How to clean oriental rugs at home – use vinegar to tackle stains, the fringe and more

A quick guide to cleaning oriental rugs at home. Freshen up your Persian rug, lift stains and brush out the fringe for pristine results

Persian rug central in living room
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When you’re the proud owner of one or many oriental rugs then you need to know how to take care of these valuable decorative items properly. Thankfully, cleaning oriental rugs, like Persian rugs, can be done by hand using simple vinegar and pH neutral detergents, so you don't need to rely on a professional clean every time yours starts looking a little tatty.

Usually of high value, Persian rugs are identifiable by their intricate patterns and elaborate designs. Originating from Iran, and sometimes India or China, Persian rugs are often made from wool or cotton – although some can be made from synthetic materials or silk – and they add a lot of personality to a space. It’s only right that you maintain them properly with careful cleaning and maintenance also.

Oriental rug under sofa

(Image credit: Photo by Ryan Christodoulou on Unsplash)

How often should you clean oriental rugs

Hand-knotted Persian rugs tend to accumulate more dust, and it of course depends on whether yours is in a high traffic area of your home or not. If yours is in the hallway or an open space of your lounge, then you’re looking at a good vacuuming every couple of weeks. But if yours is on display in the guest bedroom which sees infrequent visitors, then a vacuum every couple of months is likely all it needs. You need to find a happy medium between vacuuming enough to stop the buildup of dirt and bacteria, and not vacuuming too much which could loosen and damage the rug’s natural fibres.

When to get a professional clean

If your oriental rug is hand woven, and covered in red wine, if could be wise to contact an expert as they will know best how to not interrupt with the rug’s colors, especially if these are created with natural plant-based dyes. Much like if yours is made from silk or a delicate synthetic material. If yours is the latter, then a professional deep clean every couple of years is ideal.

However, you can clean your Persian rug at home, by yourself, with the help of a few household tools and ingredients. Usually there is a care label to refer to, but if not you can still try the below methods, spot testing them on small areas to ensure there is no transfer of color. Here we’re going to cover treating cotton and wool Oriental rugs. Let’s get to it:

Persian rug central in living room

(Image credit: Photo by Ryan Christodoulou on Unsplash)

How to clean oriental rugs at home

First, you want to start by removing dust and debris from your Persian or other type of oriental rug. Simply lay yours on the floor and vacuum it on both sides. Go slowly and be sure to remove your vacuum’s beater bar and if you have a specialist low pile carpet attachment, use it. Work in the direction of the rug’s fibres until all the dust, pet hair and debris is removed. Be careful on fringing as this can easily get caught.

If your vacuum is a little too aggressive, you can simply sweep your rugs. Use a broom with soft straw bristles and sweep from one side to the other in the direction of the fibres still. And, if you have the outdoor space to, you can shake and (gently) beat your rug the old fashioned way. 

Next, dampen both sides of the rug with cold water using a spray bottle or the garden hose. Then make up a mixture of cold water and rug shampoo or a gentle pH-neutral detergent and lather this onto the rug using a soft brush or cloth, moving carefully in the direction of the fibres. 

Rinse off the loosen dirt and detergent gently using more water, getting off as much as possible with help of a squeegee and letting it air dry out of direct sunlight. If drying yours indoors, ensure the room is well ventilated.  

Note: As mentioned, we'd recommend spot testing this on the back of your Persian rug to ensure the colors don't run if yours didn't have any instructions or recommendations on the care label.

How to clean oriental rugs with vinegar 

Using a solution of vinegar and water in place of the detergent mixture above is a really effective and natural way to treat oriental rugs that smell a little musty. Plus, cleaning with vinegar is a great way to lift stains also. 

How to clean oriental rugs with stains

So, if you are dealing with dog urine, greasy food or other unsightly and odorous stains, first thing you need to do is blot blot blot. Then you can try applying the white vinegar and warm water solution as above directly onto the area. For extra oomph, you can mix 1/2 tsp of pH-neutral detergent with 1/4 cup white vinegar and some warm water and use this for greasy spills.

Oriental rug under sofa

(Image credit: Photo by Ryan Christodoulou on Unsplash)

Can you clean the fringe on an oriental rug?

This is a really delicate (and beautiful) area to tackle when cleaning Oriental rugs. If yours is hand-woven, it's best left to an expert in a professional clean. If yours is machine-woven, you can use a combination of vinegar (1/4 cup) and water (2 cups). 

Start by protecting your floor with a towel, then use a soft brush to gently comb the fringe out flat. Next, spray the area with the white vinegar solution. Then mix up another solution of a few cups water with 2 tsps of the pH neutral detergent, and use this with the brush to scrub off any debris from the fringe. Finally, rinse with water and leave to air dry.

Can you steam clean oriental rugs?

As most Persian rugs are made from wool and other delicate fibres, we wouldn't recommend running your steam cleaner over it as you could cause more damage than it's worth.

cat on Persian rug

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Preventative measures and how to care for oriental rugs

  • Vacuum, but only when you need to: And, if your rug is made from wool, limit vacuuming as it can cause the fibres to become packed down.
  • Keep them out of direct sunlight: With all the beautiful colors that feature on your rug, you don't want to run the risk of bleaching any areas with too much harsh direct sunlight.
  • Keep shoes off: Bringing mud and other dirt from the outside in and onto your Oriental rug can lead to a buildup of dirt that could turn into difficult stains.
  • Keep pets away: Pets love to scratch, dogs choose the most peculiar places to pee, you get the gist – if you can avoid pets on your oriental rugs, do!
  • Spot treat spills asap: Get blotting as soon as spills occur to stop any staining in its tracks.

Oriental rugs restored to original state of beauty 🙌

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Former Deputy Editor

I'm Cam, the former deputy editor of Real Homes who worked on the site from 2020 to 2023. As a renter myself, sharing a home with two friends (and my cat) in London, I know all too well the challenges that this can pose when it comes to creating your perfect setup. As someone who has always loved everything interior design-related, I cannot rest until a home feels right and I am really passionate about helping others get there too, no matter what their living situation, style, or budget may be. It’s not always the easiest to figure out, but the journey is fun and the results are so worth it.

After interior design, travel, art, and photography are my next big passions. When I’m not writing or editing homes content, I’m usually tapping into other creative outlets, exploring galleries in London or further afield, taking photos, scribbling, or drawing!