A genuine handknotted oriental rug will last a very long time if you take a few precautions to protect it from premature wear and the most common kinds of damage. Common problems include water damage, moth damage, dog chewing and cat scratching, pet stains, vacuum cleaner damage, sun damage, and uneven wear. This page tries to answer the most frequently-asked questions about caring for Oriental rugs. See also our recommendations for
We recommend a rug pad!
Pads under oriental rugs can prolong the life of a rug by cushioning the impact between the shoe sole and hard floor surfaces, as well as provide comfort under foot. A rug on carpet won't "creep" or rumple on the carpet if the appropriate pad is used. A pad should be about an inch smaller than the rug all the way around (not counting the fringe) so that the pad will not show beneath the rug.
Pads can be made of materials like rubber, felt, or polyesters. For rugs on a hard surface, we recommand Durahold rug pads, which are fiber on one side and rubber on the other. NoMuv rug pads (a stiff, fairly thick fiber pad) or Teebaud rug underlays (thin and somewhat sticky) are great choices for rugs on carpet, the choice depending on the size of your rug and whether or not you need to minimize the thickness of the rug (e.g., where there is limited space such as under a door).
The most common problem we see for rugs is pet urine. It's important to wash it out of the affected area with soapy water followed by clean water as soon as you can -- before it dries -- because, if left too long, it can cause discoloration of the wool in your rug and odor that is very difficult to remove once the urine has dried.
See our section on rug cleaning
for instructions on the best way to accomplish this kind of spot-cleaning.
Most varieties of oriental rugs have wool pile, but many have cotton warp and weft (the warp is the foundation upon which knots are tied to create the pile; the weft runs over and under warp strings between rows of knots to strengthen the rug from side to side). This cotton foundation can be weakened, and sometimes actually rotted, if the rug is wetted repeatedly and not properly dried.
A common cause of such damage occurs when potted plants are placed directly on a rug, when the pot leaks, and the rug under the pot stays permanently damp. If you use planters near a rug, be sure to place the plant in a waterproof container, such as a ceramic pot, that will catch the water that overflows.
If your rug gets wet be sure to allow it to dry right away by allowing air to circulate around it (such as by placing a towel under the wet area). It should also be cleaned -- hand washed -- if it gets soaked with anything other than water, such as dirty or rusty water (we can recommend a good professional hand washing service, see Our Services
Flying moths do not eat rugs, but female moths do lay hundreds of eggs each, and the eggs hatch into larvae that consume wool, fur, feather, and silk fibers. Moths and their larvae thrive in dark, undisturbed areas where a rug gets little traffic and is not often vacuumed. A rug damaged by moths is not difficult to repair, but reweaving a large area of the rug can be expensive.
Vacuum your rugs regularly. If they're in a dark area, such as under a sofa where the rug is never vacuumed or "disturbed," occasionally lay the rug out and vacuum it well. Also, at least once or twice a year, vacuum the back side of the rug with the power head, as well as the floor underneath. This is a good thing to do for several reasons, which we'll talk about below.
If a rug will be stored for a long period see the recommendations on how to store an oriental rug
Dogs tend to chew rugs when they're left alone for too long and become anxious. This won't happen if your dog gets plenty of exercise, attention, and oversight. This kind of damage can be repaired, but again, if the area is large it will be expensive.
Cats can do significant damage to a rug if they habitually sharpen their claws on it. As with dog chews, the best prevention is to attend to your cat. I've had good luck encouraging my cat to do his sharpening on his scratching post by spraying the post with catnip and then moving him to the post if he starts to scrach the rug -- or furniture or drapes, or... Sometimes a squirt bottle on a mist setting can be used to condition a cat to avoid scratching on a rug, but only if it is done at the time of the scratching so that a connection is made between the squirt bottle and the scratching. Each time she starts to scratch the rug, give her a light spray with the squirt bottle!
Vacuum Cleaner Damage
In almost all instances, regular vacuuming of an oriental rug with an electric vacuum cleaner is good for the rug. A dirty rug wears prematurely, and regular vacuuming helps prevent dirt on the surface of the rug from filtering down into the pile where it can accumulate and cause increased wear on the foundation of the rug. Still, be careful with a cleaner equipped with a power brush or "beater bar"; these powered brushes in the vacuum head help the vacuum do a good job on machine-made carpeting, but they cause a raking effect on the top layer of a handwoven rug's pile if used too strenuously. If your vacuum cleaner has a power brush, use it only occasionally and lightly on your oriental rug. For routine cleaning, use just the vacuum attachment designed for hard floors. Frequently fringes get caught and chewed up by the rotating mechanism of the brush. If you pull the vacuum backwards over the fringe (away from the rug), the fringe will not be caught by the power head of the vacuum.
An old trick of some rug cleaners is to bleach the cotton fringe of a rug snowy white before returning the rug to the customer (on the theory that if the fringe looks nice and clean, the whole rug looks cleaner). Unfortunately, chlorine-based bleach weakens natural fibers over time. We have seen many rugs with "dead fringe"-- fringe so weakened by repeated bleachings that a tug on the fringe will tear away small bits. Ask the person who washes your rug to not use chemicals of any kind on your rug. A reputable rug cleaner will use only pure, mild soaps.
Most rug dyes are quite resistant to sun fading or bleaching. Still, ultraviolet rays are a powerful force of nature, and a rug will likely fade over time if used for years in a very sunny area. This is why old rugs -- which people love because of the mellow look they have -- have softer, more muted colors. Try to turn the rug end-for-end once a year to even out possible color changes.
A rug should be turned end-for-end once every year or two to even out wear and color change. Try not to use a rug on a very uneven floor. An area of the floor that is raised (a loose floorboard, a transition strip from one flooring material to another, etc.) causes the part of the rug that covers it to wear much more rapidly than the rest of the rug. A good rug pad
under the rug should take care of this.
To Move a Rug
When you move a big rug to adjust its position, there is a better way than just to pull with brute force on the fringe or edge. A simple trick is to rapidly wave the edge of the rug up and down a foot or two close to the floor while pulling. This ripple effect sends a cushion of air under the rug, making it very easy to move, and is easier on you too!
When a rug is to be stored for more than a few months, it should be cleaned and wrapped in a tough synthetic paper like "Tyvek"® or construction paper. Don't use newspaper or common brown wrapping paper. These materials are not chemically stable (they are usually quite acidic), and don't provide the protection from insects or moisture a stored rug needs. Make sure the rug is completely dry. Think twice about using moth balls or flakes--these materials have little repellent effect, and the odor they impart to the rug can be difficult to remove. Store the rug in a clean, dry place out of the reach of squirrels or other rodents. Periodic inspection of the rug is strongly recommended (see our blog article on storing a rug
for more tips).
You should vacuum your rug often (including the back side once or twice a year) and turn it end-for-end once in a while. Although many kinds of damage can be repaired, prevention is much easier (and cheaper) than repair, so avoid placing potted plants on the rug, and keep an eye on your pets. Inspect the entire rug periodically for signs of wear or damage. Have your rug washed only when it really is dirty. When you see something wrong with your rug that is beyond your ability to rectify, don't hesitate to call a reputable oriental rug dealer for advice. With just a bit of care, your Oriental rug will provide many years of use and enjoyment.