Safe Rug Cleaning & Care: A Rug Owner’s Guide
Proper Rug Cleaning Service Techniques
6 Costly Misconceptions About Fine Rugs
MISCONCEPTION #1: You should wait as long as possible before cleaning your rugs.
No. Dirt is abrasive like sandpaper. And every time you step and grind dirt into the wool (or silk) fibers of your rugs, you are causing damage.
I have had clients who wait 4 years or longer to clean their rugs, and then wonder why their areas of foot traffic are much more worn than other areas.
It’s not the shoes that are causing the damage – it’s the dirt the shoes are pushing into the fibers that is causing the damage.
Overseas, cleaning rugs is a springtime event. In areas with rivers, some families go and clean their rugs and lay them out to dry in the sun.
For some reason, a myth has emerged in the US that “cleaning rugs is bad for them,” and this simply is not true.
Removing the abrasive dirt from rugs is one of the best ways to ensure your rug has a long life.
Cleaning is not bad for your rugs. Bad Cleaners are what’s bad for your rugs. That’s why you need the best rug cleaners to handle your precious possesions.
MISCONCEPTION #2: The only reason to clean your rugs is to remove the dirt.
No. As you probably know, outdoor air contains pollens, fungus, bacteria, air pollution, cigarette smoke, car exhaust – and hundreds of other chemicals. When you come into your home, you carry those contaminants in your hair and on your skin, clothing, and shoes.
Not surprisingly, all of those chemicals and toxins wind up in your carpeting, upholstery, and your rugs.
If you have allergies, asthma, emphysema, or other breathing problems – one major source of your problems could be the pollens, mold spores, smoke, household aerosol cleansers, and chemicals in your carpeting, upholstery, and rugs.
Frequent and consistent cleaning of your flooring and furniture does improve your indoor air quality (and helps the carpeting, fabrics, and rugs look good and last much longer).
MISCONCEPTION #3: Rugs should be dry-cleaned.
No. The dry cleaning methods – which are dry foam, dry chemicals, and dry compounds – do not rinse your rugs in any way.
Instead, they leave a dirty residue. If you’ve ever used no-rinse shampoo, you know the feeling. It looks better, but it feels oily and sticky … and you just don’t believe that your hair is really “clean.”
In a proper wet wash cleaning, the shampoo (and the dirt and pollutants it has “trapped”) is rinsed thoroughly from the rug’s fibers, so that you have a truly clean rug when the work is done.
You have a rug that you can safely sit on, or have your kids roll around on, and not worry about any chemical irritants or dirt that may “stick” on you when you do.
MISCONCEPTION #4: Cleaning rugs in your home does not harm them.
Not true. In fact, in extreme cases this will ruin your rugs. Methods of cleaning rugs in the home by wall-to-wall carpet cleaning companies are considered “surface cleaning” of the rugs.
They can’t get the rugs too wet because the foundation will not dry within 48 hours, and it will begin to mildew, and the dyes may bleed.
They also can’t get the rugs too wet because they are concerned about the floors underneath the rugs (this is also why they can’t clean rug fringes at all).
This means that they can NOT rinse out a lot of the cleaning chemicals that are being put into your rugs.
These in-home methods leave residue behind that not only attracts more soil (because it’s sticky), but also if the pH levels are not correct for wool they can cause irreversible color changes and chemical fading.
MISCONCEPTION #5: The company that offers the lowest price is the company you should hire.
No. Not unless you want to pay for a rug that isn’t “clean” when you get it back. This is a labor-based industry, and if a company is advertising a very low price, then you have to ask yourself what corners are you willing to have cut.
If they are a company that spends a few minutes to make it look better, but just beneath the surface are pounds of un-removed dirt … is that what you want to pay for?
We have a rug market now that is a “buyer’s” market, with an enormous amount of low-cost rugs being sold everywhere, from countries that have incredibly low labor weaver costs.
If you bought a 5×7 rug from IKEA for a few hundred dollars, and turn it over to see all of the thousands of knots that someone tied to create that piece at that price, you will realize what volume based deal they negotiated to make you a happy customer.
