What Are Rug Beaters?

Rug Beater Poster
The Saturday Evening Post
Rug Beater, c.1940

Rug beaters, also called carpet beaters, carpet whips, clothes beaters, dust beaters & pillow fluffers, were in common use until the vacuum cleaner became affordable during the early 20th century. Carpets, rugs, clothes, cushions & bedding were hung over a clothesline or railing and the dust and dirt was beat out of them. Typically made of wood, rattan, cane, wicker, spring steel or coiled wire, antique rug beaters have become very collectible yet there are few sources of information about them - at the present time.

Where Can I Find Old Rug Beaters?

Local antique stores, antique malls, estate sales, yard sales, public auctions, and your grandmother's attic are all good places to find old rug beaters. And, on-line auction sites will provide you with some idea of what others are willing to pay for that one unique specimen that is missing from their collection.

Are Heart-Shaped Rug Beaters Old?

In most cases, the answer is no. Teardrop shape rugbeaters, yes. True heart shape rugbeaters, not so much. While they might look nice hanging on your walls, those "cute" little cow, pig, rooster, goose, apple, and/or multiple heart shaped rug beaters are almost always "replicas" — although I don't understand how they can be called replicas when the "originals" never actually existed. Of course, all but the most sturdy metal rugbeaters can easily be bent into a heart shape and the world is full of creative people. It is fairly common to find genuine antique beaters that have been reshaped by a previous owner (or the current reseller;-) from the original tear-dropped shape into something resembling an oblong heart design.

300 Years of Housekeeping Collectibles by Linda Campbell Franklin

So, when buying rug beaters, carpet beaters, or pillow fluffers, be aware that replicas are not antiques; no matter how much rust they may have on them. And simply describing something as a primitive or calling it an antique doesn't necessarily make it so.

While we assemble the pictures and information that will appear on this site, you may want to head to your local library and "check out" an identification and value guide book by Linda Campbell Franklin titled " Three Hundred Years of Housekeeping Collectibles ". In addition to descriptions and price listings (from 1992) of 1,500 different types of housekeeping items, it also contains black & white pictures, early catalog descriptions, manufacturer information, and advertisement copy for 35 different antique carpet beaters. Another book, which contains about 300 pictures of various objects made from wire, but just a few examples of wire beaters, is " Wire (Everyday Things) " by Suzanne Slesin, Daniel Rozensztroch, Jean-Louis Menard, Gilles de Chabaneix, Stafford Cliff.

We are in the process of photographing our collection of rug beaters and we hope to start posting some of those pictures in an online photo gallery within the next few weeks. In the meantime, the following ebay search widget should provide you with a way to find current prices for a wide variety of rug beaters — and now you know that those cute little "antique" critters were probably never actually used to clean your great-grandmother's oriental carpets.