Rug Cleaning Tips (part 1)

This section on rug cleaning has some of the most important information for any rug owner. You might want to add this site to your list of favorites so you can get back to this page quickly and easily.

Depending on its location, an area rug might be subjected to lots of abuse. Things like dirt, dust, sand, oily cooking residue, moisture (especially in kitchen or bathroom areas), along with spills and foot traffic can have an impact on the appearance and the life of your rugs.

Some rugs may look as though they’re losing their vibrant color when often it’s just a matter of the color being camouflaged by soil and grime. The fibers of a rug can become packed and matted if dirt, dust and other particles are not removed on a regular basis. Also, when fibers become packed and matted, some rugs have a tendency to attract and hold even more particles.

As much as I’d like to find one, there’s no such thing as a self-cleaning rug. They need the right kind of rug cleaning to be at their best.

We’ll look at general guidelines as well as more specific rug cleaning tips for different types of rugs.

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Rug Pads
Although it has been mentioned elsewhere on this site, something that certainly bears repeating is the strong suggestion to use the proper rug pad under all rugs! This applies whether the rug is on a hardwood floor or on wall-to-wall carpeting.

A rug pad keeps your rug from sliding around, plus it can help your rug retain its original appearance longer and extend the life of the rug by preventing premature aging of the rug.

Rotate Your Rugs
It is recommended that you rotate your rugs at least once a year. This means turning the rug end for end or 180 degrees. This helps the rug to wear more evenly. Sunlight can cause fading and traffic patterns can cause uneven wear and rug cleaning just can't undo that. So, rotate your rugs and avoid excessive fading or deterioration.

Most pictorial rugs do not fall under this guideline of rug rotation since they might feature a design or scene that is best when the rug is placed one certain way.

Vacuum (or Shake) Your Rugs
Vacuuming is an essential part of rug cleaning for most rugs because dirt and sand act as abrasives and can damage or break down the fibers of your rug.

I said ‘most rugs’ in the previous statement because it is better to shake out a few types of rugs, such as a flokati rug or a leather shag rug, rather than to vacuum them. After shaking a flokati rug, the fibers can be gently ‘combed’ or ‘raked’.

Some rugs, such as those made from sisal or bamboo, can be shaken OR vacuumed.

Smaller rugs can be shaken by hand. Hold one end of the rug and shake it so you give it a good ‘snap’ to loosen dirt and other particles. Then, do the same while holding the opposite end of the rug.

Rugs that are too large to be shaken in this manner can be hung over a fence or a clothesline and beaten on the back/bottom of the rug with a broom handle or similar object.

Although some rug experts advise vacuuming expensive or elaborate rugs on a daily basis, it’s a fact of life that most people already have enough to do and daily vacuuming is not always going to happen.

So, the best thing is to fit it in as often as possible. Keep in mind that rugs in busy areas, such as a family room or hallway, need to be vacuumed more often than rugs in areas with less activity or traffic.

There are some people who believe the vacuuming of rugs should be done with suction only (using just the hose and an attachment) and that the rotating beater bar should not be used on any rugs.

Many other people with an opinion about rug cleaning feel it is okay to use the beater bar on cut pile rugs as long as basic guidelines are followed.

Vacuuming Tips
These vacuuming tips apply no matter whether the hose and an attachment are used or the beater bar is used.

  • Change the vacuum bag or empty the dustbin regularly. A vacuum will lose efficiency as the bag/bin becomes more than half-full and letting a bag/bin get completely full could damage the motor.
  • Some new rugs might need to be vacuumed more often during the first year due to fuzz on the rug. This ‘fuzzing’ is normal and it does not shorten the life of your rug in any way. It is the result of loose fibers that cling to the rug during the weaving process.
  • Vacuum rugs by going over them in both directions, especially on rugs with a traffic pattern. This will help prevent matting.

NOTE: Contrary to that last statement, some experts advise that vacuuming a rug should be done only in the direction of the pile; in the same way a cat is stroked.

Please understand that different opinions are shown because it just seems fair to present both points of view and leave it up to you to decide what is best in your particular situation.

Vacuuming Tips for Cut Pile Area Rugs
Cut pile rugs have a smooth, even surface that is created when the tops of the loops are cut off.

A vacuum with a rotating beater bar will vibrate or gently agitate the rug pile allowing particles to become loosened and suctioned into the vacuum.

If suction only is used on cut pile rugs without the benefit of a beater bar, it will remove surface particles but could leave other particles imbedded in the rug that can cause excess wear and tear through abrasion.

  • Adjust the height of the beater bar so it will lightly vibrate the rug. If the beater bar is set too low, it could cause the vacuum motor to slow down as well as cause damage to the rug.
  • Check to make sure the beater bar is rotating properly. A worn or loose belt may cause the bar to operate less efficiently.
  • Be careful with rugs that have fringe on the ends. Do not run the beater bar over the fringe because part of the fringe may get caught and be pulled out.

Vacuuming Tips for Rugs with Looped Textures
On area rugs with looped textures, vacuum the rug regularly using suction only. Avoid using the rotating beater bar. This will keep the loops from getting damaged.

Moving and Storing Rugs
Rugs should be rolled, not folded. When transported in a moving van, a rolled rug should be placed on top of furniture and then have nothing heavier than a lampshade placed on top of the rug.

If a rug ends up with a crease, it will soon disappear when the rug is laid flat and the rug is walked on.

If a corner of a rug does not want to lie flat, a small stack of books placed on the corner for a few days will ‘iron’ it out.

For long-term storage, a rug should first be professionally cleaned and mothproofed and then wrapped in a clean, breathable (not plastic) material to help avoid mildew.

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Select any desired aspect (style, color, material, size). Narrow it down, one option at a time, until you have a rug that's just right for you!
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Rug Cleaning - part 2 features stain removal tips for all types of rugs.

Also, when is it best to use a professional rug cleaner?
That answer, and much more, is waiting for you in Part 2...

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