That same rug 5 or 10 years ago would have been many times that price in this market. But from a sanitary standpoint, rugs that are walked on all year long by dirty feet need to be cleaned.
If you can easily replace the rug for cheap, then you should replace it every 2 years.
If you plan on keeping the rug, then you need to ask if it is important to you to get all the contaminants out of the piece and have it properly cleaned. If your answer is yes, then you cannot use a low price cleaner.
With your rugs that have high appraised or sentimental value, you of course need to find the best rug cleaner that you can to handle the cleaning … and these aren’t the companies that are advertising lowest price in town.
In this business, you absolutely get what you pay for, and you want to be experienced and well-trained rug cleaners handling your rugs.
MISCONCEPTION #6: The company you give your rug to is always the one that will actually be doing the work.
Not true. Most companies that advertise rug cleaning do not do the work themselves … and so you need to find out who is being honest with you.
One way to cut to the chase is to visit their location and see where they clean the rugs. If they do not do the work themselves, then you need to find out where your rugs will be going to and if this subcontractor is going to clean your rugs properly.
Crawlin’ Critters and Crud:
Guide to the Slime, Grime And Livestock That’s Seeping, Creeping And Galloping Through Your Rugs.
Asphalt. Aerosol sprays. Bacteria. Car exhaust. Chemicals. Dirt. Dust. Earth. Food particles. Fungus. Germs. Gravel. Grease. Grime. Grit. Hair.
Industrial waste. Juice spills. Kitty catastrophes. Lint. Mold spores. Mud. Odors. Pet stains. Pollens. Pollutants. Rock. Sand. Scum. Smoke. Soot. Tar. Urine. Vomit. Viruses. Yard soil, are some of the things found in rugs we wash.
Plus, don’t forget living creatures, such as dust mites, fleas, moth larvae, carpet beetles and critters that live, hide, feed and breed in your carpeting and rugs.
The rugs on your floors, the carpeting installed in your home, your drapes, and your upholstered furniture ALL act as filters for your indoor air. The fibers “grab” particles and pollutants from the feet and paws that track them inside, and from the air that blows through your home.
And as with any filter, when it gets full it cannot grab anything else from your air. So anytime you swat the pillow from your sofa, or lift a corner of your rug and swat it from the backside, you will see a big “puff” of the dust and contaminants released into the air.
This means it’s time to vacuum these items at the very least and to give them a bath to completely clean them.
Studies conducted by the IICRC (the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification) have shown that wall-to-wall carpeting can hold up to one full pound of soil per square foot before it begins to look “soiled.” That is why the first step to any IICRC certified cleaner’s process is to thoroughly vacuum every room.
Rugs can carry comparable amounts of dirt before they look “dirty,” depending on how thin or thick the rug is, and how tightly woven it is. A tightly woven 1920s Sarouk (Persian) entryway rug that has not been wet washed for 3 years can be expected to have pounds of dirt hidden and crushed into its foundation. This is why you cannot have this rug cleaned in your home, because if the rug is not dusted to remove the dry soil out of its foundation, then an in-home cleaner will just make SOAPY MUD when he gets it wet with his machinery. And once this happens, you have a rug that has a combination of detergents and dirt embedded in its foundation which leads to problems down the road from quicker re-soiling to color changes (especially if it’s in an area that gets any sun exposure) to – in extreme cases – foundation mildew damage and dry rot.
Which Method Cleans Best?
Dry foam: The carpet cleaner applies shampoo to your rug, allows it to dry, and then, without rinsing, sucks the dried shampoo into a vacuum. Can you imagine applying shampoo to your hair, allowing it to dry and then removing the shampoo from your head with a vacuum? This method leaves dirty chemical residue in your rug which not only contributes to faster resoiling of the rug, but also sticks on to any kids, pets, or feet that come across it.
Absorbent pad (bonnet cleaning): This method is similar to dry foam, except that the company sets a large cotton bonnet on your rug and with a floor polishing buffer machine on top “buffs” the rug. The rotating motion causes the bonnet to absorb dirt from your rug. This method is also called bonnet cleaning. Bonnet cleaning is like trying to use a large cotton towel or mop to rub the dirt out of your rug. It’s not very effective as a “deep cleaning” method.
