How to Care for Your Rugs

July 27, 2015

How-to guide for caring for your rugs

A beautiful area rug placed just inside the front door will say "Welcome" to guests as they enter and need proper attention to maintain their appearance.  These easy steps will ensure your rugs stay clean and rich-looking.

How to Care for Your Rugs

1. Don't beat your rugs

People used to clean rugs by hanging them on a line and beating them — they even had special rug-beating tools. The great clouds of dust produced gave the impression that a lot of cleaning was going on. In fact, beating a rug can tear it apart. Braided rugs are particularly vulnerable. At most, give a lightweight rug a good shaking to start the cleaning process. The best way to clean is to vacuum and shampoo.

2. Shampooing, washing and drying rugs

As a general rule, shampooing is not recommended unless the area rug has the same construction as wall-to-wall carpet. Washable area rugs include hand-woven, braided and rag rugs in cotton, cotton blends or synthetic yarns and fabrics, as well as factory-made rugs designed for kitchen and bath use.  If, however, a "washable" rug is also a valuable antique, professional dry cleaning by hand or machine is easier on the rug.

When a rug can be safely washed at home, you have two choices for drying it:

  • One option is to machine dry it on a cool to warm setting.
  • Remove the rug from the dryer before it is completely dry, block it by hand into its original shape and lay it flat to finish drying. This will prevent the rug from curling at the corners or buckling.
  • The alternative is to air-dry the rug flat on a drop cloth or clean beach towels.
  • If you air-dry outdoors, be sure to do so in the shade. Except for commercial terry-type rugs, avoid the clothesline; the weight of the wet rug can cause creases and distortions of the weave.

3. Caring for sisal and similar rugs

Sisal, sisal hemp and grass fibre rugs are popular both indoors and outdoors. They are often used on the front stoop because they are not damaged by water. Only two versions should not be washed: those finished with a nonskid backing, which can shrink; and those bound with a fabric tape, which can also draw up. Dirt and dust are easily vacuumed away.

If washing is required, do it outside with a brush dipped in soapy water. Rinse thoroughly with a hose. Pin the rug to a clothesline for drying. Dry completely before putting the rug back in place.

4. Caring for floor cloths

Hand-painted canvas floor cloths are easy to care for. Newly made ones will most likely be painted with acrylic or latex paints and finished with several coats of polyurethane.  A damp mop or sponge will quickly clean the surface.

If you own an antique floor cloth, however, avoid water and clean with a dry dust mop or the dust attachment on a vacuum cleaner (the finish is likely a varnish incompatible with water).

5. Storing area rugs

Before storing any area rug, make sure it is clean.

  • Roll the rug up (pile or loop side out), following the direction of the nap.
  • Wrap a clean cotton sheet or washed muslin around the rolled rug. Plastic wraps keep fibres from "breathing" and cause mildew and mold.
  • Use cord to tie the rug in several places. Store the rug in a moderately cool, dry place.
  • If you are having the rug stored by professionals, see that they follow these guidelines.

These simple steps will help you easily care for your rugs and keep them in great shape.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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