There are many myths that have been propagated over the years regarding proper rug care. You might have heard them: "You should never clean an Oriental rug," or "You should never vacuum an Oriental rug," etc. The following thoughts should help you better separate myth from reality.
Cleaning is essential to insuring a long life for your antique rug. Dirt that has settled in a rug serves as an abrasive to wear away the staple of the pile. As you walk on a dirty rug, the pile gets thinner and thinner, and the rug begins to show wear; knot heads and foundation threads become exposed. A really thorough cleaning cannot be done in the home, regardless of some cleaners' claims. You should have your rug cleaned off-site, by experts who come with good references.
How often a rug should be cleaned depends on the amount of traffic it gets. For example, country living (where much more dirt gets tracked into the home) is harder on rugs than urban life, where your feet are relatively clean by the time you get to your front door.
If you have a formal living room that gets little use, you can safely go ten years between cleanings; for a rug in a busier location, you should clean it every three to five years. If there is a significant traffic pattern across one area, it is important to rotate the rug once a year to regulate the wear, and to carefully inspect it for any telltale signs of soon-to-be-needed repairs. The most common need is for overcasting of the rug's ends, which is a simple button hole stitch through the back of the rug that ties in the weft threads that hold the knots in place. If a rug is allowed to unravel at the ends it can lead to a loss of value--not to mention an aesthetic loss. The side finishes, or "selvedges," also need to be maintained. If the selvedge wears away, the warp threads will be exposed and the rug will be susceptible to holes.
When you vacuum your rug, don't use a rotary beater attachment. Gentle suction is all that is needed. While vacuuming, avoid rigorous abrasion of the pile and be careful going over the edges and ends of your rug.
Finally, always remember to use a properly fitted pad underneath your rug, which will help protect and prolong its life. By simply cleaning your rug regularly, vacuuming gently, and paying attention to its ends and edges, your rug will reward you with many years of use and beauty.