Tips for Cleaning Area Rugs
Little furnishing and/or decorating tricks can make a big difference when you don’t have the time and the budget for an extensive home renovation project. Impressive curtains, quality lighting fixtures, strategically placed mirrors, house plants, and other small decorations can create a unique look and feel and turn your place into a cozy dwelling, a charming haven, or a mysterious mansion. All you need is a touch of imagination and designer creativity.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to create a new look is to place artistic rugs throughout your home. There is a great diversity of materials and designs to choose from so it is easy to pick the ones that best reflect your personality and arrange the rugs skillfully to add beauty and appeal to your home décor. Besides, area rugs are very convenient and quite a good investment because you can rearrange them as you like and take them with you if you are moving.
Keep in mind that if you want to enjoy your nice rugs for many years, you need to protect them from wear and tear and keep them clean and in good condition.
Maintaining and Cleaning Area Rugs
Preserving the good condition of your rugs is not an overwhelmingly difficult task, as long as you follow some basic rules:
Clean regularly. It is no secret that to prolong the life of your possessions, you need to properly maintain them. Vacuuming your rug once a week will prevent the accumulation of dust and dirt and will help you preserve its good looks for a long time. For best results, turn your rug upside down and vacuum the back first. Using the beater bar or the rotating brush of your vacuum cleaner will help push most of the dirt embedded in the rug fibers toward their top. This will make it very easy to remove all the grime when you flip the rug the right way. Vacuum carefully both sides of your rug, as well as the floor surface underneath it, but be sure not to use the beater on the front of a piece made of more delicate materials, such as natural fibers – if this is the case, use suction only. You are also not advised to vacuum the edges because you can easily fray and damage the fringes and/or tassels;
- Remove spills immediately. Adequate measures must be taken as soon as you spill anything on the rug. If the spot remains wet, the liquid will penetrate deep into the fibers and permanently damage them. So, blot out the liquid immediately using a white cotton towel – press it really hard to the spot from the outside towards the middle until it has absorbed most of the moisture, and then apply a proper cleaning solution (see below for details). Remember to move the towel in straight lines only when blotting a wet spot – NEVER rub in circles to avoid greater damage;
- Remove pet hair gently. Vacuum cleaning is usually not efficient enough to remove all the pet hairs collected on your rug. Use a slightly dampened stiff brush to completely clean the fibers, but always brush in the direction of the nap;
- Turn your rugs. You can even out the wear sustained by your rug by turning it once or twice a year. Direct sunlight, foot traffic, or smashing beneath heavy furniture can fade or damage certain areas of the rug much more visibly than others, so turn it regularly to avoid excessive signs of wear and tear at one place;
- Shake smaller rugs. Taking your small area rug outside to shake or to beat all the dirt and dust out of it and then letting it air for several hours will help you keep the piece fresh and clean.
Whenever you decide that your floor covering requires more thorough cleaning than just vacuuming, you should take into account the specific type of your rug. Simply washing the piece with a carpet cleaning solution may actually ruin some more delicate and expensive rugs.
Efficient Tips on How to Clean an Area Rug – Cleaning Specific Types of Area Rugs
Area rug cleaning must be done in accordance with the specifics of the fiber content and the construction of your piece.
The least expensive type of area rugs usually allow direct washing. Still, before soaking your piece in water, be sure to check for any specific cleaning instructions (in case you haven’t preserved the original tags attached to your rug, visit the nearest store and find the same type of floor covering to consult the information available). Mind the fact that some thicker, richly-dyed synthetic rugs may require dry-cleaning only.
Most synthetic rugs, however, are sturdy enough to be washed with cold water and mild detergent (small ones can even be put into a mesh laundry bag and machine-washed on a gentle cycle and slow spin). When washing by hand, submerge your large rug in a bathtub (filled with cool water and about half a cup of a mild washing agent) and agitate slowly.
In any case, rinse thoroughly and dry completely before laying the rug on the floor again. It is best to let it air dry but avoid direct sunlight, and hang it either on a clean railing or a clothes-drying rack but not over a single clothesline to prevent distortion of its shape.
Wool Area Rugs
Lay the rug flat on a clean concrete surface, wet it with a garden hose, and apply some specifically designed carpet cleaning foam or a solution prepared by stirring a quarter cup of a mild cleansing agent in a bucket of cool water. Be careful not to use hot water because the wool will shrink. Also, never use strong cleaners because they will easily damage the fibers! Rub gently with a mop and rinse well. Remove as much of the water as possible (you are advised to press white cotton towels over the surface to blot most of the moisture) and let it air dry on a hard level area (never hang wool rugs).
