An oriental rug is a very different product from machine made, wall-to-wall carpets. This difference goes beyond the patters, colors, and design. The actual structure of the carpet is different and oriental rugs need different care for best looks and longevity.
Maintaining Your Oriental Rug
Your carpet will naturally collect dust and dirt over time, and thus, need to be cleaned periodically. The quality of wool and dyes used in the creation of your rug are good indicators of how well your oriental carpet will hold up during the cleaning process!
What is the best method of cleaning an oriental rug?
Oriental rugs, like most carpeting, should be vacuumed on a regular basis to remove dirt and restore life to the fibers. Be sure not to vacuum the fringe with your beater bar! Use the end of a vacuum hose from a canister vacuum. Since the nap of an oriental lies in one direction (from the top of the rug to the bottom), vacuuming from side to side will produce the best results. It is not wise to shake or beat a rug with a pole to get the dust out. If you feel the need to freshen the surface of your rug without washing it, you can wipe the pile with a cloth/sponge using cold water only (change the water frequently). Do not use any type of chemicals or off-the-shelf carpet stain removers to clean your oriental rug. They are made for the synthetic fibers of carpeting and most likely will damage a wool oriental rug.
What to do about spills and accidents?
The best medicine for spills is to get the substance out of the rug as fast as possible. Use anything handy to absorb the spill (do not brush or rub the stain). If color from the spilled substance is still visible after you have sopped up as much of the spill as possible, you will have to dilute it by sponging using cold water (hoping that the spilled substance is water soluble) and then removing as much of it as possible. It is best not to get the rug really soaking wet. If you do, make sure you elevate the rug so that it can air dry. If a stain persists, you will probably have to have the rug washed.
Urine stains from pets are probably the most common of all stains in oriental rugs. They present a special problem because urine actually changes the chemical composition of dyes once it has had a chance to set. The best strategy then is to remove it the same way as other stains- as fast as possible. Rinse the area with a solution of water and distilled white vinegar (about one tablespoon per cup of water) and then remove as much as possible from the rug. If a urine stain is already dry when you discover it, act as quickly as possible anyway, and get the rug to an oriental rug cleaning specialist. Enzyme type urine removers feed on wool and should not be used on oriental rugs.
How often should an oriental rug be washed?
Naturally, rugs gradually wear as they are walked on, but you can lessen the problem by turning or rotating your rugs from time to time so they don’t always get walked on in the same places. Walking on a dirty rug shortens its life prematurely. Dirt and sand fragments act like sandpaper as you grind them into the surface of your rug. Therefore, your oriental rug should be washed on the average every three to five years. The best way to tell whether your rug is clean or dirty is by testing it with a wet white towel/cloth. If you see a lot of dirt on the towel after wiping your rug, that means you found your answer. Depending on the color of your rug, you might not think your rug is dirty; it probably would look flat and lusterless.