You probably consider your fitted carpets to be just a floor covering that you will replace at some point in the future. But what about your rugs? I know that I consider mine to be a work of art that I appreciate like the paintings on my walls. Hopefully they’ll outlive me so that future generations can also enjoy them. I’ve put this guide together so that you can learn how to maintain Persian rugs and pass them on to your descendants too.
How To Maintain Persian Rugs – A Guide For Rug Lovers
This guide is relevant even if your rugs are from other parts of the world. I use ‘Persian rug’ as a catch-all term to refer to all types of hand woven, natural, non-fitted carpets; be they a Serapi Heriz from North-West Iran or a Star Kazak from the South-West Caucuses.
The good news is that learning how to maintain Persian rugs mostly involves a few easy to follow pro-active tasks that will keep them looking beautiful for many years:
Protect Your Rugs From UV Rays
The colours in your rugs will change over time. This will happen so slowly that you won’t notice it happening. The results will be startlingly different depending on whether the dyes are natural or synthetic..
Rugs with natural dyes
These are sometimes referred to as vegetable or vegetal dyes although there are different types of natural rug dyes that are extracted from insects. The effect of sunlight on these dyes can be described as slow and pleasant. They will generally withstand the effects of UV ray exposure much better than synthetic dyes. The colours will soften in a way that gives a charming patina to the rug. I would describe the process as a gradual symphony of hues. Although the colour change on these dyes can be favourable, this is only the case if the effect is consistent throughout the whole rug.
Rugs with synthetic dyes
Many Persian rugs are now made with synthetic dyes. The effect of UV rays on these can only be described as ‘fading’. It can happen quickly and the effects are a negative muting of colours that gives them a dull and insipid appearance.
So, what can you do to mitigate UV damage?
- If you haven’t bought your rug yet then consider purchasing one that contains only natural dyes.
- Rotate your rug occasionally. If part of it is under furniture like a sofa or sideboard then rotate it regularly.
- Swap them around. There’s no better way to ensure even sunlight exposure than by moving your rugs around the house.
- Shut blinds or curtains when rooms aren’t in use.
- Add a clear protective UV film to your windows.
Vacuum Like A Professional
I’m often asked how often a rug should be vacuumed. This depends on how much foot traffic it gets but there’s no reason not to do it every time you clean the rest of the house. I’d say what’s more important is which vacuum you use and how you use it.
‘It beats, as it sweeps, as it cleans’ is a phrase coined by Hoover in 1919. The beating action mentioned in the slogan is essential for removing dry soil from a Persian rug so I’d recommend purchasing a good upright vacuum cleaner. I use a professional SEBO Comfort BS36 at home and at work. It’s reliable, very effective, and all the parts are replaceable. A professional SEBO will cost you more to purchase than most domestic vacuums but it’s in a different league altogether and in the long run you’ll save money. And no, I definitely would not recommend a Dyson.
- Vacuum the face of the rug thoroughly in the direction of the pile. Stay away from the fringe.
- Flip it over
- Now, vacuum the back of the rug. The beating and vibrating action will loosen the dry soil in the foundation so that it drops out onto the floor.
- Move the rug away and vacuum up the soil that’s been dislodged onto the floor. If you haven’t vacuumed your rug in a long time you’ll be amazed at how much fine soil comes out.
- Repeat until no more soil drops out of the rug.
- Use the hose with a brush attachment to carefully vacuum the fringes.
It’s best to do this on a hard floor and sweep the dislodged soil into a pile before vacuuming it up. This way you can actually see what has come out and know how many times to repeat the steps.
Also, try to work slowly. Rushing over the back of the rug won’t loosen the soil as effectively. Learning how to maintain your Persian rugs takes patience!
Prevent Wear & Tear
Two of the steps above, vacuuming and rug rotation, are also important actions that prevent wear and tear. By vacuuming you are removing the dry gritty soil that slowly destroys the natural fibres as you walk on them. Rotating or swapping your rugs around will help them to get even foot traffic so that you don’t end up with worn patches.
But, there’s more you can do to protect your rugs from wear and tear..
Use rug underlay. I’m always shocked when I meet new clients that lay their beautiful and costly rugs straight onto the floor. An uneven and hard surface like an old natural herringbone wood floor won’t take long to damage a rug with no underlay and some foot traffic.
- Use a good quality rug underlay (or rug padding to our friends across the pond)
- Make sure you choose the correct underlay for the type of floor the rug is laying on.
- Cut it so that the rug overhangs by approximately one inch all the way around.
- Change the underlay once it no longer serves its purpose.
