Chores like doing the laundry and taking out the garbage are never fun, but some domestic tasks can also be downright confusing and stressful. Cleaning a rug definitely falls in that category. The high-traffic area soaks up dirt, spills, pet stains and more, making it a necessity to clean. But what’s the right way to do it?
The TODAY Show tapped two rug experts to find out exactly how to do it correctly.
How to clean an area rug
Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to the best way to clean a rug because it depends on what type of rug you have and what type of cleaning it needs.
“In broad terms, natural fibers (wool, cotton, silk) require washing and synthetic fibers (polypropylene, acrylic, polyester) can be steam cleaned with carpet-cleaning machines,” Lisa Wagner, certified rug specialist and creator of RugChick.com, told TODAY.
She added, “Washing natural fiber rugs often requires professionals due to fiber qualities, dye qualities and differences in construction.
How to clean a rug at home
How often you should clean a rug also depends on certain factors: the level of activity in the room, how well you vacuum and the quality level of the fibers. But Jan David Winitz, president and founder of Claremont Rug Company in California, provided a little trick.
“Turn over the corners of the rug and cup your hand so that when you turn over the corner, your hand is underneath it,” he said. “Then, with your fingers, flick the back of the rug a dozen times. Any dirt that’s in the pile will actually fall out in your hand. That’s a way you could see if the rug is dirty or clean.”
The reason for doing the test is that wool rugs have an amazing ability to hide soil. Even after years of use, a high-quality wool rug doesn’t look filthy; it just gets a little dull. That’s why Wagner recommended that wool rugs should be regularly vacuumed, and washed every 2-3 years. Winitz recommends having antique Oriental rugs professionally washed by a specialty cleaning service every 6-8 years.
The products you should use to clean a rug
For thorough cleaning, both experts recommend seeing a professional. But when it comes to spot cleaning a rug, there are a couple of products to keep handy.
If you rent a machine to clean synthetic rugs yourself, be careful about moisture. Do the work in an area that will not cause any moisture to damage your floor and use fans to dry the rug as well as you can. “Rental machines do not remove as much moisture back out as large professional machines do,” said Wagner. “So drying the rugs completely is important to avoid any mildew.”
Winitz noted that a good trick is to use a damp towel and shampoo on any Oriental rug. “Think of the fibers of your rug like your hair,” he said. “You wouldn’t put harsh chemicals in your hair. So, use your shampoo with a damp towel to dab and gently scrub out any stain or spot.” He recommends a hairdryer to remove excess moisture afterwards.
For wool rugs, in particular, any cleaning products or spot removers must be tested. The WoolSafe Organization website lists both professional and consumer products approved for using on wool.
How to clean wool rugs
There’s no way around it: Wool requires washing. But there are different qualities of wool, dyes and construction that make a wool rug relatively easy or extremely difficult to clean.
“The best way to care for your wool rugs, following a professional washing, is regular vacuuming to remove the surface dust before it reaching the foundation of the rug,” said Wagner. ” As often as you need to sweep your floors, you should be vacuuming your wool rugs.”
Just be sure to use a light stick vacuum since most upright vacuums are too heavy and aggressive to use on soft wool rugs. Winitz, on the other hand, stresses that the vacuum cleaner should not be used on fine antique rugs. He recommends using a non-electric carpet sweep sweeper instead.