Oriental Rug Cleaning Tips – How to Clean Effectively?

Many people use authentic Oriental rugs to keep their feet warm while providing a stronger aesthetic to tie a room's design together.

Although Oriental rugs are delightful to look at, they get heavily soiled due to foot traffic and being on the floor. The heavier materials of Oriental rugs require special cleaning to ensure they last for generations, as most high-quality rugs will do. Improperly cleaning an Oriental rug can cause damage to the structure and design.

Keep reading to learn how to clean Oriental rugs, how often cleaning should occur, and why Oriental rugs require different cleaning than other rug types.

Oriental Rug Materials

different kinds of rugs

Most Oriental rugs are heavy, thick textiles made from cotton, sheep's wool, camel hair, or sometimes silk. The front, or pile, is typically wool, while the warp, or back, might be wool or cotton. Traditional Oriental rugs will be handmade, but others are machine-made.

Handknotted Oriental rugs give you a unique piece made by experienced knotters over several months. Each person has a unique way of knotting a rug, often handed down through family traditions. When you own an original Oriental rug, you're holding a piece of history that you can pass down to future generations. 

When Oriental rugs are machine-made, each one is identical with symmetric stitching. The process takes two to three hours. These rugs are usually synthetic fibers like acrylic, nylon, or polypropylene and color dyes, allowing them to be cheaper but not as durable as rugs made by hand.

Heavier materials like wool and silk require different cleaning methods than lighter fabrics like cotton, polyester, or linen. Wool works as a self-cleaner, pushing dirt towards the surface as the fibers rub together. 

Due to the opaqueness (light can't shine through), wool won't show this dirt easily, leading many people to skip cleaning the surface as often as they should. Some wool rugs can hold up to one pound of soil for each square foot without being visible. 

Issues from Cleaning Oriental Rugs

Although wool rugs are comfy on your feet, the texture is a magnet for dirt, dust, pet dander, hair, and other microscopic bits. To keep your Oriental rugs looking the best and durable enough to last for years, you'll need to care for them properly. 

Cleaning your rugs too often can cause damage to the fibers. But not cleaning them often enough can lead to the rug becoming discolored with permanent stains. 

When using a vacuum to clean your Oriental rug, it's crucial to keep the brush as high off the ground as possible. This method allows you to get all the dirt pushed to the top of the fibers without the bristles harming the wool fibers.  

Another issue that many inexperienced people face when trying to clean Oriental rugs is that some rugs will have colors that bleed together. Vinegar can help keep colors from blending.

Cleaning Methods for Oriental Rugs

Due to the care required to clean Oriental rugs, many people prefer to hand the task over to a professional cleaner. While it may be helpful to have your carpets commercially cleaned once every few years, you can handle most normal cleanings yourself.

There are multiple methods you can use to clean your oriental rugs at home. The frequency for using each technique can vary, depending on various factors. Things that can affect how often you need to use each method include:

  • The amount of foot traffic that will be traveling over the rug
  • Where the rug's located (rooms with higher use will need cleaning more often)
  • Pets/No pets - pets require more cleaning
  • Care - are shoes worn on the rug or drinks allowed which can spill?

Now, let's look at some of the best ways to clean Oriental rugs at home, using tools and products you probably already have on hand. Depending on the method you choose, you'll need the following equipment:

  • Vacuum
  • Natural bristle broom
  • Wooden spoon
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Dishwashing detergent (Dawn)
  • Salt
  • Paper towels
  • Nail polish remover (or dry cleaning solvent)
  • Ammonia

Many of these ingredients will help remove stains so your Oriental rug doesn't get ruined by unsightly marks and smells. Other items will come in handy to remove dirt and other debris that can bed down into the fibers. 


The easiest way to clean Oriental rugs is to use a vacuum cleaner. When vacuuming these types of rugs, move in a "V" pattern three times. This alternating method prevents damaging the fibers. 

It's also essential to use the proper vacuum. The best types will adjust to accommodate different sized pile heights. Avoid options with a beater bar, or choose one that lets you turn the beater bar off. Beater bars will rapidly tug on the wool fibers, causing them to unravel. And extra tools like a handle brush help with spot cleaning or cleaning the fringe. 

