How to Care for Your Antique Rugs

By Sara Tardiff

Half the appeal of a good vintage piece is the elusive history behind it. Though Kelly Vittengl is known for her exquisite antique rug curation, the founder of California-based Frances Loom prefers her pieces to be a little rough around the edges—quite literally. “I gravitate towards rugs that are worn almost to the threads. In my opinion, these have so much more character and a story to tell,” she says. “I draw inspiration for my collection from everywhere: my friends, art, Instagram, my neighborhood. But as weird as this sounds, I’m able to pick up on energies in these rugs. Rugs with a rich past speak to me, and others just don’t.” With history comes age, however, and vintage rugs need a little more care than most. Learn how this self-proclaimed “rug slinger” keeps them in pristine condition, so you can enjoy their special beauty for years to come.

Style for minimal wear

“Even the more worn rugs are sturdier than one might think. Many of them have already lasted over a hundred years—they’re tougher than they look,” Vittengl says. “However, the less foot traffic the better. If you’re really trying to preserve a rug, perhaps find a space where it will get less wear.” A room where you don’t plan to regularly entertain guests or serve food and drinks is your best bet.

Treat them like art

Although Vittengl is a huge fan of wear and tear, she recommends trying out unconventional spots for your rug if you want to maintain its look long term. “There’s always the option of hanging the rug on the wall or using it as a headboard in a bedroom. They truly are masterpieces and should be treated like art.”

Use the right settings on your vacuum

For the usual dirt and dust, your antique rug can likely handle a vacuum—so long as you use it properly. Vittengl suggests using the ‘bare floor’ setting “to protect the rug from further wear or damage.”

Sometimes spills call for a professional

“Any minor spills should immediately be firmly blotted with a damp, undyed cloth,” she says. “However, for any spills or stains that are more damaging (like red wine), you should really seek out a professional rug cleaner who specializes in antique or Oriental rugs—the process is much gentler than your average carpet cleaner.” You might also consider getting a professional cleaning perhaps once a year or so.