The DIY Guide to Cleaning Your Vintage Rug

You can’t miss the vintage rug trend circulating in all your favorite blogs and magazines, and for good reason. With updated furniture and decor, these antique collectibles make a stunning backdrop to any style; from their unique patterns to vibrant colors, they’re truly a statement piece (and no longer just your grandma’s rug!). Most of the rugs in our home were purchased through online auctions, and it’s always a bit of a gamble when you’re investing in a piece that you can’t see or feel—especially when it’s decades old and full of unknown history.

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So what happens once you’ve made the decision to buy your rug? You eagerly await the day it arrives on your front step (aka, stalk the delivery man, am I right?), and once it comes, you push your furniture aside and roll it out. Almost immediately, you notice a funny smell. You put your nose to the rug, and although you could have sworn the listing boasted, “Freshly cleaned and ready for use!” you’re disappointed to discover there is now an undeniable mustiness hanging in the air. You also wonder, “This is what the seller qualifies as clean?” You’re horrified to find dirt in the fibers and small stains throughout.

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We get it. We’ve been there, too! We picked up the above Turkish rug for a song at a nearby vintage retailer. Although it was loosely rolled when we found it, we could tell it would need a cleaning, but we weren’t too worried. With a few household items and simple steps, we’d have it healthy in no time.

First, we quickly mopped the floor where we tackled the cleaning to get rid of everyday dirt and grime. Then we rolled out the rug and gave it a thorough vacuum first on the front, then on the back. Once it’s flipped right side up again, we vacuum once more.

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There are a small handful of items you’ll need for stains, and you probably have these in your home already: white vinegar, baking soda, and a clean rag. With our rag soaked in vinegar, we worked it into stains until wet and sprinkled baking soda on top. The baking soda creates a fizz that we gently swirled into the fibers of the rug. Once dry, the baking soda will leave a residue, but it vacuums right up!

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If you’re only in need of a spot cleaning, you’re good to go! Furthermore, spritzing a solution of one part vinegar and one part water will help get rid of unwanted odors. For a more intense deep clean, however, we call in the help of a professional-grade wet vacuum! You can rent them at most hardware or grocery stores and for an average cost of $20. (We rented ours at Home Depot for $20 for four hours.) Because vintage rugs are likely full of saturated dyes, the last thing you want to do is use harsh chemicals. Instead, we use a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts warm water. (Note: If your antique rug has never, ever been cleaned in its lifetime, the colors may soften or bleed into one another. We have never experienced this ourselves, but if you’re unsure, a quote from a professional rug cleaner may be a better option for you.)

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It took us about five whole minutes to go over our 8′x 10′rug, after which we discarded the murky water and went over it again with only fresh water. All in all, it takes less than 15 minutes to use the machine! We were on a roll, so we proceeded to clean every rug in our home, and we still returned the wet vacuum with an hour to spare—after grabbing afternoon coffee!

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The professional-grade wet vacuum does a great job at sucking up as much water as possible, but the rug will still be damp to the touch. We left it overnight with an overhead fan on (a box fan would also work), and by the next morning, it was bone dry. The initial peroxide scent dissipates once dry, and you’re left with a clean rug that’s more vibrant than ever. We couldn’t wait to put it in place!

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We couldn’t be happier, and we encourage you to not shy away from the next beautiful antique that could use a little love. Happy do-it-yourself cleaning!

For more fun tips and tricks on Kim’s home renovation journey, check out her blog Yellow Brick Home.

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12 thoughts on “The DIY Guide to Cleaning Your Vintage Rug

  1. I had an old house with an unfinished basement. Upstairs I have no carpet, just wood floors. so I take one rug at a time downstairs, use the steam cleaner on it, let it sit for several days, then bring it back up and take another rug downstairs, its part of my spring cleaning binge that starts in January. lol. they all come out beautifully.

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