How To Clean Oriental Rugs: Best Methods, Practices, & Techniques

How To Clean Oriental Rugs: Best Methods, Practices, & Techniques

By Eric Bollmann

If you are unclear on the definition of an Oriental rug, I'd like to point you to a blog I've written on that specific subject. More and more we're getting requests and questions about what type of chemicals are used in our cleaning process and more specifically in the cleaning of an Oriental rug.

It seems the quest for a chemical-free environment is getting more people to start taking a good look at the services they're requesting to make sure those services have a low-impact on the environment. And it's understandable, people want to protect their rugs and belongings, but not at the expense of the environment.

At Zerorez®, we're proud of how green some of the things we do truly are.

Zero Residue®, chemical free cleaning of Oriental rugs and carpets

The good news with the Zerorez cleaning system is that we truly use a very green cleaning process both for our in-home cleanings, as well as for our in-plant cleaning of Oriental rugs. The foundation of our cleaning process is the Zr™ Watering water that is electrostatically produced from plain tap water. This is subject that is covered by a blog written by David Brisco, and you can find it here.

Lots of rugs, lots of ways to clean

In the previously mentioned blog, that explains the definition of an Oriental rug, I briefly touch-on the variety of rugs that are made these days. The reason why I spent some time on explaining the difference between these types of rugs is that it makes a huge difference on how they can and should be cleaned.

Ultimately a viscose machine made rug will need to be cleaned differently than a hand-knotted silk rug, which in-turn will need to be cleaned differently than a hand-glued Stark rug.

Because of the sheer variety of rugs, both in materials that they are made out of:

  • wool
  • silk
  • acrylic
  • rayon
  • cotton
  • nylon
  • linen
  • sisal
  • polyester
  • leather
  • and more

coupled with the various ways they are constructed:

  • hand-knotted
  • hand-woven
  • hand-tufted
  • machine tufted
  • power loomed
  • glued
  • stitched
  • etc.)

It becomes apparent that there is no one-way to clean a rug.

Find a trusted rug cleaner

The bottom-line for a consumer is to find a trusted and knowledgeable rug cleaner who knows what he or she is doing. Many companies from rug galleries to dry cleaners to wall-to-wall carpet cleaners claim to be oriental and area rug cleaning "experts." The fact of the matter is there are only a handful of companies in Southern California who specialize in the safe and proper care of rugs.

Best Method for Cleaning Oriental rugs: Immersion washing

Now I'm finally ready to answer the original question: "what is the proper way to clean an Oriental rug?" Because I've outlined a definition of what an Oriental rug is and isn't, I can say that Oriental rugs love the immersion wash process. Because of its woven or knotted nature, water can flow through these rugs to get a truly deep cleaning result. However I'm getting ahead of myself.

8 step cleaning process for Oriental Rugs

Let me start at the beginning of how to properly clean an Oriental rug using an eight step deep-cleaning process.

  1. Pre-cleaning rug inspection
  2. Testing for color fastness
  3. Dry soil removal
  4. Pre-conditioning wash
  5. Rinse wash
  6. Water removal
  7. Drying
  8. Finish groom and final inspection

First step, a thorough pre-cleaning inspection

A very important first step will be to do a rug inspection or audit. When a rug is 30, 40, or even 100 years old, it's been subjected to a lot of life. Properly identifying any potential damage, color loss, wear and/or foundation issues, old repairs, pre-existing staining, etc. will help set realistic expectations of what can and cannot be achieved with a thorough cleaning.

Oriental rug bleeding concerns with natural and synthetic dyes

The next step will be to check the rug for potential dye migration (bleeding) issues. When a rug is made in a rural part of Pakistan using natural dyes, the risk of bleeding colors is far greater then when a rug is made in a factory like setting in China using synthetic dyes. Even if issues are uncovered quite often, the bleeding colors can be set for a safe wash.

Rug Dusting: gritty soil is your rug's enemy

It is now that the actual cleaning begins. Rug dusting is the term we use to describe the process of getting the dry soil out of a rug. You'd be amazed to know how much soil can hide in a rug.

We recently removed over 7 pounds of sand, dust and debris from a 5 x 7 rug. This step is key because the gritty soil that hides inside your rugs foundation is its greatest enemy. Over time this soil acts as an abrasive and will quite literally cut the fibers in your rug.

Wash, rinse, and blow dry

Once the dry soil is removed, it is time for the immersion wash process. This, depending on several factors such as soiling and pet issues, can be made-up of just the pre-conditioning wash and the flushing rinse. Or it may include a longer lasting soak.

Here it is that your rug will be bathed and pampered. The emulsifying properties of the Zerorez Zr water make this process better than it has ever been. It will truly be a chemical free cleaning.

Next in line is the water extraction process, and if needed some special attention paid to the fringes. From here your rug will be brought over to a dedicated drying area where, with the help of lots of airflow, your rug will be dry within 8-10 hours. The final steps should consist of a final rug inspection and a brushing with a horsehair brush to give your rug its soft feel and luxurious hand.

How often should I clean?

As you can tell this process is very detailed and thorough and provides for a restorative cleaning of your rug. Depending on the location in the home (in the front entry catching all incoming traffic or in the living room seeing only occasional traffic) the frequency for this type of cleaning can be as often as yearly to as in-frequent as only every 4-6 years.

If you're ready to clean your rugs I know a place

If you're a rug owner and you live in Southern California I know a great place to take your rugs for their cleaning. It's the place I call home: Zerorez. We have locations in Irvine, Reseda and Riverside and specialize in chemical -free cleaning of all rugs, however we also have the expert knowledge that true, hand knotted Oriental rugs need. Reach us at 866-937-6739 or on the web at If you have specific questions about your personal rug feel free to e-mail me at


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