An antique rug needs periodic care to assure lasting beauty and value. By taking a few simple precautions, your older carpet, whether it’s a decades-old vintage rug or a century-old antique carpet, can be preserved in good floor condition to be handed down to the next generation.
Here are some helpful tips and techniques to help you keep your antique rug in top shape:
The finest older antique wool rugs were often made from lanolin-rich wool which has amazing stain repellent properties. If a spill is dealt with immediately, it can often be easily blotted up before staining occurs. Use a moist, clean cloth to blot from the edges toward the center of the spill. If soap is needed, use hair shampoo, as the protein of wool is similar to human hair. Do NOT scrub, as this will embed the stain more deeply into the wool. Then elevate the damp area on a short stool or box for quick air drying. Avoid allowing your carpet to sit damp for an extended period of time, as this could possibly rot the cotton foundation.
Antique rug stains can come in a wide range of causes and sizes. Here are some basic tips for prevention and handling all but the most truly stubborn stains:
DO NOT home remedies for stain removal — they can cause irreversible dye run and discoloration, and chemicals should never be used. If the above method is not effective, consult a professional carpet cleaner such as Duraclean for spot cleaning.
DO NOT place potted plants on top of antique rugs, even with a water basin underneath the pot, it’s still possible for moisture to collect and soak into the rug, causing considerable, irreversible mildew damage to the antique rug or an antique carpet’s cotton foundation.
Red wine stains often can be safely lifted by first blotting up the liquid without rubbing using dry towels. Then make a solution of one quart water with 2-3 drops ONLY of mild unscented colorless detergent such as Ivory Soap and 1-2 teaspoons of plain white vinegar (NOT apple cider vinegar). Rinse lightly with this solution. Now blot up again with dry towels. Then rinse with plain water, using a little more if needed. Elevate the moist area of the rug and air dry with a fan for 24-48 hours, not just dry to touch, but so that the foundation and the pile are dry.
Rugs which have been flooded accidentally need to be attended to immediately. Smaller rugs can be taken outside and spread on a lawn or hung over a railing to dry in the sunlight. For larger rugs, a water vacuum can be used, followed by the use of space heaters or a hair dryer. Again, the carpet must be dry, back and front, so elevation is advised. Often, having the rug professionally washed and dried within several days is advisable.
The wool of many antique rugs and carpets is lustrous, durable, and rich in natural lanolin. Avoid interfering as much as possible with this natural protection. Avoid treatments such as moth-proofing, dry cleaning or steam cleaning. Instead, have most antique rugs hand-washed or tumbled every five or six years (sooner if needed) by a professional carpet cleaner such as Duraclean.
Tumbling in a large machine similar to a clothes dryer is a gentle process that removes dirt and dust particles which can penetrate to the base of the pile of the rug and have an abrasive effect on the wool fibers. The tumbling process is recommended for older or less sturdy rugs and carpets, since it puts less strain on the structure of an antique rug than submersion in water.
For carpets with lower pile, clean daily or weekly with a non-electric sweeper rather than a suction vacuum cleaner. Modern carpet sweepers work via static electricity and are very effective in cleaning the surface and into the pile of your rugs, as well as in bringing out the sheen of the wool.
Electric vacuum cleaners should never be used on antique rugs. A vacuum cleaner with suction may be used only on heavy-pile vintage or younger rugs. Never use the beater brush on any handwoven rugs, as its rotary action is far too rough and can pull out knots and fray out the wrapped selvedge edges.
A broom with straw bristles is another option if a carpet sweeper is unavailable. With a carpet sweeper or broom, your rug can be cleaned as often as you wish. At least once a week is recommended.