Cleaning your Oriental rugs requires the right touch

Cleaning your Oriental rugs requires the right touch

Billi Andrews spent several years searching before finding just the right company to clean the Oriental rug she “fell in love with” when she bought it in Miami Beach, Fla. more than 30 years ago.

“It’s gorgeous,” says Andrews. “It hadn’t been cleaned in so many years.”

Valuable, handmade rugs should only be cleaned as needed and it’s best to have a professional do the job.

“A rug can cost several hundred dollars or tens of thousands of dollars,” says Jeff Hendricks, owner of Smith-Mathis, Inc., a cleaning services company in Fishers, Ind. “Even a rug that’s only a few hundred dollars; you don’t want to replace it. You want to get good use out of it. It’s something you don’t want to clean improperly and ruin the value.”

Typically made of wool, silk, rayon, cotton or a blend of non-synthetic fibers, Oriental rugs vary widely in the materials and dyes used to make them, so they respond differently to various cleaning methods. Never entrust just anyone to clean a high-end rug. A professional should test the rug offsite to ensure the proper method is used in its cleaning.

“The rugs we get in here are from all over the world,” Scott Simmons, the general manager of Heirloom Oriental Rug Cleaning in Indianapolis. “A lot of the rugs we clean are quite old. So significant care has to be taken with how you clean them.”

Simmons recalled a situation where one customer attempted to shampoo an Oriental rug on his own. The colors from the maroon rug faded onto the homeowner’s off-white carpet.

“He didn’t have the knowledge to clean it to keep that from happening,” Simmons says. “We incorporate the right type of chemistry to prevent color run and bleeding.”

A professional cleaning can cost between $200-$600, depending on the type of rug and the work being done. Repairs can also be made to most rugs.

Hendricks offers recommendations for maintaining an Oriental rug, including vacuuming it frequently and rotating it regularly so it wears evenly.

“A rug that’s in a high-traffic area needs cleaned a lot more than a rug in a room that just gets occasional use,” Hendricks says. “A valuable rug probably should not be used close to the entry of the home, because a lot of chemicals — especially salt or outdoor solvents — can get on the rug. It’s usually good to have a mat under the rug. That keeps it in place, so it doesn’t move around a lot. It will last longer.”

Simmons says he’s tackled about every type of stain; from pet damage, to a family’s rug collection that was heavily soot damaged from a fire.

“You can imagine the odor,” Simmons says. “The rugs were almost completely black, but we were able to fully restore those.”

Though Oriental rugs can range in value from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars, it’s often the personal attachment the owners have that matters most.

“A lot of the rugs that come in here have a story behind them,” Simmons says. “One customer told me her kids used to use the borders as a racecar track. No two rugs are exactly the same. The whole reason we call ourselves “Heirloom” is because a lot of these rugs have sentimental value or have been passed on and it’s important for the customer to know whoever cleans them is going to take care of them.”

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 19, 2011.

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