As usual, the first thing to remember when cleaning your rug is that common sense should prevail: if a rug is badly stained, damaged or dirtied, if it has been peed on a lot by your pet, if the colours have faded, run or bled into each other or there are gaping holes where rug used to be, spend the money and have it cleaned and/or repaired professionally - you won't regret it. Same goes for antique, old or silk and delicate rugs. Here's a great fact sheet on having your rugs cleaned by professionals; it gives you an idea of what's involved and how much it will cost to get it done - the information in it is intended for an Australian audience, however the principal is the same the world over.
First things first: a simple way of refreshing your carpet and maintaining it at its best is to vacuum weekly. Vacuum the entire face of the rug this way, but several times a year take the time to flip the rug over and vacuum the underside and the floor underneath. Once a year you might want to do a more thorough job: beat the rug, outside, stretched over something like a fence or sturdy clothesline or simply face down on your lawn. Follow with a vacuuming on both sides with a small upholstery attachment, using short strokes to dislodge and pick up the loosened dirt. Do not use a power or rotating head - they are far too rigorous and may damage the carpet fibres or tear the fringed edges. Make sure the filter of your vacuum cleaner is freshly emptied for maximum benefit - a model with continuous suction is best for this type of work as the small fibres of your carpet will quickly clog conventional filter systems. Finally, spray lightly on both sides with an appropriate non-staining household insecticide to prevent moth infestation.
If there is any sign of moth infestation or damage (look for a scattering of grit-like poo or white webbing and cocooning, especially on the rug's underside or in seams and creases - moths themselves are also a dead giveaway), you will need to do a more thorough job, and as quickly as possible to prevent further damage to your carpet's structure. The same goes for dried-on mud or really ingrained dirt. It's best to bring your rug up onto a hard surface to work on it - a large coffee table is ideal, although a driveway or patio (clean) will also work fine. Also ensure that your lighting is good - seeing what you are doing is paramount to success. Use a small hard-bristled brush (a stiff nail brush or something of that nature is ideal), and work over small areas of the carpet at a time with short brisk strokes, both in direction of the pile and against it - you need to be VERY careful here that you don't damage your carpet, edges or embroidered areas, so use judgment and caution rather than enthusiasm. Vacuum each area as you go to pick up the dust and dirt you dislodge and when you're finished, turn the rug over and start the process again. I also strongly recommend wearing a dust mask throughout this procedure. A further comment in the case of moth infestation: the moth larva will often establish themselves VERTICALLY in the direction of the pile and not horizontally against it. What this means is that your brushing might only remove the edge of the cocoon, leaving the actual larvae safely ensconced inside. In this case you need something to pick out the entire larvae - a metal nail file with a hooked end is ideal. In the case of kilims, they love to establish themselves in creases, or where thick weave areas abut onto thinner ones. Same technique with the nail file applies. Follow with a light spray on both sides with an appropriate insecticide, as described above.
This entire process is, needless to say, much easier to do with a second person assisting. The other person can hold the rug securely for you; look out for areas requiring spot cleaning and vacuum while you brush.
If you really need to wash your carpet and you want to try it yourself, don't despair, it's not as hard as it sounds. I can't give you any better advice than that provided here at Milton Cater Oriental Carpets. Another great article on general rug maintenance can be found here at Jacobsen Oriental Rugs, covering issues such as curling corners, warps, ripples and rug storage.
All information is provided here as general information only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for the advice of a properly qualified tradesman. If your rug is antique, damaged or delicate, seek professional advice, do NOT attempt to clean it yourself. Same goes for silk rugs. And as always with everything, use common sense!
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