Washing the Oriental Rugs

I love old-fashioned things.  Oriental rugs are an ancient type of floor covering.  The scatter rug to room-sized carpets have been woven for thousands of years, first by Persian peoples using wool and natural dyes.  Many of the designs the weavers worked into the carpets had significance for their societies.  The rugs became great trade items and the fashion for Oriental rugs spread around the world. Today antique Persian rugs command hefty prices and even a brand new model will set you back several hundred to several thousand dollars.

I like to acquire old Oriental rugs at auctions.   Prices are usually very reasonable. The previously loved carpets often need a good cleaning. Washing these tightly woven floor coverings is definitely a heavy chore.  In the past few days I cleaned all three of my carpets.  I know very little about their designs or if they have any significance beyond their decorative value.  One rug is made of wool and the other two are polyester or acrylic.  All are about 5.5 ft by 7.5 ft.  This red, blue, green and tan piece with the large medallions is my freshly cleaned wool rug.rug1

You can not use a regular carpet cleaning system to do Oriental rugs.  They must be hand washed.  Steps of my method for cleaning an Oriental rug.  Choose a period that promises at least three days of cool, dry, sunny weather. A nice breeze is also very helpful.  Early in the morning, give your carpet a good vacuum.  Some people like to take their carpet outside and wallop it thoroughly with a rug beater. That may be good if there is a lot of sand or fine dirt worked into the weave, vacuuming seems enough for mine.

Set up a work site on a flat area with a slight incline.  Lay out plywood to form a spot a bit larger than the rug.  Have a garden hose with good water pressure ready. Fill a bucket with warm water and enough dish soap to make a good foam.  I like to add a little enzymatic cleaner to the bucket to help remove any pet odors. Find a good hand brush and a long-handled push broom with stiff bristles.rug2

Roll up your rug, carry it outside and unroll it face up on the plywood.  Be sure all the edges are on the wood.  Soak it down with the hose.  Use the broom to take up soapy water from your bucket and scrub the rug well.  Brush diagonally, horizontally and perpendicularly to work the soap deep into the weave.  Use the hand brush to remove any stubborn spots.  Then rinse completely with the hose.  This is where you will appreciate having the rug on an incline.  The water and soap foam run off easily.  Rinse and rinse some more until no soap foam rises to the surface.  Let the carpet drain flat for awhile.  Then roll the rug up.  More water will pour from the downhill side.

Now you must suspend the rug so all the water can drain from it to speed the drying.  I built a very handy drying rack using four pallets.  The breeze can get under the rug and much of the drying occurs on the pallet rack.  Unroll your carpet along the top of the rack, allowing it to fall evenly on both sides.  A waterlogged oriental carpet is a very heavy thing.   After it is hung, more water will pour from the rug.  It is amazing how much the fibers can soak up.  Wool rugs hold more than synthetic ones.  They take longer to clean and dry.rug3

In the early afternoon the rug should be getting dry.  The long edges will still retain plenty of water but likely won’t be dripping anymore.  Now it’s time to move the carpet to the clothesline to optimize airflow on both sides.  I hang my carpets the long way over three lines of my clothesline.rug4

With pieces of wood, I create spacers that keep the lines apart and allow plenty of air circulation inside the rug.  By the end of the day the floor covering should be mostly dry. It is all right to leave the carpet outside overnight as long as no rain is predicted and the next day is a good drying day as well.

rug5Let the carpet hang until it is completely dry, otherwise it may develop a smell as it tries to dry in the house.  If I want to use my clothesline for something else that next morning, I drape the mostly dry carpet over the wood pile. At this point only a little dampness remains along the thickly sewn edges of the light blue rug with the large central floral medallion.

rug6

What a joy to have this chore completed for another year. My woven floor coverings are clean and I got a good upper body and aerobic workout.

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