rug could lose its allure or be permanently damaged.

Read on to see how you should clean any antique rug.

Cleaning Essentials, You’ll Need

  • White microfiber cloth
  • Warm water
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • White vinegar
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Rug shampoo

Top Tips To Clean an Antique Rug

Even when your antique rug is a couple of decades old, preserving its beauty is possible. Here are the best cleaning practices you should follow whenever you want to clean your rug.

  1. Use a cane beater or a vacuum cleaner. Doing this in a gentle setting removes dust, debris, and accumulated loose dirt on your rug. Turn the rug upside down and vacuum on the bottom also. It makes a whole lot of difference.
  1. Test for color fastness. Rub a white damp cloth on your rug to test whether or not the color of your rug is intact. Most antique rugs do not fade, but as time advances, chemical reactions occur, leading to fading. Should you notice the color on your white cloth, consider consulting a professional first. If there’s no color on the white cloth, move to the next step.
  1. Mix five cups of warm water and a cup of rug shampoo to make the ideal cleaning solution. Add a tablespoon of white vinegar to this solution for easier cleaning.
  1. Lay your rug on a dry, flat, hard surface. Dip the soft brush in your cleaning solution and start brushing from one corner. Use up and down motions to carefully remove dirt from the rug. Avoid soaking the rug as you work your way throughout the rug’s surface.
  1. Start the whole process again when you’re done brushing the whole carpet. Considering you’re not using as much water as you would on a standard rug, gently brushing your antique rug with a damp brush ensures you don’t leave any spot unclean.
  1. Hang your rug to air dry in a safe area free of dust.
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    Photo by Khunkorn Laowisit (Pexel)

Do You Own a Vintage Rug? Do’s and Don’ts

There’s no way around it. Cleaning your rug is something that you must do regularly to keep it looking good as new. To ensure you don’t have a hard time during cleaning and that your antique rug continues to adorn your space for years to come, here are some do’s and don’ts you should consider.


Safe cleaning practices for antique rugs include:

Keep Your Rug Dry

Moisture exposure can prove detrimental to antique rugs’ durability and overall well-being. After washing, leave the rug to air dry completely before laying it down in the house again. To properly lay the carpet, consider laying it back side up to ensure the upside is protected from direct sunlight and drying happens fast. After laying the rug down in your room, keep the windows open to keep airing the rug.

If you leave the rug moist for too long, it will mold. Mold growth can permanently damage an antique rug. Avoid placing house plants on the rug even when the plants are kept inside a plastic container. Moisture can seep into the rug without you knowing and ruin it irreversibly.

Learn the Rug’s History

Most antique rugs are over three decades old. Some rugs are as old as 80 years! Therefore, several people have probably owned it before you. When buying a new antique rug, ask the seller questions such as, ‘when was the rug last professionally cleaned?’ ‘How old is the rug?’ If you don’t know a rug’s history, you’re likely to introduce new habits that may ruin your rug.

Find Out the Origin and Material your Rug is Made Of

Knowing what material your rug is made of allows you to figure out what works and what doesn’t regarding its upkeep and cleaning. Many antique rugs are made out of wool. Wool, unlike synthetic material, is delicate and requires gentle care. Learning about the type of weave technique used to make your rug also informs your decision to either vacuum or pressure wash it during cleaning. Note that it’s prudent to learn about the origin of your antique rug. This way, you can find the best methods to clean and maintain it.

Position your Rug Correctly

Contrary to most opinions, dirt is not the only thing you should be worried about regarding rugs’ cleaning and maintenance. A rugs’ placement in your living room, lounge, bedroom, or other space in your home can directly determine how well it ages. For example, if you place your rug in the entrance hall, there’s a good chance that it will age faster in direct sunlight. The prolonged sun exposure and high foot traffic will cause faster tear and wear.  If your rug is too old, avoid laying it on the floor. Instead, consider displaying it on your wall like a painting.

Use a Rug Pad

Rotating your antique rug is imperative if you want to ensure it ages evenly. Another thing you must include as part of rug care and maintenance is using a rug pad. A rug pad is an essential protective tool every antique rug owner should have.Placing an antique rug on bare floors leads to overstretching, friction, and gradual weakening of fibers. A rug pad is a piece of material that matches the size of your rug that protects your antique rug from all harmful external factors.

Consult a Professional

If you are unsure how to clean your antique rug, seek the help of a professional.  A carpet cleaning professional has plenty of experience, knowledge, and all the tools required to clean an antique rug without damaging it. DIY cleaning for an old rug may cost you far more than it will cost you to pay and consult a renowned professional on the best care and maintenance for your carpet.


