Oriental area rugs are an investment, and when properly cared for can become functional, beautiful heirlooms that last for decades--even centuries. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, regular vacuuming is an integral part of rug maintenance and helps ensure the longevity of hand-knotted oriental pieces.
While wool is one of nature’s most resilient fibers, overly harsh cleaning and agitation can damage a rug’s pile and lead to premature degeneration. Vacuuming should be done frequently yet gently, especially when it comes to antique or semi-antique oriental rugs.
Best Vacuums for Area Rugs
Many of our customers, some of whom are first-time oriental rug owners, come to us with questions about vacuum cleaning their new wool rugs. To help our readers navigate the admittedly oversaturated vacuum cleaner market, we’ve put together a list of our favorite vacuums for cleaning wool area rugs.
Key Features to Look For in Area Rug Vacuum Cleaners
Hand-knotted wool rugs require a particular set of vacuum features that are often overlooked by prospective buyers. Oriental rugs are generally low-maintenance, and with the right vacuum cleaner, weekly or biweekly cleaning should be a hassle-free affair.
If you have a variety of different area rugs spread throughout the home, try to find a vacuum cleaner with variable suction and pile height adjustments for fine-tuned cleaning. Flatweave kilims and wool pile rugs each require slightly different height and suction settings for maximum cleaning efficiency.
Look for a vacuum with the ability to run without its carpet brush. While brush rollers can help agitate deeply settled dirt out of a carpet’s pile, they also tend to be overly aggressive, unnecessarily damaging fragile fibers, especially in antique rugs.
To compensate for the disengaged brush, suction can be increased to pull out dust particles without mechanically agitating the wool fibers.
Keeping these specifications in mind, let’s move on to the vacuum cleaners themselves!
Sebo Felix 1 Premium ($599)
While Sebo may not (yet) be a household name in the US, the German brand is known for delivering excellently designed and engineered vacuums with a focus on usability and easy maintenance. The Felix line of vacuum cleaners, which retails for around $600, is touted as one of the best vacuum cleaners available for pet owners. Here’s to you, cat people.
Right off the bat, the Felix seems perfectly tailored to the needs of the discriminating area rug owner. A suction control slider is located right on the handle, allowing for quick and easy adjustments when moving from one carpet to another. The vacuum also starts up on the low end of the suction spectrum for extended motor life.
The Felix’s roller brush has four manual pile height settings if you choose to use it on your rugs. If not, the brush can be turned off with a button, or even easily removed from the unit without the need for tools.
The Felix comes in several whimsical colors and patterns which please not only the eyes, but the ears and the nose as well. The outer layer doubles as a sound insulator and hospital-grade filtration system, keeping every last dust particle inside the vacuum unit and out of the air.
Miele Dynamic U1 Twist ($449)
Another German brand, Miele has earned a reputation amongst oriental rug enthusiasts as the go-to name for area rug vacuum cleaners. The U1 Twist is Miele’s top-of-the-line upright vacuum cleaner, and has received extremely favorable reviews across the board, everywhere from Amazon to Good Housekeeping.
The Miele Twist motor is remarkably powerful, allowing it to suck deeply embedded dirt out of high pile carpets. A rotary dial offers suction control, so it can be used on everything from shag rugs to flatweave kilims.
The Twist features an automatic pile height adjustment system which, while effortless, may not be quite as accurate as manual adjustment. The roller brush runs on a separate dedicated motor, so it can be disabled easily during use if necessary.
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Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away ($239.99)
Rounding out our vacuum rundown is the Shark Rotator, a significantly more affordable unit that boasts an impressive arsenal of features well-suited to cleaning large area rugs. Over 70% of Amazon reviewers gave the Rotator five out of five stars, a reception that proves the Rotator’s competitiveness with other higher-priced units.
Much like the Miele and Sebo vacuum cleaners, Shark’s Rotator has variable suction control, suitable for antique pieces, contemporary rugs, and flatweaves alike. The suction control is just below the Rotator’s handle for quick adaptation from rug to rug.
The Rotator’s brush roll can also be shut on and off independently, making it ideal for gentle yet thorough cleaning of more sensitive area rugs. There is no manual pile height adjustment, so keep that in mind when working with higher pile carpets.
No matter what vacuum cleaner you choose, remember to treat your wool area rugs as gently as possible during regular maintenance.
If you have any questions about area rug maintenance, or about wool oriental rugs in general, feel free to reach out to us here at RugKnots. We’d be more than happy to field whatever questions you may come up with in the course of looking for the perfect vacuum cleaner for your rugs.