Professional Cleaning of a 120 Year Old Antique Rug

27 February 2023
Est. Reading: 2 minutes
What's in This Guide?


This may be the dirtiest rug we've had to clean. It is machine woven and most likely a Crossley Axminster rug. Crossley Axminister rugs are the precursors to modern rugs and resembled hand-woven Iranian rugs.

We estimate it is 100 to 120 years old. So theoretically speaking, it is an antique, a by-product of the industrial age. These rugs are quite remarkable, considering what they represent.

Based on the amount of dirt on this rug, it may have never been cleaned in its entire life. We're going to change that and take you on a tour of the entire cleaning and restoration process. We estimate it will take 15 hours or more to finish.

This is not a cleaning tutorial post, but one in which we show you the steps we take along the way. So, sit back and enjoy getting an insight into a professional rug clean.

How We Clean an Antique Rug

Here's the steps we take when professionally cleaning an antique rug.

  1. Vacuum The Front and Back: First, we use a vacuum to remove as much dried dirt and soil from the front of the rug as possible. Flip it over to the back of the rug and vacuum once again.
  2. Back Beating the Rug: Over time, dirt will settle into the fibre's base. With the rug still facing down, we loosen this by knocking the dirt out of the rug fibres.
  3. Vacuum and Repeat: Lift the rug, then vacuum the dirt, and back beat once more. After several repetitions of back beating, vacuuming (and losing the will to live), the rug is dirt-free. At this stage, we had spent 12 man-hours on this process.
    10 kilos of grit, dust, and soil have been removed. The rug had been sitting in a room with an open fire for 120 years, and the dirt was mostly black soot. Testing revealed that it was soot, because the black grit crumbled into our hands and was oily to the touch.
  4. Flip and Vacuum: Vacuum the rug once more, but this time face up.
  5. Spot Test: We test the dyes at this stage to ensure they are stable and to check the soundness of the build, as we don't want to harm the rug.
  6. Pre-Spray and Agitate: We avoid washing the rug in the rug pits because it could damage the rug. Causing it to warp irreparably and permanently damage it. Using a commercial cleaning machine, we spray the cleaner onto the rug. Followed by agitating the cleaner to loosen the soiling in the fibres.
  7. Wet Extraction and Dry: After extracting all the cleaning agents with our wet extraction machine, we finish by drying the rug with air movers.

Final Thoughts On Cleaning An Antique Rug

It took two weeks from start to finish. We had to dry it between each rinse because it kept releasing soil. In total, 25 hours have gone into cleaning the rug.

The rug looks transformed; the colours are bold and vibrant and the 120-year old rug has about another 50 years of life left in it! This has got to be the most satisfying rug clean we have ever done.

If you are interested in cleaning your own rug at home, see our guide on “How to Clean a Kilim Rug at Home”.

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