Success with cleaning area rugs

Cleaning area rugs can seem daunting, and it can be tricky, not to mention expensive. Rugs fall into the textile category. Textiles are defined as a flexible material made by creating an interlocking network of yarns and threads. They are formed by weaving ,knitting ,crocheting, knotting, tatting, felting ,bonding, or braiding these yarns together. When I use the term textile though, I think more along the lines of household wares like rugs, drapes, upholstery, etc.

I have the bad habit of not cleaning the household textiles often enough. They are large, hard to handle, and just a pain to deal with.

Rugs usually need some extra love. They take a beating with muddy boots, dirty paws, and everyday traffic in and out of the front and back doors. Thankfully the rubber back style rugs are easy enough to care for. If you have a rubber back rug that is no bigger than 5×3 you toss those easily in the washing machine and let it do the work. You may have to use a pre spotter on tough stains like muddy/greasy work boots or doggy accidents but generally they come out of the wash looking pretty good. The key to saving the longevity of these rugs is to only air dry them. The heat of the dryer causes the rubberized backing to crumble and chip away prematurely. I’m not saying this will never happen if you never dry them, it will just slow down the process, allowing you to use them longer.

Larger rubber backed rugs you can hose off and scrub with some gentle detergent with a long handled car washing brush. It will take longer to dry, but if you are worried they are too large for your washing machine, this is a good alternative. Spray it gently with the hose, dip your brush in a soapy bucket of tepid water, and scrub the rug. Hose off to rinse, and use a squeegee (for some reason I find the spelling of this word silly) to remove excess water. It make take a few days to dry, but way cheaper than just replacing it when it’s dirty.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on

Other rugs that are not rubber backed can be a little trickier. You have to take into consideration the colors, the fiber content and shrinkage. Area rugs that are comprised of wool or a combination of wool and other fibers are susceptible to shrinkage. Use the least amount of water possible when treating these fibers. Any rug that is multi colored you will have to test near the edge to see if the colors will run when you apply soap and water. To do this, just dampen the edge between the colors with cool water and watch for a few minutes to see if the darker colors are going to bleed into the lighter colors. A warning though, if they do bleed/run into each other, there is no going back, the colors will be like that forever, that is why I recommend testing a small inconspicuous corner.

If you find that the colors are safe from bleeding you can continue the cleaning process. You can use a home carpet cleaning machine or rent one from a local store. Use the detergent recommended for the machine and if you wish for a little extra cleaning power, I suggest adding some washing soda to the detergent/water solution. Washing soda is a sodium carbonate chemical compound that aids in lifting stubborn stains. It also will help keep the colors bright once it is dry.

For other rugs that are not color safe, it is best to simply sprinkle the rug with some baking soda and vacuum well. If there is a stain you can use just a dab of water on a toothbrush with some washing soda sprinkled over the area. Being careful not to use too much moisture, slowly move the toothbrush over the stain, using a tapping motion to aid if lifting the stain, You may have to attempt this a few times to get the desired result.

A word of caution. Putting rugs with a fringed edge in the washing machine is risky. The fringe edge can get into the holes in the wash basin and start to unravel the rows of the rug rather quickly.

Rugs add so much warmth and style to our homes and with some TLC they will last a good amount of time.

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