How to clean a Navajo rug

How to clean a Navajo rug.
How to clean a Navajo rug.

Navajo rugs are more than just woven textiles; they are intricate pieces of art that reflect the rich culture and history of the Navajo people. Cleaning and caring for these rugs is essential not only to maintain their beauty but also to preserve their cultural significance. In this guide, we will walk you through the steps of how to clean a Navajo rug while respecting its craftsmanship and heritage.

Topics Covered

  • Understanding Navajo rugs
  • The importance of proper cleaning
  • Step-by-step guide to cleaning a Navajo rug
  • How to take care of a Navajo rug
  • Conclusion

Understanding Navajo rugs

Navajo rugs, also known as Navajo blankets or weavings, are traditional textiles crafted by the Navajo people of the southwestern United States. These rugs often feature intricate patterns, vibrant colors, and intricate designs that tell stories and reflect the natural world, tribal history, and cultural beliefs.

The importance of proper cleaning

Cleaning a Navajo rug goes beyond aesthetics; it’s about respecting the artistry and craftsmanship behind each piece. Improper cleaning methods can cause irreversible damage, fading colors, and weakening fibers. Preserving the integrity of the rug ensures that it remains a cherished heirloom for generations to come.

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Step-by-step guide to cleaning a Navajo rug

Before you begin, it’s important to note that Navajo rugs are delicate, and some rugs may be more fragile than others. If your rug is particularly old or valuable, consider consulting a professional conservator.

Step 1: Gentle dusting

Start by gently shaking the rug outdoors to remove loose dirt and dust. Lay the rug flat on a clean surface, such as a bedsheet spread on the ground or a large table.

Step 2: Vacuuming

Use a low-suction handheld vacuum or a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to lightly vacuum the rug’s surface. Avoid pressing down too hard or using high suction, as this can pull and damage the fibers.

Step 3: Spot cleaning

For small stains or spills, create a mixture of mild liquid soap and cool water. Dip a clean, white cloth into the soapy water and gently blot the stain. Avoid scrubbing or rubbing, as this can spread the stain. Blot with a clean, damp cloth to remove soap residue, and then blot dry with a dry cloth.

Step 4: Full immersion cleaning (Optional)

If your rug is heavily soiled or requires a deeper clean, you can consider full immersion cleaning. However, this method is more advanced and should only be attempted if you’re confident in your skills.

Fill a bathtub with cool water and a small amount of mild liquid soap. Gently submerge the rug and lightly agitate the water. Drain the tub, refill with clean water, and repeat the process to rinse the rug. Gently press out excess water by rolling the rug in towels, and then lay it flat to dry in a shaded, well-ventilated area.

How to take care of a Navajo rug

As mentioned, Navajo rugs are not just woven textiles; they are intricate pieces of cultural heritage that deserve thoughtful care and attention. Proper care ensures that these exquisite creations remain vibrant and preserved for generations to come.

Regular Dusting: Gently shake the rug outdoors to remove loose dirt and dust. This simple step helps prevent dirt from settling into the fibers and prolongs the rug’s life.

Avoid Direct Sunlight: Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause colors to fade over time. Display your Navajo rug away from direct sunlight or use UV-protective window coverings.

Rotate Periodically: To ensure even wear, rotate the rug periodically. This practice prevents certain areas from fading or experiencing more wear than others.

Use a Rug Pad: If placing the rug on a hard surface, consider using a rug pad underneath. A rug pad provides cushioning, prevents slippage, and reduces friction that can cause damage.

Handle with Care: When moving or handling the rug, do so gently to avoid stressing the fibers or causing fraying. Lift the rug with clean hands, and avoid tugging or pulling.

Avoid Heavy Traffic: While Navajo rugs are durable, excessive foot traffic can lead to wear and tear. If possible, avoid placing the rug in areas with heavy use.

Professional Cleaning: Over time, a Navajo rug may require professional cleaning to remove deep-seated dirt and stains. Consult a rug cleaning specialist who has experience with delicate textiles.

Store Properly: If you need to store the rug, roll it with the pile side facing inward to protect the fibers. Avoid folding the rug, as this can lead to permanent creases.

Guard Against Pests: Protect the rug from moths and other pests by storing it in a clean, dry, and well-ventilated area. Consider using natural repellents like cedar chips.

Preserve Documentation: If your rug comes with documentation or tags, keep them in a safe place. These materials contribute to the rug’s provenance and historical context.


A Navajo rug is not only a decorative piece but a piece of living history. By following proper cleaning and maintenance techniques, you can ensure that your rug remains a cherished family heirloom and a testament to the artistry of the Navajo people. Remember, if in doubt, it’s always a good idea to consult a professional conservator or rug cleaning specialist to ensure the long-term preservation of your precious Navajo rug.

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