Regular vacuuming is most important for rug maintenance. Area rugs receive a lot of abuse from everyday dust and dirt accumulation. Sand and dirt grind down the pile of rugs and abrade their foundations. It is best to remove this sand, dirt and grime before it makes its way into the base of the rug, where it will be more difficult to remove. Surface soiling is best lifted by slowly pushing the vacuum a few feet with the nap of the carpet and then slowly reversing direction. In higher traffic or particularly soiled areas of the rug this process may need repetition to be fully effective.
Using a good vacuum with strong airflow and adjustable rotating brushes will remove the greatest volume of particles from the rug. The vacuum should have a good filtration system that will prevent dust from recirculating into the air.
Some Vacuuming tips:
- Keep the vacuum's brushes clean and replace them when they wear down. The beater bar should vibrate the rug, but not cause the vacuum's motor too slow. Raise the beater bar above the rug to just barely skim the fibers of the rug, otherwise pilling may occur.
- It is best to vacuum in the same direction as the pile.
- Be careful of fringes when vacuuming; don't let the vacuum pull them, lest they actually be ripped off over time.
- Make sure that the beater bar actually rotates when it is in contact with the rug; a worn belt in the vacuum may cause the bar to slow down and stop rotating. Belts should be inspected frequently to be certain they are working properly.
- Make sure that the vacuum bag isn't too full. When the bag is over half full the vacuum's efficiency is reduced.
- Always make sure that the vacuum's hoses and attachments are free of airflow obstructions.
- Vacuum across both directions of the traffic pattern to prevent matting.
Occasional Maintenance Practices
In addition to vacuuming there are a few other steps that should be considered to keep your rug looking it's best.
- Every so often it is a good idea to flip your rug and pat it down to shake loose dirt particles that have worked their way into the carpet's loops. Sweeping or vacuuming the back of the rug once a year is the most effective way to dislodge worn in particles.
- Rotating the rug will prevent foot traffic from wearing the rug pile unevenly. The rug should be rotated once every six months if the carpet is in a high traffic room.
- In addition, heavy furniture like pianos and sofas should be moved occasionally, even if only slightly, to prevent excessive pile crushing. Floor protectors can be used under legs of tables, chairs and other furniture to help distribute weight.
- Spraying pile crushed by heavy furniture with a little bit of water and then brushing it with a soft brush can restore the pile's height.
- It is preferable to keep your area rug safe from exposure to direct sunlight that could cause the colors to fade. Do not expose the rug to sunlight on a regular basis. Too much sunlight causes the colors to fade which in turn creates unevenness in the colors of the rug. Silk is especially vulnerable to sunlight. Using drapes or blinds to shade the rug during hours of direct daylight and occasionally rotating the rug will help to preserve a rug's color and keep it even.
Some Rug Maintenance Myths
Myth 1: You should shake or beat your rug to remove dirt.
Shaking or beating your rug can be more destructive than beneficial. The shaking strains the rug's backing, and with an old rug this can be disastrous to the integrity of the rug foundation.
Myth 2: You should air your rug by hanging it outside.
Hanging a rug over a clothesline or hanging it on a wall can also cause stress to the rug's foundation and shape. It is best to keep the rug lying flat and simply turn it and rotate it occasionally, even when airing the rug outside.
Your rug can last a lifetime if cleaned properly. We suggest a professional cleaning every 1-3 years, depending on the traffic and location. We recommend professional carpet cleaners that use the hot water extraction method for most rugs. You should not dry clean your rugs, with the exception of silk rugs, and you should not use bleach. Always check to make sure that your rug cleaning service is familiar with your type of rug.
Professionals will know the best way to clean your rug type, but to prepare you with a bit of extra information, here are some methods of cleaning various area rug fibers.
Natural fibers may require additional consideration before cleaning.
Wool - Excessive agitation and heat should be avoided, but generally wool fibers may be cleaned with most cleaning methods. Wool should be cleaned with neutral detergents (wool mix detergents) and dried quickly. Use special care around household cleaning products, as bleaches and other alkaline products such as bathroom cleaners easily damage wool.
Silk - Silk should be cleaned using a dry cleaning process. These fibers may be damaged by natural and synthetic acids (e.g. lemon juice), and sunlight. Consult a rug cleaning specialist for additional information about cleaning silk.
Stains, Spills and Emergency Spot Cleaning
Even with the best routine rug care and maintenance, accidents will happen. If you have small children, the spilling risk is at least tripled! Whether it is water, juice, coffee, wine, a pet accident or other spill, it is crucial to remove the mess right away. The longer you wait to clean after a spill, the smaller your chances are of being able to prevent permanent damage.
Always work from the outer edge of the spill towards the center so it does not spread. Use a spoon or spatula to scoop up large debris and remove excess liquid, but do not rub or scrub at the fibers -- this will cause the pile to mat and clump, and may thus increase the visibility of a potential stain.
Owners of even the most well-behaved cats and dogs will occasionally come across pet accidents. Often, the messes are not discovered until long after the accident occurred. In our Spot Removal Guide, we suggest several options for cleaning both new and old pet stains.