Dry, absorbent powder: The dry-compound method spreads a moist, absorbent powder through the carpet. The powder is allowed to dry and then sucked into a vacuum. This method leaves dry sponge particles at the base of the rug fibers. And because the rug is not rinsed, this method is not very effective.
Hot water extraction (aka “steam cleaning”): This is a fancy way of saying that a hot water cleaning solution under high pressure is forced into your rug and then sucked out of the fibers. Most wall-to-wall carpet manufacturers recommend this method as the best to clean wall-to-wall carpeting… but this is not a safe method to clean oriental rugs. Natural fiber rugs (wool, cotton or silk) should NEVER be cleaned with hot water, and should NEVER be cleaned with chemicals developed for use on synthetic wall-to-wall carpeting. The heat will cause non-colorfast dyes in a rug to bleed (or to be stripped out of the rug) and can cause shrinking. The high alkalinity of certain wall-to-wall cleaning solutions (and the fact that depending on the technician and equipment 10-30% of their solution will be left behind) will cause some rugs to change color, bleed, or fade.
Think about your wool or cotton sweater, or your silk blouse … you would never throw this into a washing machine with hot water and aggressive detergents – they’d fade and shrink. Instead, you would hand wash them in cold water, and would use vinegar to “set” the dyes and prevent fading. It’s the same with your wool, cotton, or silk rugs.
Full-immersion wet wash: This is the method recommended by rug retailers, rug conservators, and rug collectors … and is the method that has been used by rug weavers for thousands of years. The process incorporates five key steps:
- Dusting: vacuuming or shaking out the pounds of dirt in the rug’s foundation.
- Dye Setting: using special solutions to set the dyes during the wash.
- Shampoo: using products safe for cleaning rug fibers.
- Rinsing: thoroughly rinsing the fibers clean.
- Drying out flat: removing the excess water and laying it out flat to dry so that it does not become stretched or misshapen (just like you do for wool sweaters!).
There is a big difference between someone who jumps in a tub and scrubs and rinses off the dirt and soap, and someone who takes only a sponge bath. The full-immersion wet wash method is the most thorough way of cleaning rugs, and is also the safest method because it does not incorporate harsh chemicals or high heat, and it thoroughly rinses the fibers clean. Furthermore, because the other methods are done in your home, they eliminate the two most important steps in the cleaning – the dusting and the rinsing. This means you not only have a rug that has mud in its foundation, but also chemical residue all throughout its fibers.
Rug Care Tips You Can Safely Use
Here are some rug care tips and guidelines to help you keep your rugs looking great, staying cleaner, and lasting longer.
DUSTING and CLEANING
Vacuuming your rugs is the BEST thing that you can do to keep your rugs in great shape in between cleanings. Think of all the dust that daily settles on to your hard floors … that same dust settles on your rugs and needs to be removed also, otherwise it works its way into the fibers and causes damage you cannot correct. However, you do not want to overly “brush” these fibers, so the best tool to use is a canister vacuum cleaner, or the upholstery attachment on your upright HEPA-filter vacuum cleaner, and just run it over the top of the rug fibers. Vacuum WITH, not against, the nap of the rug’s “fuzzy” side. (The rug’s fibers are similar to your pet’s fur – you know when you are petting with the nap, and when you are not. Going “with” it causes less friction.)
If a lot of dirt seems to be collecting on the rug – like on your entryway rugs – then turn these rugs fuzzy side down and run an upright beater bar vacuum along the backside (stay away from the fringe tassels or you’ll suck them up!). This “shakes” the dirt out of the base of the rug’s foundation, and then you can flip the rug over and vacuum away all of the dust, dirt, allergens, mold spores, bacteria, and other “unmentionables” that have been brought into your home by lots of shoes and feet.
