A truly clean area rug has a brightness to it. That brightness is dulled over the years as dust settles from the top of a rug’s pile deep into its foundation, which is typically made of cotton.
The process of soiling happens so gradually that many people don’t even notice it. This process is inevitable – not even regular vacuum cleaning can stop dust from working its way down little by little over time. However, there are cleaning techiques that can keep your rug looking its best for years.
Deep cleaning a rug is a two-part process: dusting and then washing. Dusting is the process of inverting a rug and then vibrating the back of it so that dry soil is loosened. Once all the dry dirt falls out of the rug, a wet process of cleaning can begin.
If soap and water are put onto a dusty rug before the dusting, a kind of sludge is created that sticks to the rug’s fibers and foundation. When the rug dries, it will lack the brightness of a rug that was properly dusted prior to washing. Dry dirt is also gritty in texture and acts like sandpaper on your rug’s foundation. A rug with dry rot is usually a rug with a very dirty foundation.
Between thorough professional cleanings, which should take place every one to five years, depending on the amount of foot traffic that your rugs get, we recommend the following for home care:
A small rug can be taken outside and shaken or gently beat on the back to knock out the dry dirt. This process is much kinder to the rug than cleaning with the rotating brush head found on most vacuums today. The “beater bar” on older model vacuum cleaners is even worse for your rugs as aggressive vacuum cleaning in general breaks down rug fibers, increasing shedding and the appearance of wear.
Once dust has fallen out of the rug, then the rug can be swept with a natural bristle broom or tidied up with the bare floor attachment of the vacuum. Using a broom on a wool rug has the added benefit of lightly agitating the yarn pile, bringing up the lanolin in the wool. Lanolin is what makes wool soft and shiny and even provides some natural stain resistance.
Larger rugs can be swept with a broom to loosen dry dirt and pet hair. Use the broom to brush all of the soil onto the floor and then vacuum the floor around the rug with the bare floor attachment. If you prefer vacuum cleaning your rugs rather than sweeping them with a broom, then just use the bare floor attachment for the gentlest cleaning.
Sweeping is also very good for cleaning and smoothing the fringe of an Oriental rug as there are no worries about a broom sucking up and breaking the delicate cotton fibers. If you feel that you must use your vacuum for this task due to the presence of pet hair, start at the center of the rug and vacuum out to the edges, never back and forth. This center-out technique will prevent the fringe from being sucked up into the vacuum cleaner.
About this Angie’s List Expert: Sara Tiger is the manager of Job Youshaei Rug Company, Inc., providing oriental rug cleaning services in Chicago. For more than 30 years, Job Youshaei Rug Company has specialized in the cleaning, dusting, washing, restoration and sale of high quality handmade area rugs. Follow this #ALExpert on Twitter @JYRugs.
As of July 19, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.