Prayer rugs or mats are small, easily transportable rugs used by devout Muslims for kneeling on during daily prayer times. Originating after the Turks converted to Islam sometime after the ninth century, the rug's intent was to keep an individual's hands and knees clean as they knelt. Designs can be oriental, or depict mosques and other symbols of the Islamic faith. The rugs can be handmade or manufactured, and come in a variety of fabrics. While many may allow for machine washing, the safest method of cleaning is a simple hand wash.
Read the washing directions thoroughly before attempting to wash the rug, to determine if it can be hand washed. Certain materials -- such as silk -- do not do well in water, and should be dry cleaned instead.
Spot test any cleaners on a hidden area -- such as a small spot on the back of the rug -- to make sure they do not bleach or damage the dyes in the rug. This is especially important for family heirlooms or expensive prayer rugs.
Pre-treat any stains on the rug with a laundry stain cleaner; allow the cleaner to remain on the stains for at least half an hour before washing. For tougher stains, allow the stain remover to remain on the fabric overnight. Pre-treat again in the morning before washing.
Submerge the rug in cool water containing a small amount of mild laundry soap. Gently swish the rug around in the water to make sure the material is completely saturated. Allow the rug to soak for at least 30 minutes, up to several hours.
Remove the rug from the soapy water and rinse it in cool water. Gently roll the rug to squeeze out as much of the excess water as possible -- do not wring the rug, as this could cause damage to the material. Repeat the rolling procedure several times.
Lay the rug flat to dry, if possible. It can be hung over a shower curtain rod, or outside over a chair, as well; if the rug is slightly creased after drying, lay a heavy book or piece of furniture on it to remove the crease. If drying outside, keep the rug out of direct sunlight to avoid any fading of the material.
Having the rug cleaned by a professional may be an easier option, especially if you are unsure of the rug's age or material composition. Consult a rug cleaning professional with any concerns.
Do not wash the rug in hot water; this can shrink the rug, or set any stains -- even if pretreated with stain remover.