Vintage Care: Rugs

Finding a rug with a unique pattern and ideal color palette is a gem worth treasuring. And when you find that area rug, it ties the entire room together. To keep your interior design from unraveling over the years, we have a few upkeep tips for your various foot cushions. Often vintage and antique rugs are delicate due to their age, so it's key to treat them extra special. We have put together some basic care tips for different rug types, categorized based on the material/style they’re made with. Outside of basic vacuuming, it’s best to take your rugs out to a covered patio or outside space to really get your deep cleaning on.

Shake talcum powder (FYI: baby powder is made mostly with talcum, you can use it) all over onto your rug, and let it lie for 2-3 hours. Then brush the powder through the hair and shake, shake, shake. Repeat up to three times.

Then to clean the bottom, get a cloth damp with warm, soapy water and wipe down—let it air dry, and put back in place. 
For a real deep clean, the thing to check is for waterproof backing. For rubber or latex backing, use a top loading machine, arranging evenly around the agitator (try throwing in a couple towels to balance the load). Set the machine to large load and cold water, only using half the amount of detergent (rugs just don’t need a lot)—dry on fluff. When it’s all dry, take a wide-tooth comb and re-fluff the fur.

These next two types may come with fringe, in which case you want to avoid that fringe with your vacuum at all costs. When washing, divide the fringe into groups and tie them with a string—keeps detangling to a minimum.

Before snagging the first cleaning product off the shelf at your local drugstore, be warned: DO NOT use ammonia or any other highly alkaline cleaner, it’ll damage the wool. If you’re not sure whether or not your rug is wool, snip a piece and light it with a match—real wool will smell like burning hair.
Start by turning your rug over and vacuum the underneath—it loosens the deep down nitty gritty and moves it to the surface. Then, flip the rug right side up and vacuum the top (tip: wrap nylon mesh around your vacuum to protect delicate and older rugs). If it’s small enough, hang it on a clothesline next and beat it like Michael Jackson or shake it like Taylor Swift.

For a really deep clean (it’s a good idea to do this kind of cleaning every 12-18 months—aka every Spring), put the small rugs in a zippered pillowcase or mesh laundry bag and wash in cold water on gentle, then tumble dry low. With large area rugs, make sure it is on a vinyl or concrete floor first (if wood is the only option, put an old blanket or towels underneath). Sponge some commercial carpet cleaning foam on and rub it in—ending by rinsing or vacuuming, letting it dry completely before replacing.

Take a vacuum to it first, front and back. These are good ones to shake and beat outside, too. For washing, use a top loading machine, arranging evenly around the agitator (try throwing in a couple towels to balance the load). Set the machine to large load, cold water and delicate cycle—only using half the amount of detergent (rugs just don’t need a lot). These are best hung dry—on a drying rack, slatted picnic table, or stacked bricks—hanging them on a single line will distort the rugs shape.

Any good tricks of the trade? Share your foolproof rug care tips below!

Guest Post by Stacy

Confession time. My name is Stacy and I am the daughter of junkers. Every weekend we were on the road to a flea market, swap meet, antique car show, or some other event where junking was also possible.

My Mom collected California Indian baskets, Navajo rugs and blankets, and pueblo pottery. My Dad collected everything else. Seriously everything. Peddle cars, Buddy L trucks, Ford trucks and cars, slot machines, gas pump heads, enamel advertising signs, black powder rifles, pocket watches with steam trains on the back, and on and on.


When I moved away to college I didn’t take the junking bug with me, or maybe it was just dormant. I collected floaty pens and books from the art museums that I visited, but not much else. I didn’t really decorate with antiques until I started receiving things from my great grandmother and my grandparents. But still much of that went in to boxes in the garage.

I hung my grandmother’s turkey platter, The Barnyard King. And I love having my great grandmother’s autograph book. The family treasures made me start to appreciate the trips we took, the people we met and the esoteric knowledge that was still lodged in my brain.

barnyard king

My French-made Turkish-style rug was nice but did not compliment my 1930’s Jo Mora Cowboys and Indians prints (from my grandparents garage). I was visiting Mom and asked if she still had the Navajo rugs rolled up in the basement and if she didn’t mind I’d like one for my floor. She had started collecting in the late 1950s and by the early ’90s she was ready to move on. She said I couldn’t have just one, I had to take all that were left. Several trips up and down the basement stairs and the backseat of by vintage Prius was filled with rugs wrapped in brown paper.

Last Sunday after Stephanie and I returned from the Sunset swap meet and our trip to Sally Loo’s I decided to unwrap the rugs and see if there was one I might want in the house. But I wanted all twenty five! Every one I unwrapped was my new favorite.

I narrowed it down to eight on the living room floor and one on a chair. And one in the hall and two in my bedroom. Each one is a work of art and I was having trouble with the idea of walking on them. But Mom said they a made for using and can’t be enjoyed while rolled in brown paper. So I will use them and enjoy.


I’m sure my brother and I complained about our travels. We wanted a ‘normal’ house with ‘normal ‘furniture from ‘normal’ stores. And maybe even ‘normal’ parents. We were crazy. Thanks for the travels and priceless times Mom and Dad. Now every time I open my front door I remember another junking adventure.