The rich colours and patterns of handmade rugs add warmth and opulence to interiors and have been treasured by collectors for centuries. Keeping rugs clean isn’t just a question of making them look good – if you don’t remove grit and dust it may become embedded in the structure of the rug and cause damage that will shorten its life.


Not cleaning a rug may also encourage moths. Handmade rugs should be vacuumed with extreme caution: never vacuum fringes and bear in mind overzealous use of powerful vacuum cleaners can damage knots. If your rug is made from silk or is a delicate and valuable antique, it’s best to give it to a professional to clean. Other rugs can be cleaned by hand at home. How often you do so depends on how much wear a rug gets, but once every two years would be an average recommended guide.

You Will Need

  • Cane beater or vacuum
  • White cloth
  • Rug shampoo – use a variety without bleach
  • Warm water
  • White vinegar
  • Natural bristle brush (a horse grooming brush is ideal)

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How to clean an antique rug

  1. Remove loose dirt by gentle beating with a cane beater or vacuum on a gentle setting.
  2. Test for colour fastness by running a damp white cloth over the surface of the rug – if colour bleeds seek professional advice.
  3. Mix half a cup of rug shampoo with five cups of warm (not hot) water and one tablespoon of white vinegar.
  4. Lay rug on a hard, fat surface with pile uppermost. Dip brush in cleaning solution and begin at one corner, brushing the pile up and down gently. Work carefully across the surface of the rug without soaking. It isn’t usually necessary to clean the reverse.
  5. Place the rug on a dry, hard, fat surface to dry thoroughly – a patio is ideal, weather permitting. Don’t put it on the lawn – it will absorb moisture.
  6. Brush gently again in the direction of the pile before replacing it on the floor.