Entry rugs with high traffic should be “dusted” twice a week (or more) with your canister or upholstery attachment. Rugs with moderate traffic should be dusted weekly. Even rugs in areas with no traffic will still have dust settling on them daily, so attend to them bi-weekly. A consistent dusting routine will help keep your rugs cleaner and healthier longer. It will also (especially when using a HEPA-filter vacuum) help keep your indoor air cleaner.
SPOTS and SPILLS
There will come a time when you will spill something on your rug, and the question will come to mind – “what should I do?” Rug fibers, especially wool, are very resilient to spills … but they are also very reactive to harsh chemicals … so you want to keep your spill system quick, simple, and safe.
Puppy Puddles. Kitty Catastrophes.
Add to Rug First-Aid Kit: Vinegar and PureClean’s enzyme treatment (call office to order)
Of all the possible spills to happen to your rugs, pet urine and pet vomit are the worst. Because they go on hot and acidic, they actually re-dye the fibers, and “set” them at the same time – so if you are not quick these will become permanent stains that will devalue your rug. You need to follow the spill steps in the previous section (blot, rinse, blot). If the rug has dyes that show up in the towel in the first blotting step, then substitute a 50/50 Vinegar and water mixture for the Club Soda AND get the area only slightly damp – NOT wet. For pet feces, you must pick up as much as you can before you begin the Club Soda process.
As far as the odors associated with all of these pet “emergencies,” misting enzyme product on the areas helps to remove some of the odor-causing bacteria. Resist the urge to saturate the rug with enzymes, because pouring any product on a rug is never a good idea. With pet urine, if it is a substantial amount then it has (because it’s hot and acidic) penetrated the wool or silk fibers and has been absorbed into the rug’s cotton foundation. In this case, the only way you will be able to remove the odor will be to have the rug get a bath and be soaked completely in an enzyme solution. You need to find a rug specialist to do this.
A different set of problems arises with “old” pet urine stains. When a pet urine stain is “fresh” it is a strong acid stain. After it has dried completely, and has sat in the fibers for several days, it becomes a strong alkaline stain. The problem with high alkalinity and wool is that it yellows the wool, and it also counteracts the mordant process that holds the dyes on to the wool fibers. It essentially makes the dyes “dissolve.” Even a rug with colorfast dyes will bleed and fade in areas that have old pet urine stains. So, the key in handling all pet stains is getting to the area as soon as you can (and use the spill steps so that you can minimize the damage).
The right type of pad underneath your rug provides many benefits from keeping it from slipping on the floor or buckling, to acting as a “shock absorber” for foot traffic to lessen the wear on the rug’s fibers. These are the best pads for your rugs (and for your floors too).
The biggest dangers for rugs placed in storage are BUGS, FLOODS, and THUGS. Insect damage, flood or mildew damage, and theft are the most common problems we hear from clients who have placed rugs in a local storage unit or placed in a far corner of a closet or garage. Many times rugs with high appraised or sentimental value are placed in storage to save them for family members, or to save them from a remodel mess, or to protect them from the summer sunlight. You want to make sure you are not actually causing damage by incorporating the wrong storage procedures.
Other Helpful Rug Care Tips
— ROTATE your rugs.
Rotate rugs to even out any possible sun fading, and to also not allow one specific area to get all the foot traffic wear. Rotate small rugs every 3-6 months; larger rugs every time it goes for a bath put it back down the opposite direction.
— INSPECT your rugs.
Quarterly you want to inspect your rugs closely for any insect activity. Moths and carpet beetles generally begin feasting in areas that have little light and little air flow – this means they prefer the BACK of the rug, or places under furniture. The larva looks like “sticky lint”, so flip over the corners of the rug to see if you have any activity. American Indian weavings hanging on the wall are particularly vulnerable, so take them down bi-annually to shake and dust them, and look for bugs.
You also want to check the ends and sides of your rugs to make sure that they are not in need of repair. When fringe tassels become worn and torn, the wool (or silk) knots of the rug begin to pull away from the rug, and if this is caught early it is a much cheaper repair than reweaving a section of the rug down the road.
Look at the BACK of the rug to clearly see if all the knots are tightly and securely in place.
— PROTECT your rugs.
