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How to Clean Rugs

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The following is a basic guide to cleaning rugs, including a few tips for different varieties. However, not all rugs are the same, so try the procedures here carefully. For example, carpet shampoos work well on many rugs that are similar to synthetic wall-to-wall carpeting, but may cause damage to wool area rugs. With all rugs, if you think there is a possibility of the color running or bleeding, test your cleaning solution or even just a wet rag on an small part of it first. Now to the general instructions...

Most kitchen and bathroom rugs can be put in the washing machine like any laundry. If they seem particularly delicate you might set the wash on "gentle." You can pretreat spots or stains with laundry pre-treatment products. To be safe you should wash dark-colored rugs in one load and light-colored ones in another. Warm water is usually the most effective.

One thing to watch for when you clean rugs using your washing machine, is the condition of the backing on rubber-backed ones. Once this starts to deteriorate and crack, discard the rug or put in a garage where you are less concerned about cleanliness. The rubber particles can clog a washing machine and cause damage.

Tumble dry or--for more delicate fibers--hand them outside to dry. You can hand-fluff the fibers when they are mostly dry, for faster drying and better appearance. Be sure there is no moisture left when you put them back on the floor, especially if the floor is wood or the backing of the rug is rubber.

How to Clean Area Rugs

It is never easy to wash a large area rug, but there are other steps you can take to keep it clean and make it last longer. To start with, turn it over once in a while and vacuum the bottom side of it. Just run the cleaner over it to get the stuff that is missed when cleaned from the top side. With some delicate pieces, especially those made of wool, you should use only suction on the top side, or you may wear out the rug faster because of the rotating brush on the vacuum cleaner.

Vacuum the top side weekly for best results. Try to avoid vacuuming tassels or fringes. They can be damaged by the machine.

In general, clean up pills and stains as quickly as possible to prolong the life of the rug as well as to prevent the need for shampooing. Regular shampooing or commercial cleaning of wool rugs can cause damage. If it is necessary, be gentle and be sure to fully rinse out any cleaning products. Residue left over will attract dirt. Notify a commercial cleaner that the rug is wool and ask if he or she has experience cleaning these rugs.

If you want to save money and have a dirty synthetic area rug, you can clean it yourself outdoors. Lay it out flat on clean cement, or--better--on a wooden deck. Use mild detergent in a bucket of warm water and a scrub brush to clean it, focusing on any stained areas. Rinse it very well with a hose. A high-pressure spray nozzle makes this more effective. This procedure can sometimes spread existing stains without removing them, so do it as a last resort and not on valuable rugs.

Dry the rug by hanging it if possible. It can also be dried flat on a wooden deck if there is sufficient heat and air. Make sure it is entirely dry before bringing it back into the house.

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