Deal with Spills Effectively
If you’re serious about learning how to maintain Persian rugs you need to know how to manage accidental spills. This is the typical scenario we encounter as professional rug cleaners in London.. A client spills a drink onto her rug. She rushes for the Vanish stain remover and scrubs the area in a panic. The stain remover is not actually a stain remover but an oxidiser which leaves a bright spot behind. She’s left with a mess and calls us to fix it.
This is the correct way to manage spills on your rugs..
- Don’t panic.
- Use a dry paper kitchen towel to blot up and absorb the spill
- Do not rub. The urge will be there. Resist it.
- Repeat until you can’t absorb any more.
- Look at the paper towels. If there is any colour on them you can stop here.
- If no dye has transferred to the paper towels you can now use a terry towel soaked in water to dilute the spill down. Just blot the area as before.
- Now start over and repeat.
NOTE: You will find that you’re able to manage spills far more effectively if you have had a rug protector treatment applied to your rug.
This really is all that you should do at home. Then you can call us for further guidance. We may recommend you use solutions of water with white vinegar or washing up liquid but this depends entirely on the nature of the spill and the type of rug. You will find plenty of home remedies on the internet but you could make the stain worse or set it into the rug completely. Again, if you’re unsure feel free to contact us. We’re more than happy to give free phone advice.
Dry Rot and Mildew
If your rugs get wet and stay wet for too long they will become mildewed. If left in this state dry rot will then set in. You can do nothing to save a rug at this point other than to have a costly repair which will involve a complete rebuild of the damaged section. There’s no use becoming an expert on how to maintain Persian rugs if you end up paying for repairs that exceed the value of the rug in question.
- Potted Plants – The most common cause of dry rot that I encounter is a leaking potted plant. By placing a potted plant on a rug you are taking an unnecessary risk. And it’s a risk which is very likely to materialise.
- Bad Storage – Another common cause of mildew is bad storage. If you have unused rugs dumped in the basement or garage then you are asking for problems. Use a professional rug cleaning company to wash your persian rugs and wrap them for storage. You should keep them somewhere dry and inspect them occasionally.
- Flooding – Don’t worry about small spills like dropping a glass of water. These won’t develop into mildew once you’ve followed the spillage advice detailed earlier in this article. If however a large area of your rug becomes wet then you will need to get it dry fast. Mildew will set in within a few days. Take it outside if weather permits. If this isn’t practical call us or a professional that’s local to you.
Beware of Moths
No guide on how to maintain Persian rugs is complete without warning about the dangers of the clothes moth. In fact it’s so important that we’ve dedicated a whole article to this topic on our rug moth treatment page.
FURTHER READING: https://persian-rug-cleaning.london/how-often-should-i-clean-my-persian-rug/
Please feel free to share this guide with anybody you know who could benefit from learning how to maintain Persian Rugs.
I’ve got three questions, please.
You mentioned the importance of rug underlay: guilty as charged. My rugs sit on carpets. Is there a brand of underlay which you would recommend, or characteristics of a good rug underlay for me to investigate, please?
Also, since they do sit on carpets, should I still flip them over for the deep vacuuming of the reverse of the rug, just straight onto the carpet or put something on top of the carpet before I flip the rug for “underside vacuuming”? I don’t have anywhere with enough hard floor space to do the “flip and vacuum” which you recommend.
Finally, I have a Miele cylinder vacuum cleaner which cost a lot (to me!) of money. I used to have a dog, and it’s designed to deal with pet hairs etc. It has variable suction power (up to 1600w, which can actually lift wall-to-wall carpets slightly and is noisy beyond belief at that power level). It also has a turbo brush head as an alternative attachment. Any guidance on how to use this most effectively – or any “don’t do” prohibitions, please?
Nick Gonnella says
We sell a very good specialist underlay for rugs which we supply to our clients but only when they’ve had the rug washed with us. We cut and fit for free.
A good alternative and probably the best you can buy yourself is John Lewis rug hold. We’ve used it for certain clients and seen how it wears over the years so I can recommend it.
You can still use the vacuum dusting method on carpet however it won’t be as effective because the beating action won’t work as well as if the rug is vibrating on a hard surface. Also you’ll need to vacuum the carpet underneath thoroughly after you’ve vacuumed the back of the rug each time. You’ll probably have to do this a few times.
Miele vacuums with a beater bar are good for the job. A turbo brush head will work but you’ll need to go in one direction only at a time or you’ll just lift the rug off the floor when you pull back towards you. Be carefully on the edges and at the fringes it’s very easy to damage a loose selvedge or pull knots out of a fringe which isn’t ‘stopped’ properly.
Good luck and feel free to get back to us if you have any more questions.
Nick Gonnella MRC
And I’ve just read one of your other guides which recommends the John Lewis underlay. So that’s part of my other post’s questions answered!