Many newer rugs, especially Chinese rugs, are chemically washed to give them a nice “sheen.” This chemical process makes these rugs sensitive to sunlight and they will fade in a period of just a few short years. If this concerns you, consider treating your windows with a UV-filter coating, or use thicker window coverings to block out the rays during peak hours.
— NEVER use Carpet Spot Removers or Baking Soda on your rugs.
Folex and Resolve are meant for SYNTHETIC carpet, and not wool or silk rugs. These chemicals (and even Woolite ) are too strong to use on rugs and they will either cause a chemical discoloration or it will bleach out the rug dyes completely. Baking Soda also causes damage by yellowing the fibers. This damage is permanent, and will devalue your rug, so please stick to CLUB SODA. We also do not recommend using any of those products on your nylon or polyester carpets because they are known to cause fiber distortion and color loss.
— NEVER put potted live plants, or plastic protectors, on top of your rugs.
Even careful plant caretakers spill a bit when watering plants. This water seeps into the cotton foundation which leads to mildew growth and dry rot. Plastic protectors also inhibit airflow and can cause mildew growth and dry rot. When dry rot sets in, eventually the rug falls apart in that area of rot. It ruins the rug.
Disastrous Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Rug Cleaner
MISTAKE #1: Choosing to not clean your rugs because you are fearful of doing so.
If you choose the right rug cleaner, you have nothing to worry about. In fact, though you think not cleaning your rug is “protecting” it … it’s actually causing more damage because the daily dust and grit that is getting ground into the fibers is causing those fibers to break and wear down. Not to mention the fact that years of accumulated dirt, grim, bacteria, dust mites, and other unmentionables brought in by dirty feet and paws are creating an unsanitary situation in your home. You’d never consider wearing the same pair of socks through your home for an entire year – they’d be FILTHY!
MISTAKE #2: Choosing a low price rug cleaner.
Proper rug cleaning is a craft that involves not only a great deal of specialized training, but also a lot of physical labor. Low price cleaners are a HUGE warning sign, because they are a sign of untrained people doing the work, using cheap cleaning chemicals, which means a very high likelihood of your rug being damaged. Even if your rug is a “cheap” one and you do not want to invest in a good cleaning, you are better off replacing the rug with a new “clean” one than having a partially cleaned, chemically-laden rug given back to you by a low price cleaner.
MISTAKE #3: Choosing to have your rugs “surface cleaned” in your home.
Having your rugs cleaned in your home is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. The complete absence of both the dusting step and the thorough rinsing step means that you have a lot of soapy dirt and cleaning chemicals left behind in the rug fibers. This many times leads to color fading, color bleeding, yellowing, quicker re-soiling, and a stiffness and stickiness to the rug fibers. The recommended method for cleaning natural fiber rugs is a full-immersion wet wash … and this cannot be done by an in-home carpet cleaner, or your local dry cleaner.
MISTAKE #4: Choosing a rug cleaner that will not provide you with proof of insurance.
If your rug has value to it, you want to make sure that the rug cleaner is insured when cleaning it. Even if your rug is not particularly valuable, but you really like it, you want to be sure that if something wrong happens that the rug cleaner has insurance to buy you a new replacement rug. If a cleaner refuses to provide you proof of his care, custody, and control insurance, then do not do business with him.
MISTAKE #5: Choosing a rug cleaner who doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee.
I believe that every business, whether in the cleaning industry or not, should completely stand behind their work with a money-back guarantee. If a customer is not happy with their work for any reason, and attempts at creating a happy customer have not succeeded, then the customer should not have to pay. Period.
MISTAKE #6: Choosing a rug cleaner without getting comments from his other clients.
Any rug cleaner can say anything about his past jobs. And, sadly, some of what he says may not be true. Make sure you ask for references or read comments from current customers so you can depend on the rug cleaner and his work.
Why You Want Fresh, Clean, Healthy Rugs.
Which is more important to you: a clean rug – or a clean and healthy rug?
Yes, I assure you, there is a big difference.
