Q: I’m thinking about buying an area rug for my family room. When it gets dirty, how can I get it cleaned?
A: Area rugs are made from a wide variety of textiles. Some manufacturers give little thought to the cleanability of their area rugs – they’d like to see them discarded and replaced rather than cleaned! So, some textiles used to make area rugs are relatively easy to clean and others are either difficult or even impossible.
Area rugs made from synthetic materials like nylon or cut pile polypropylene (also called olephin) require skillful cleaning. Those made from wool are also cleanable but require even more attention to detail, while those made from other natural fabrics like cotton, silk or viscose are only cleanable under a narrow range of conditions.
A textile currently popular in the making of area rugs is seizal. This textile is made from reconstructed hemp fibre. Because the fibres have so much of the natural tanin still present (tanin is found in all plants – it’s the product in your cup of tea that stains the cup), the rug’s appearance can be very negatively affected when it’s cleaned. Generally, these rugs are meant to be discarded rather than cleaned.
Keep in mind that cleanability and stain resistance are not always the same thing. Usually, synthetic textiles are more cleanable and more stain resistant than natural textiles. But some foods or beverages will permanently stain any textile.
Another factor affecting the cleanablility of area rugs is the presence of cotton tassles or fringes. These decorative features are either extensions of the cotton backing of the rug itself or sewn on afterwards. This means cotton fringes or tassles require professional expertise to look their best. Cotton fringes are vulnerable to staining.
So now you know that some area rugs require more care and attention than others. For natural fibres such as wool, cotton, silk or viscose, professional cleaning is a requirement. This professional care is only possible at a fully equipped cleaning plant, where factors like water temperature, water volume and drying times can be carefully controlled.
We have such a plant, the only one in Central Alberta, where you can drop off your area rugs or arrange to have us do the cartage for you. You might be tempted to ask the carpet cleaner to clean your synthetic area rug while he or she is in your house, but most often a synthetic area rug looks its best when it’s been cleaned professionally at a cleaning plant as well. It’s not unusual for a number of years to pass between cleanings, so more than one cleaning will give a better result, and two or more cleanings are only possible if the rug goes to a cleaning plant.
And we don’t recommend ever cleaning any area rug while it’s laying on top of hardwood or ceramic tile.
People often ask us how often they should get their area rugs clean. The answer depends to a large extent on the textiles of the area rug.
As a rule, area rugs made from natural textiles should be cleaned very regularly, once or twice a year at minimum if the rug is in a high use area of the house. Owners of natural fibre area rugs will need to invest in regular cleanings in order to lengthen the life of their rugs as well as to maintain appearance and cleanliness. This is because natural fibres will eventually degrade and deteriorate if enough organic material (skin oil, perspiration, food and beverage residue) is allowed to accumulate. We also suggest these rugs have a fibre protectant (“scotchguarding”) applied to them after cleaning to increase resistance to soiling and staining.
While synthetic area rugs are generally more resistant to the effects of normal wear, we still recommend a regular cleaning schedule. They may not have to be cleaned as often as area rugs made from natural textiles, but they will look (and smell) much better if they are cleaned once every year, and maybe more frequently if they are in an active home with young children and pets.
For more information on professional textile cleaning, and for other money-saving tips, check out our website.