You are recommended to only wash area rugs on sunny and warm days so that they can dry completely and quickly or you may risk bacteria growth on them!
Rugs made from coir, sisal, grass, etc. Dirt sifts through the open weave of rugs made from these natural fibers, so you will need to clean the floor beneath as well. Remember that water weakens natural fibers, so when washing, scrub really quickly with a soft brush dipped in soapy water. Rinse immediately and dry thoroughly;
- Silk rugs. These are extremely delicate and should be treated with extra care, even when vacuumed (a beater bar can damage them beyond repair). Talcum powder could be used to absorb a small stain but you cannot simply wash silk rugs because exposing them to water also damages the fine fibers. Professional cleaning is definitely your safest option;
- Fur. Sprinkle talcum powder all over the rug and let it rest for several hours. Then brush the powder through the hair and vacuum or shake it clean. You can wipe the back of these rugs with a cloth soaked in soapy water and then rinse it with a cloth dipped in clean water but make sure it has dried up completely before putting the rug back in place. NEVER wet the fur!
Hand-made, Oriental or Antique Rugs
Don’t risk it – just take these extremely valuable pieces to a reputable professional cleaner like ServiceMaster. Even vacuuming vintage or antique rugs is tricky, so be sure to follow all the care and maintenance tips concerning the specific content and construction of your piece.
Area Rug Cleaning Tips for Removing Stains
As already mentioned, any accidental stains on your rug must be removed as soon as possible by blotting, not rubbing the spot. How to spot clean your rug depends, of course, on the nature of the stain:
How to clean a stain from alcohol and soft drinks. Red wine and fruit juices are notorious for staining area rugs. To prevent permanent damage, prepare a solution of liquid dishwashing agent (one tablespoon), white vinegar (a quarter of a tablespoon) and water (one quart). Using hydrogen peroxide instead of water gives better results but sometimes a damp white towel is all you need to remove a stain. If you have applied a cleaning solution, don’t forget to rinse well and to blot dry;
- How to clean stains from coffee and tea. The second most common stains come from spilled coffee. It has a rich color and could be rather difficult to remove unless treated immediately. The vinegar-dishwasher-water mix should work for you, but if the stain has already penetrated deeper in the fibers, you may need an appropriate commercial spot carpet cleaner;
- How to remove fat-based stains. For any kind of grease and oil stains, use talcum powder as described above. Most dry-solvent spot carpet cleaners should also do the trick;
- How to remove gum and/or wax. Scrape as much as you can and then freeze the spot with ice cubes in a plastic bag and remove the hardened material with a dull knife. Rub the spot with a cotton cloth dampened in alcohol and blot dry, or use a dry-solvent spot cleaner if the stain is too persistent. There is an alternative method of placing a brown paper bag over the spot and ironing over it to completely absorb the stain without further ado. This is particularly effective for wax;
- How to remove stains from paint. Apply a detergent solution while the spot is still wet and dab with rubbing alcohol. Mineral spirits should be used for oil-based paints but with great caution;
- How to clean a stain from tomato sauce. Using a citrus-oxygen cleaner is supposedly the best method to remove stains from tomato sauce. A detergent solution may also work, but you need to rinse well with a mixture of one part vinegar and two parts water afterwards. Don’t forget to always blot dry immediately. Exactly the same approach should be used to remove pet odor and urine stains from rugs, as well.
Steam cleaning is usually a guaranteed success.
What you need to remember regardless of the specific cleaning method you choose:
- always consult the cleaning instructions specific for your rug;
- use as little cleaning solution as possible;
- test any commercial cleaning product or home-made cleaning solution on a small area of the rug first to make sure it will not damage the fibers or the colors;
- clean in a gentle and slow manner;
- never rub vigorously in circles;
- always rinse thoroughly and blot dry;
- vinegar, salt, mild dishwashing agents and cold water, as well as ironing, may or may not be capable of miracles but in case you need deeper cleaning or just prefer a professional approach when it comes to your cherished rugs, hiring expert help is sure to yield satisfactory results.
How to clean an area rug depends on many factors but proper care and gentle cleaning is the key to prolonging the life of your rug and to keeping it stain-free and beautiful for many years.
If DYI rug cleaning is not for you, consider calling a professional carpet and rug cleaning company like ServiceMaster.