If all you want is a cheap, rinse-the-dirt-off-the-top surface cleaning – then I respectfully ask that you call another company. But if you want to protect your health – if you want to protect your investment in rugs – if you want to protect your family from the countless bacteria, fungus, pollens and dust mites that reside in your rugs, then you’re invited to call me. We provide the most thorough, safest cleaning system for rugs available.
Have you ever seen how dirty a little boy’s pants get when he plays outdoors? If you have, then you know you can brush off his pants and make him think they’re clean. Or, if you want the job done right, you can machine wash them in water and detergent and you’ll KNOW they’re clean. The same is true for your rugs. You can hire someone to “surface clean” your rugs and will “brush off” your rugs and make you think it’s cleaner. Or, if you want the job done right, we’ll wet wash your rugs with water and shampoo and you’ll KNOW they’re clean.
So if you want a thoroughly clean carpet – if you’re willing to invest in your family’s good health – you’re invited to call us. You’ll receive a written estimate, at no cost or obligation. And if you give us the go-ahead, you’re further protected with our…
100% No-Risk Guarantee.
We want you to be super-pleased – in fact, absolutely delighted – with every rug cleaning service we do. So every job comes with our iron-clad, risk-free guarantee. What does this mean? Simply this: if you aren’t happy with our work, we’ll re-clean your rug for free. And if you still aren’t pleased, you pay nothing. Not one cent. Many companies don’t guarantee their work – but we feel nothing is more important than your complete and total satisfaction. We stand behind every job 100%. If you ever have any questions or concerns about our work, please call us right away.
We Love Rugs!
Every member of our rug company, from the rug cleaning specialists to the our customer service representatives, shares a common love for the pieces of woven art that come through our doors. Weavers have spent months, and sometimes years, to weave that rug that you have placed in your home … and we continually hone our skills and knowledge to ensure that we provide the best services to protect these textiles. We are regarded locally as one of the premier oriental and specialty rug cleaning facilities.
4 Steps to Fresh, Clean, Healthy Rugs
If you’re thinking about having your rugs thoroughly (and professionally) cleaned, we encourage you to follow these four steps:
STEP #1: Make a commitment to yourself to get your rugs cleaned properly. The longer they remain dirty, the sooner they’ll wear out. Plus, the longer you have to breathe all the pollen, fungus and chemicals that hide in your rugs.
STEP #2: Visit the rug cleaning location. You need to be certain that you are sending your rug to a company that will not just be surface cleaning them (and leaving dirt and chemicals behind), when you are paying to have it hand washed.
STEP #3: Ask questions. The way you learn about a company is to ask specific questions and listen carefully to the answers. Here are 12 questions to ask a rug cleaner before he takes you rugs away to clean them:
- What method of rug cleaning do you recommend?
- What are the steps that you will take when cleaning my rugs?
- How will you set the rug dyes so my rugs will not bleed?
- How do you remove the dry soil from the rug?
- Are your cleaning products designated as safe for wool?
- Do you rinse the rug to remove your cleaning products?
- How often should my rugs be cleaned?
- What training have you had in cleaning rugs?
- Are you a designated Wool Specialist?
- Are you insured to replace my rug if anything wrong happens?
- Do you guarantee your work?
- How do you dry the rug after it is cleaned?
STEP #4: Once you’re satisfied that you’re working with an honest, competent professional, show him your rug and ask for a specific quotation in writing. A written quotation gives you the assurance that you know exactly what your job will cost – no surprises. By following these four steps, you’ll gain all the information you need to make an informed, intelligent decision … and you won’t have to worry about whether you’ve made the right decision for your favorite rugs.
We’ll be happy to answer your questions – provide you with a ballpark cost estimate over the telephone (or an exact wash estimate if you have your exact rug dimensions) – without cost or obligation of any kind. Or, if you have any repair or damage questions and cannot bring your rug to us for a free estimate, you can email us a digital picture and I can write you with repair options and costs.
THANKS AGAIN! …for reviewing our
RUG OWNER’S INSIDE GUIDE TO SAFE RUG CARE AND CLEANING.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please give us a call at 206-353-4155.
We’ve dedicated our business to consumer education and service. We’ll be pleased to help you in every way. We look forward to your call.