I just bought a new area rug for my living room, and I love it! The right rug–like my new buy–can take a room from segmented and choppy-looking to completely pulled together. Plus they give your feet a little something soft to sink into at the end of a long day.
But as aesthetically pleasing as a new rug may be, there’s a certain level of maintenance required to keep it looking great. Think about it: Most of us place rugs in areas that get serious foot traffic. So you’ll deal with dirt (in my case, from friends walking across it in shoes fresh from the New York City sidewalks). And then there’s dust, odors from cooking, and future spills and stains–I have a dog and a four-year-old–and wow, all of a sudden I’m feeling overwhelmed. What, exactly, do I need to do to keep my new favorite rug clean?
So I reached out to professional rug and carpet cleaner Jarred Lustgarten, owner of J.L. Carpet & Upholstery in New York City, to learn how to clean rugs. He gave me real scoop on what’s absolutely necessary and what we can skip. Here are the three levels of clean when it comes to rugs.
Level 1: The Bare Minimum
Here’s the good news: According to Lustgarten, frequent vacuuming, once every two weeks or so, will do ninety percent of what’s needed for any rug. You might want to vacuum more often if your rug is a machine-made wool rug, or another that tends to shed a lot. And if you’re really time-crunched, set one of those robotic vacuums going before you leave for work in the morning and it’ll make any shedding or mess history by the time you’re home.
The only thing that vacuuming will not do, explains Lustgarten, is disinfect, which is why he suggests taking your cleaning prowess to the next level if you really want to be sure your home is free of allergens and bacteria and possible mildew.
Level Two: The Middle Ground
A deep steam cleaning once a year will get dirt and dust build-up out of your rugs and improve its appearance–often more than you’d expect. “Keep in mind that rugs and fabrics (specifically wool, cotton, silk and linen) are designed to hide dirt and soil,” says Lustenberg. “It’s only after a thorough cleaning, when a person sees what comes out of the rug, that they realize it needed it.” For that reason he suggests maintaining a regular schedule for both upholstery and any floor coverings you have in the home.
Also, in order to make sure the rug wears evenly, it should be rotated every six months. “Keep in mind that the sun will fade most colors and will do so gradually,” explains Lustgarten, “So the rotation will help make that less noticeable.”
Level Three: The Cleanliness Fanatic
If you invested in an expensive rug and really want it to last, or if you suffer from dust allergies, or if you’re just a fanatic about cleanliness you can send your rug to a professional cleaner, where the rug will be submerged into a pit with water and organic shampoo, essentially giving the rug a bath. This should be done once every 18 months or so and can cost anywhere from $3 to $5 per square foot.
After a deep cleaning like that, your rug will be vibrant again, so much so that you may find yourself stretched out on it, wine glass in hand, knowing you are relaxing on the cleanest part of the house.
Just keep your supply of Wine Out™ handy because, no matter how good your cleaning intentions, accidents happen.