Can You Use a Carpet Cleaner on an Oriental Rug?

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Carpet cleaner being used on Oriental rug

Carpet cleaning machines are a popular way to get dirt out of carpets. Whether you own one of your own or rent one from the store, the promise is a fresh looking and smelling carpet in just a few hours. Can you use a carpet cleaner on an Oriental rug? Or will it damage it? Sam Presnell of The Rug Gallery gives his expert insights into this common question.


John Maher: Welcome to The Rug Gallery with Sam Presnell. The Rug Gallery is an Oriental rug company and carpet store in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m John Maher and I’m here with the owner of the Rug Gallery, Sam Presnell. Hi Sam.

Sam Presnell: Hey, John.

Can you use a carpet cleaner on an Oriental rug? 

John: Sam our topic today is can you use a carpet cleaner on an Oriental rug? Are carpet cleaning machines a good choice to clean your Oriental rug?

Sam: My big word is no, but there are cases where it would be yes, and let me try to qualify that for you. As far as why you should, this is when you have a bad pet or somebody’s had an accident or whatever. Small hand cleaning type of equipment would be great to extract, even a shop vac could be great just to extract the whatever it is out of the carpet as soon as possible.

That would be good and if you could treat it with some water when you’re extracting that would be great as well, but as far as cleaning, a deep down cleaning the whole rug type of thing, I would say no, and the reason being is that a lot of people understand when you’re cleaning a rug with a machine, you’re cleaning the surface dirt off of it but you’re not getting the deep-down dirt out of it and a lot of times you’re just pushing that dirt into the back of the rug and then trying to suck it back out.

Basically, you’re pressuring it in and pressuring it out and, that’s what they think cleans a rug. In nylon carpeting or synthetic carpeting where it’s slick and slippery and stuff slides off it pretty easy, you say, “Not a big deal.” But in that piece of woven carpet or rug that’s made from wool, I would not recommend that because you don’t get that dirt off.

Removing dust and dirt is more important

We always dust everything first which means basically, if you can imagine taking a belt to the back of your rug, or even take your sweeper with a beater bar on it and just lay it on its face and then beat the back of the carpet, and then pulling it back up and seeing all that fine silt and dirt laying there on the floor. If you don’t get that out, that’s going to get mixed right into that soapy water that you’re pushing into [the rug]. You’re just cleaning with soapy dirty water.

You basically want to get that dirt out of it as much as you can before you clean and you want to clean it as dry as possible not as wet as possible and you want more detergent because the detergent’s really doing the cleaning of that fiber. I think with the other way, you’re pushing in more water and then cleaning solution, and plus when you get a rug that’s woven, it gets wet on the back just as much as it gets wet on the front.

If you don’t get that rug up, you and leave it down and it’s a moist humid day, you’ll get mold and mildew that will create on the back there because it’s not dry. Anything that’s a damp situation, mold and mildew will come out and it is ugly and it happens so quickly and it spreads so widely, it’ll be shocking to you. I’ve seen a lot of bad results from that, especially with the mold and mildew situation after the cleaning.

Can an Oriental rug be cleaned after a spill without a professional? 

John: How can Oriental rugs be cleaned quickly after you have a spill without having to take it to a professional carpet clean?

Sam: Again, I think if you don’t have a shop vac, I think the other thing would be, if it’s a wet spill, basically get a towel and just make sure it’s clean and white or not having any color in it, and just blot and pressure that cloth into the wet stuff and get up as much as you can.

I have an old recipe that I stole from my grandmother. I’m not going to tell you how many years ago, but I’ve been using it for my whole entire life and I keep it mixed up underneath my sink so when something happens, I’m ready.

I’ve got a party going on, “Hey. No problem.” I’ll just pop that, shake that jar up, pull the lid off of it, put the soap on it, wipe it down in the direction of the grain and away it goes, and that’s all you have to do with about 99% of your stains.

There’ll be some stains that that won’t work for, but I would say mostly food and drink related stains, even some pet stains depending on what kind of accident your pet has, will be very effective as well.

DIY Carpet Cleaning Solution for Oriental Rugs 

John: Can you give us your grandmother’s secret recipe?

Sam: Yes. I forgot about that part, didn’t I? It’s a teaspoon of something you do your clothes with, Dreft detergent or something for kids clothes with a pH in that 7-7.5 range is perfect for it. I always use powder detergents. I don’t really know how to formulate the concentrated stuff that’s out today and it’s probably hard to find what I’m looking for, but if you’re doing children’s clothing and especially babies clothing you’ll see the Ivory, the Dreft and things like that, which will have that nice detergent pH balance which I’m looking for because wool is a natural fiber.

A teaspoon of that, a teaspoon of white vinegar, and a quarter of lukewarm water just out of the tap, just the way it comes out. Put it into a jar. Use an orange juice container jar with a big round lid on it, I just put that on there and shake it and then you’ll get a lot of suds from that and just take the suds out with your hand and throw it on the spot then work the suds in and just keep rotating the towel.

When You Should Have an Oriental Rug Professionally Cleaned 

John: Okay. That’s great. When is a professional cleaning indicated for Oriental rugs?

Sam: I think if you try cleaning it the simple way, which is a little soap and water and you’re not getting results from the stain, definitely you need a professional. If the rug you have is beginning to look like a different color, like it’s dingy looking and doesn’t have that life and that depth of color that it used to have, it’s probably got dirt on and that’s what you’re seeing, is that film on it. If a rug has a fringe on it, usually the fringe is cotton. It’s usually something that shows the soiling and dirt faster than the rug will.

Wool is nice because it tends to repel soil and when you sweep it, most of it gets into the sweeper and you get rid of it very easily. It takes a while for a rug, I’d say three to five years is average, but there’s some people I would say every year and there’s some people I could say go 20 years. A lot of people bring in a rug. It looks like a brand-new, I said, “Why clean it? I will take it and clean it, but you don’t need it.”

Maintaining an Oriental Rug 

John: Yes. Maybe if it’s just not in a high-traffic area, it doesn’t get a lot of traffic on it, it doesn’t get a lot of dirt on it and really doesn’t need much.

Sam: Exactly. I think that’s a problem to get it clean just for cleaning sake. Cleaning takes life out of any textile. Clothing, rugs, doesn’t matter, draperies, whatever. The less you have to clean, the better off you are. The main thing is to maintain them as best you can.

Rotate your rug

The big thing for me besides cleaning is rotating your rug and that is something that I think probably nobody really does and I would highly recommend that where they basically just get traffic on one section of the rug. If they rotate it and even it out more, that would also be helpful in maintaining your rug.

John: That would probably be especially true if you have your rug right in your living room, in front of the couch, say that spot right in front of the couch is going to get a lot of traffic on it from your feet just constantly. Just by spinning it around a hundred and eighty degrees you’re using the other side now.

I just came from a house where a lady want to repair an old Oriental rug, a beautiful rug. It had a hole on it about three by five inches. Maybe because they never rotate it and there the husband who would always had a funny foot. You’d always just twitch and rub it. He put a hole right through that rug, a huge hole.

John: Wow. That’s amazing.

Sam: The rest of the rug was perfect.

John: Alright. That’s really great information about cleaning rugs Sam. Thanks very much for speaking with me today.

Sam: You welcome John. My pleasure always.

John: For more information about Sam, The Rug Gallery and oriental rugs and carpets, visit [] or call 513-793-9505 and make sure you catch the latest episodes by subscribing to this podcast on iTunes, and if you can take the time to give us a review as well we’d appreciate that. I’m John Maher see you next time on The Rug Gallery.

Categories: Ask Sam, Rug