You do need to ensure that your vacuum sets at a high height for wool rugs. Low settings will agitate the fibers, causing the wool to pile and shrink. 

Oriental rugs require vacuuming twice a month. It's vital to do both sides of the carpet every couple of months, so you get all the dirt that accumulates in the tiny air pockets.


Sweeping your Oriental carpet with a broom is excellent for removing dirt and increasing the rug's shine by drawing out the fiber's patina. You can do this weekly as a way to keep your carpet clean in between vacuuming. 

It's essential to use a natural bristle broom that you only use for your rugs. Do not use the same broom you use for cleaning the rest of your floors.


Another option for cleaning your Oriental rug without using a vacuum is to take it outside, where you can shake all the dirt off. A good shake for thirty seconds to one minute should remove any collected dirt. 

For large rugs, you may require two people to help carry and lift the carpet high enough to shake it. Some people like to leave their mat hanging outside for a few hours on a clear day to air out. You can also spray it with Febreze to freshen up the smell. 


Many people still use the same technique our great-grandparents used before vacuums existed. Beating a rug allows you to knock all the dirt free without risking damage to the fibers. 

Hang your Oriental rug up on something sturdy, either a clothesline or a heavy-duty clothes drying rack. Use a rug beater (available on Amazon or at most antique stores), a wooden spoon, or a natural bristle broom. 

Spot Cleaning

Spot cleaning is crucial for removing stains. The faster you treat a stain, the more likely you'll be able to get it completely removed. A stain can become permanent as quickly as 15 minutes after a spill. Different types of stains require unique treatments. 

Vinegar solution

Combining eight parts water with one part white vinegar and a squirt of detergent is a valuable solution for removing stains from cosmetics, food, potting soil, ointments, or modeling clay. You can also use vinegar for treating perfume or alkaline spills, or potty accidents from pets.

Dampen a paper towel with the mixture and dab it directly onto the stain. Then use a dry paper towel to blot the area until it's completely dry. 


Salt is an effective solution for treating dark stains from red wine, fruit, or vegetable juices. Pour the salt over the stain and let it soak. 

The abrasive crystals work like a sponge, absorbing the liquid. Once the stain's gone, remove the residue using a rounded spoon. Then use the spoon or a syringe to apply cold water to the area. Finally, dry the area with a clean paper towel or lint-free cloth.


You may need to use a more potent remover like ammonia for stains with a strong odor like perfume, urine, or chemicals. A solution of one cup of water with one teaspoon of ammonia will tackle harsh odors and unsightly stains, including grease, paint, and oil. 

Use a paper towel to apply the solution to the affected area. Then rinse with water applied with a syringe or spoon. Then dry the mark with a clean, dry paper towel. 

Nail Polish Remover

Nail polish remover is a practical option for removing stains made by grease, oil, or paint. Apply this stain treatment the same way as ammonia and vinegar using a paper towel.

Using this solvent and others like ammonia or vinegar will cause the treated area to be more vulnerable to collecting dirt than the surrounding area. Using cold water to rinse and drying the area entirely with a blotting motion reduces the affected area's sensitivity.

In Closing

Properly cleaning Oriental rugs extends their life, beauty, and sanitation. Most of these rugs require different cleaning methods than regular carpets. We've given you some of the best Oriental rug cleaners for keeping your rugs in excellent condition.


Can you steam clean Oriental rugs?

It is not a good idea to steam clean Oriental rugs at home. Wool takes longer to dry, which gives mildew and mold time to grow. Another issue is that the steam temperature can damage the thread and cause dirt and dust to become mud.

Should I have my Oriental rugs professionally cleaned?

Oriental rugs require different cleaning techniques at different timeframes. While you can clean your carpets at home most of the time, you should use a professional cleaner at least once a year for rugs that see heavy use. Rugs that rarely get traffic can go up to three years between commercial cleanings.

How much does it cost to clean an Oriental rug professionally?

The total cost of having an Oriental rug cleaned by professionals will vary by business, degree of cleaning needed, stain removals, and other factors. The average price per square foot is between $4 and $6.

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