One of the most beautiful accents and conversation pieces for any space is a fine oriental rug. Whether a rug is displayed hanging on the wall or is laid out across the floor, it will accumulate dust and dirt over time and will need to be cleaned, and knowing the difference between rug washing vs. rug cleaning is important to your investment. While many homeowners would think to reach for their steam cleaner, this is not advised when caring for a quality oriental rug.

It is critical to entrust the cleaning of a fine rug to the professionals. Oriental rugs are typically made all across the globe by true artisans, and this level of quality artisanship should not be haphazardly washed or cleaned without great care.

Rug Cleaning

The process of rug cleaning is quite basic. It is intended to remove dirt and dust, but often fails to do just that for a fine oriental rug. Even worse, it could do irreparable damage the rug far beyond what the dirt and dust have already done to it.

Rug cleaning typically consists of spraying water over the surface of the rug until it is sufficiently damp enough to loosen small particles. After the rug has been lightly soaked, most cleaners use a vacuum or extraction process to remove said particles. Unfortunately, this does not clean the rug thoroughly or correctly.

This type of temporary cleaning does not dig deep into the delicate fibers of the rug and therefore leaves much of the unwanted particles still trapped inside. The surface of the rug may appear cleaner for a small window of time, but it is not a long-lasting treatment and the soap residue left behind often attracts more dirt and dust.

Rug Washing

For those who know the importance of caring for a finely crafted oriental rug, most choose to do a proper rug washing vs. rug cleaning. It is essential to let the rug professionals handle the washing in order to stay true to the culture and tradition of the rug.

When it comes to rug washing by a professional, these are some of the steps the professional will take to ensure a rug is thoroughly washed:

  • Arrival inspection. Before the rug is washed, it should undergo a detailed inspection to identify any stubborn stains or imperfections in the fabric. This is critical in identifying any spots that may need extra attention on top of the general washing.
  • Dusting. Some professional rug companies perform a dusting service before proceeding to washing. This typically involves a special piece of machinery designed to loosen and remove dust, dirt and debris from a high-quality rug without causing damage to it in the way a normal vacuum could.
  • Pre-Treatment. Depending on what was revealed during a rug’s initial inspection, some stubborn stains may require additional measures such as a pre-treatment. This step in particular should be handled by a rug washing professional in order to limit the risk of dye transfer or any of the colors bleeding to adjacent areas of the rug.
  • Rug washing. This step is a substantial difference from what happens during a rug cleaning. Professional washers will have a designated area to thoroughly soak and flush both sides of a rug. The washing apparatus used is specifically designed, from the flow of the water to temperature of the water to properly cleaning an oriental rug to preserve longevity. Many times, a gentle but effective cleaning solution may also be applied to the rug. The washer then gently massages the rug to work in the water and cleaning solution to release any stains or trapped particles. The process usually finishes with one last rinse.
  • Drying. A large oriental rug can be heavy when it is dry, so you can imagine the weight of a wet rug. With this type of hand-crafted rug, it is crucial that great care be exercised during the drying process so the rug fibers are not damaged. With the help of special custom-built tools and dryers, a rug professional can ensure that the rug is well cared for while it is professionally dried.
  • Final inspection. Before finishing with the rug, the professional should perform a detailed inspection to ensure that the previously identified dirt and stains have been removed as much as possible.
  • Storage. After a company has gone to such lengths to thoroughly wash and dry a fine rug, the storage of it until the customer retrieves it should be equally important. The rug should either be stored in a way that keeps dust at bay or the company should be willing to do additional dust removal before sending it out of the store.

A Word About Carpet Cleaning and Carpet Steaming Companies

While carpet cleaners and steamers are designed to clean carpet and possibly some tile, please note that most are not expertly trained, nor do they own the correct tools to properly clean a fine oriental rug. Steam cleaning can ultimately leave a handmade rug damaged beyond repair.


Make it a point to take your fine oriental rug to the professionals, because when it comes to rug washing vs. rug cleaning, it can make all the difference in protecting this beautiful investment.