How to look after your Persian or Oriental rug

  • A handmade Persian rug is very likely one of your major home furnishing purchases and just because it is on the floor does not mean it cannot be looked after very well. Your rug should both reflect your character, your spending power and perfectly suit your room colours and use. It is an artisan product crafted with care and love by weavers in Central Asia and should be cared for so that it mellows with age and becomes a cherished family heirloom.
  • Underlay ( Rug pad )The first thing you really need is a suitable underlay – rug pad in North America – and these take many forms. Ask your rug dealer for his or her advice as the type of rug and the flooring it will be laid on will dictate the type of underlay. The underlay will serve many uses- it will add some comfort to a rug laid on a hard floor, cushioning the weight of feet and thus protecting crushing of the pile; it will also protect the back of the knot from abrasion, lifting the rug off the hard surface and protecting it from heat ( ask for special underlay for underfloor heating )and damp ; it will allow dust and dirt to fall through the rug which will help avoid the build-up of particles which will otherwise act as a sandpaper abrasion mix at the base of the pile; lastly, it will, of course, reduce the movement of the rug, making it safe and perfectly positioned.
  • Furniture Cups. A larger rug will have furniture on it and if the feet of your sofa, chairs or table have sharp ends you should use furniture cups. These can be bought online and can be plastic, wood, brass or brushed metal. These will stop your rug pile from being crushed and avoid holes forming with many minuscule movements.
  • Moths! Now consider how the furniture is sitting. If you have a large heavy piece of furniture under which the rug is lying you must ensure that this dark and quiet space is thoroughly vacuumed along with the visible parts. Moths!!! They love dark undisturbed places with a plentiful supply of wool or silk to eat. Ideally, you should also have a pheromone moth trap in the room too – especially with any rug made in Afghanistan. For some reason they go crazy for this wool.
  • Sunshine. If you are lucky enough to live in a country with abundant strong sunshine you must consider the effects of UV light on your rug. Obviously,  a conservatory or a patio windowed room in particular needs clear UV filter screen on the glass. Whatever your vendor tells you, ALL rugs fade – at least all rugs made with natural materials.
  • Turning. Ideally you should also consider turning your rug every year or so so that any fading is evened out – however, this is rarely done as most rugs look best with the pile lying in a certain direction so they are left as is. Turning a rug will also even out feet tread wear patterns – but this only happens in areas of very heavy traffic or over the course of decades, by which time your rug has aged with you and you accept and love it.
  • Weekly Upkeep. Modern vacuum cleaners are FAR too efficient and all that satisfying fluff and dirt in your viewable bag is mostly bits of your rug being stripped. You do not need to vacuum on a high power with the revolving brush – please just use suction as this will suck out what needs to be removed. Avoid vacuuming the fringes as these are, in a handmade Persian or Oriental rug, integral warp threads and are protection against the knots being damaged or destroyed.
  • stitch in time– If you see any signs of the rug having been damaged then you should have it restored immediately. The same goes for discovering that your party guest spilled a glass of red under the sofa. Stains lock in over time and repairs become very pricey!
  • Cleaning your rug. You go to the dentist and doctor, you service your car, you clean your oven ….but most people think a rug will last forever without a proper service. Whilst they can be miraculously hard wearing items they do need a specialist soaking every 5 years to increase thie longevity and maintain the look for which you bought it. This will remove the build-up of oils ( outside tar and chemicals, human sweat and animal grease ) from the pile and restore it to its former softness and colours. Its also hygienic to remove all that gunk- dead skin from humans and dander from animals in particular.

What is the Difference Between a Persian and Oriental Rug?

There are thousands of rug types produced across the globe, from hand knotted to hand tufted, hand loomed to power loomed, piled and flat, and in a wide array of materials. However, the term ‘Persian rug’ has come to mean a hand-knotted (every single knot tied by hand around threads strung around a loom) rug, generally one with a readily identifiable traditional central medallion with a surrounding floral design and a border. The most commonly found colours are red, blue and cream but most colours are used in one type or another and the sizes range from small mats to massive rugs which can fill a ballroom.

Persia was the historical name given by outsiders to Iran, the name of which derives from one of the tribes, Pars. The name was formally changed to be inclusive in 1935. Persian rugs have been exported worldwide for at least 150 years and quickly gained a reputation for being luxurious and hard wearing floor decorations. There was a mania for all things oriental in the latter half of the 19th century and so rugs became a crucial element in the furnishing of the better off home. This was in the days before the fitted carpet so a highly coloured, deep pile rug provided many attributes – comfort, looks,  a social marker, insulation on cold wooden or stone floors and over time could be regarded as an investment.

Rugs from Turkey across to China became loosely and lazily called ‘Persian’ – much as in my youth we called all vacuum cleaners ‘Hoovers’ as they were the dominant brand. However, ANY rug not made in Iran should either be called Oriental or specifically by its country of origin – Turkish, Afghan, Caucasian, Pakistani, Indian, Nepalese, Tibetan and Chinese. However Persian rugs are now copied across the rug weaving world as very often they will be sold cheaper than the original. this cost factor is due to labour and materials costs and as with anything, you get what you pay for. In my opinion, the best Iranian wool is unbeatable and when coupled with superior craftsmanship and splendid natural dyes ( derived from roots, leaves, plants, trees and rocks ) offers the superlative rug. So now you have a large market flooded with Persian rug knockoffs – which are not all bad by any means – and so should be called Oriental. They are still hand knotted using the exact techniques of the Persian weavers, using the same designs and materials, and so you might say that there is no difference between a Persian and Oriental rug. However, a genuine high-quality rug from Iran is almost always a better product with a discernible flair and spirit lacking in the copies. In particular, and as a generalization,  the Indian rugs are often too chunky and the wool too dry, the fine Chinese are too meticulous and therefore look machine made and the Pakistan rugs are too dry and flat. The positive side is that the prices will be from 25-50% lower!

So – Persian is from Iran ONLY and Oriental from all other Near, Middle and the Far East countries.