Here’s a list of cleaning and maintenance mistakes you should avoid.

Don’t Dry Clean or Steam Clean an Antique Rug

Most antique rugs are handmade using original wool thread. Dry or steam cleaning requires soap and detergents containing harsh chemicals. These chemicals gradually break down wool, thus degrading your rug and significantly reducing its durability.

Don’t DIY Your Antique Rug if It’s Stained or Too Dirty

If your carpet is too dirty, leave it to the professionals. Removing stubborn stains and accumulated dirt on your rug may force you to use detergents and bleaching chemicals that will help eliminate the dirt but leave your antique rug vulnerable.

It never hurts to seek advice from a professional antique carpet cleaner if your rug has a stain or when it’s too dirty.

Don’t Allow the Stains To Set

If wine, juice, or ice cream spills on your carpet, clean it properly right away. The longer you leave the stain on your carpet, the harder it will be to remove. Antique rugs are made from wool. Wool contains a natural oil known as Lanolin. Lanolin is a natural stain repellent that keeps any stain from setting on your rug. The only problem is that it’s a temporary repellent. Therefore, you have a few minutes to blot stains with a paper towel immediately after the spill occurs. If the stain doesn’t come off properly, add plain water on the spot to dilute it and wipe it off gently using a damp cloth. Avoid scrubbing the stain.

Don’t Over Expose Your Rug in the Sun

Antique rugs can fade when exposed to sunlight for extended durations. Note that most antique carpets are made from natural fibers. These fibers break down faster if exposed to direct sunlight. When you leave the rug outside to air dry, do so for a few hours and place it under the shade for further drying. After that, if you place your antique rug close to the window after cleaning, rotate it every few days to keep one side of the rug from wearing more than other areas.

Avoid keeping your rug near the window altogether if you want to protect it. If this isn’t an option, consider covering your windows with a thin Mylar film to keep UV rays from reaching your rugs. UV rays from the sun are responsible for causing discoloration on antique rugs and all other items made from wool or cotton fiber.

Don’t Over-Vacuum

Gentle vacuuming is recommended during the initial stages of cleaning your antique rug. However, be careful not to overdo it. Excessive vacuuming will loosen fibers and cause significant deterioration on your rug. Even when months have gone by since you last cleaned your rug, or you have pets that shed ‘tons’ of hair on your rug, resist the temptation to use a high-power setting when vacuuming your antique rug.

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Photo by Pixabay (Pexel)

Don’t Use Chemical Solutions

Your antique rug could be a few decades old. After all, it’s an antique! Using strong chemicals during cleaning will undoubtedly remove the dirt and stains, but it will do your rug more harm than good. Strong detergents and bleach can compromise the coloring on your rug and cause extensive damage to the wool fibers.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

Here are some of the frequently asked questions about care for an antique rug/ sustainable cleaning.

  1. Can I use a carpet cleaner on an antique rug?

Not all carpet cleaners are safe for antique rugs. Avoid using detergents and carpet cleaners with harsh chemicals on your antique rug. Using the wrong detergent on your rug can damage natural fibers and degrade the natural protective oils that keep your rug staining. Harsh cleaning agents also cause your rug to bleed, which leads to fading.

  1. Can you steam clean vintage rugs?

Steam cleaning an antique rug can cause damage. Steam cleaning shortens the antique rug’s lifespan and breaks down the wool, making it appear far less attractive.

The best way to clean an old rug is to do it by hand using the suitable detergents. Otherwise, you could pay a professional carpet cleaner to help clean your old rug. Cleaning an antique rug generally costs about $5 to $8 per square foot.

  1. How old should a rug be to consider it an antique?

For a rug to be worthy of the title ‘antique,’ it is at least 80 to 100 years old. Some rugs that are about 50 years old are called Semi-antique or vintage. Any rug that’s twenty years or older should get exceptional care and be cleaned by a professional every few months.

  1. How do you clean vintage rugs, and how often should it be done?

You can vacuum your antique rug every few days to keep dirt from settling and sticking to the surface. Any time you pour colored drinks on your carpet, clean it right away to avoid staining. Clean your rug using carpet-friendly supplies at least twice a month.

Feel free to consult a professional specializing in antique rugs to determine how best to maintain and clean your rug.

Final Say

How well you clean and care for your antique rug determines its durability. Owning an antique rug is like owning expensive property. It’s an investment. You want to know that you are doing the right thing when taking your rug to the experts isn’t an option. Above are answers to burning questions and valuable tips to point you in the right direction on all matters of antique rug care and maintenance.