Cleaning Antique Rugs without a Professional

As I browse my Pinterest boards, I can see a definite theme running through my Kitchen files...antique rugs.  (Some may say old and wrecked but I prefer antique.)  I just love how they look scattered on a wood floor in the kitchen.

They bring so much warmth to the room! (That fireplace doesn't hurt either.)

These rugs in one of my favorite kitchens of all time may have started my obsession...Joan's from For the Love of a House.

It's freeing to see that these rugs are not perfect and not new.  However, it seems this design trend has taken off, so these rugs are often not cheap as well!

I've been hunting for a rug for our kitchen for the three years we've lived in this house.  It would be so easy to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on these (albeit beautiful) little guys.  However, occasionally I will run across one at an antique shop or Craig's List, usually priced to sell because of obvious wear and tear (which I consider a benefit, not a drawback!).  I keep my eyes open, and have never paid more than $100 for any of the antique rugs I've found.  Once I found a tiny one (around 2x3 feet) for $5 at an estate sale!  It was tossed in a corner of their scary basement and oh it was cute but oh was it filthy!

Because, of course, here's the thing.  You get these well-loved, beautiful old rugs, and they've inevitably got lots of well-loved dirt in them as well.  And if you go to a professional rug cleaner, you've effectively blown your budget...or at least, my budget.  And I just can't stand the thought of spending money on something I can do myself!

Case in point: this rug below was less than $40 at an antique shop in Lebanon, Ohio, where my mom took me for a girls' outing for my birthday.  So, so cute.  So, so dirty.

Now, what I am about to tell you is completely not professional.  Seriously.  Use my advice at your own risk!

Start by vacuuming all the dry dirt out, and if you can, hang the rug outside and use a broom or something (a rug beater?) to beat the dirt out, as must as possible.  Then grab some Woolite for Extra Delicates.

And head up to your bathtub.  Fill it with cold water only.  (Warm or hot water could make the colors run!) Submerge your pretty little rug in the water, soaking away the dirt.  Rinse.  Follow it with more cold water and a dose of Woolite.  Now wash it!  The method that worked best for me is almost like giving your hair a good shampoo.  You kind of massage the soap in there and scrub it around with your hands.  Work slowly and make sure you get each section.  Then drain the water and give it a good rinse with another tubful of clean cold water.  Here is a photo of my rug after it's final rinse, but before I drained the water:

I used a garbage bag to wrap the rug (so that it wouldn't drip) and took it out to my driveway to hang it on a plastic sawhorse.  Next I took my hose (preferably with an attachment so you can use the shower spray) and rinsed the rug, allowing the water to run clear and really get all the soap and debris out.  This is strangely therapeutic, by the way.

I left the rug to dry in the shade (not the sun, for fear it might fade the colors).  Every few minutes I would go over and squeeze the water out of the bottom as it collected.  An old towel is helpful to hold in your hands and help absorb the water while you squeeze.

After a few days, I brought the rug back inside and gave it a good vacuum to help fluff everything up after it's bath.  I have not noticed any color changes or bleeding, just a slightly brighter color palette since the layers of dirt have been scraped off.  And now the rug is clean and fresh and waiting for the rest of my kitchen remodel to catch up!

A few weeks later at another antique shop I stumbled across another little lovely, and gave her the same treatment.  She held up as well as the other rug during her bath!

And so, here's the thing.  This method will probably get me booed by all the antique experts out there.  And honestly, if I ever shelled out big bucks for an antique rug, and was worried about keeping it pristine so that it could hold it's value, then I would absolutely take it to a professional to have it cleaned!

But.  I've never paid more than $100 for any of my rugs, and most of them have been in the $40-$60 range.  They come to me well-loved and dirty!  And for those prices, I am willing to take a bit of a risk to get them clean so that they can come live at my house and we can all walk around in our bare feet and not get grossed out by wondering what might be in those things!

But please please take my advice at your own risk.  And maybe don't tell any professional rug cleaners about my blog.  :)


Stacey said...

Great job! I'll be honest, I wouldn't normally buy an old rug because they tend to smell. At that price though you really aren't risking anything.

I'll tell you this, my girlfriend's daughter threw up on one of her nice rugs. She took it outside and hosed it off and washed it. It came out fine. Maybe they are much more sturdy than we think.

Arsal said...

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