Rug Care And Frequently Asked Questions:

Video 1- "How Often Should I Clean My Wool Rugs?"


Video 2- "How To Identify Moth And Bug Damage."


Video 3- "How To Prevent Moth And Bug Damage."


Video 4- "The Two Mistakes Made By Most Rug Owners."


Video 5- "How To Properly Vacuum Your Rugs."


Video 6- "Why You Should Never Let A Carpet Cleaner Clean Your Rugs In Your Home."


Video 7- "Pet Urine And Rugs."


Video 8- "Understanding Tufted Rugs."


Video 9- "Understanding White Knots."


Video 10- "Understanding Abrash."


Video 11- "Understanding Tea-Washed Rugs."


Video 12- "Understanding Viscose Rugs."


Technical Help And Additional Questions: (Click To View)


For as long as rugs have been woven, they have also been washed. Though in the past with a bit more “low tech” methods than are available today.
These rugs are being washed in a very traditional way, near a river.


Rugs – ESPECIALLY wool rugs – have a capacity to hold a large amount of soil in them. This is because wool under the microscope looks kind of like fish scales, so lots of layers, with MANY places to hide dirt and grit.

It’s these many “little pockets” that hold soil, and why a wool rug can have POUNDS of soil in it and still not look especially dirty. The dirt is hiding in the structure of the wool; and not just dirt and soil, but a whole host of other contaminants.
Washing rugs in a river

Rugs Being Washed The Traditional Way…
Near A River

Woman hand dusting a rug

Beating The Dirt Out Of A Rug By Hand

Magnified wool fiber

Fish-Scale Structure Of Wool FIber

Pile of dirt from dirty rug

Machine Dusting Can Remove
Pounds Of Dirt From A Single Rug

Piles of dirt from dirty rug after dusting

This Dirt Must Be Removed
Before Washing

Why Rugs Should Not Be Cleaned In The Home

There are several reasons why cleaning rugs properly, requires them to be removed from the home.
One of the biggest reasons is that rugs can't be properly beaten, or dusted, in the home... and removal of this soil before cleaning is absolutely essential.
Another reason is that proper washing of the rug simply cannot be done with standard carpet cleaning machines. (Portables or truckmounts) That type of cleaning is considered surface cleaning and not washing.

Here is a cover story in Cleanfax Magazine, (One of the leading carpet cleaning industry publications) discussing some of the specific reasons why choosing to clean a rug in the home can cause more harm than good. This is information every professional cleaner should know, but unfortunately, many don't.
Certainly it's information that any person that owns and cares about their rugs needs to know:
I am not saying that rugs can just be tossed in water with no worries. You need a competent, trained specialist to do your cleaning or they can do much more harm than good. (This site was created to help you find one.)

Persian runner being washed

Persian Runner Being Washed Thoroughly

Rug cleaning specialists regularly get calls from homeowners who thought they could hose down their rug, and then discover that this can lead to dye bleeding, buckling or shrinking, and incredibly long drying times. Sometimes the rugs are damaged beyond repair.
That's because those “tiny pockets” that hold soil, also can hold a lot of water molecules too. Wool rugs get HEAVY when wet, and the foundation fibers inside the rug are absorbent cotton warps and wefts that swell with water, so you need to have the equipment capable of removing that level of moisture so that the rug can be properly and thoroughly dried quickly. This is just one way to minimize bleeding and other problems.

Some rug cleaning operations are more “workshop” operations instead of high-volume rug cleaning facilities. You could think of them as boutique rug operations.
Common wash pit setup

Small Wash Pit Used For
Immersion Cleaning

They wash the rugs one at a time, and have some equipment to help them be more thorough in the dusting, washing, rinsing, and drying processes.

In addition to the unique equipment…the most important thing that a specialized rug cleaner will have is knowledge.

A properly trained specialist can safely and effectively clean your rug. A typical carpet cleaner will do the best they can with what they know… but ultimately most of them will treat a rug as if it were a piece of carpet, and that can often have disastrous results.

Magnified pic of wool fiber showing scale structure

Fish-Scale Structure Of Wool FIber

How often your rug needs to be cleaned, and the method of cleaning, depends on the type of FIBER it is made out of, and the level of ACTIVITY on the rug.


(protein and cellulose fibers)

Wool rugs under normal use, and vacuumed regularly, should be thoroughly washed every 2 years. If you have high activity on the rug (pets, kids, etc.) then annually would be needed, and likewise if you have low activity the cleaning can be extended to 3 years.

Wool is the BEST fiber for a rug for many reasons. It is strong, dyes up very well, has a great sheen and look to it, is a completely sustainable and renewable fiber choice (it grows back on sheep!), but the best reason is this - it hides soil brilliantly.

Wool fibers are comprised of layers of cuticles there are a lot of “pockets” to hide dust and soil. This means over time the rug does not look “filthy” even when it is, because it hides the dust and just starts to look duller.

This means wool rugs look better longer versus all other fiber choices.

This also means, however, that most wool rug owners who have no idea how often they should be cleaning their rug, wait too long.

Those dust filled layers of the wool fibers are what result in fiber breakage and wearing down of the pile over time. That is because dust is small silicon particles (essentially glass) that cuts and tears the fibers when people walk on the rug. This is why on older rugs you will often see areas of the rug that are worn lower than other areas. It is not from feet, it is from the dirt and it not being washed as frequently as it should have.

These dust-filled layers of wool fibers are also why rugs should never be cleaned in the home by carpet cleaning equipment. That type of “surface cleaning” traps soil in the fibers and packs it down into the foundation of the rug, and causes damage to the rug that manifests itself as fiber wear, discoloration of the dyes, a “graying” of the rug, stiffness of the pile, and in the worst cases dry rot of the foundation.

Other natural fibers (silk, cotton, sisal, jute, hemp, and other derivatives) do not hide soil as well as wool does. They should be cleaned when you begin to see grayer areas in the field of the rug.


(petroleum based fibers)

Synthetic fibers are petroleum-based plastic made in a way to give a softer feel that makes them more attractive as a rug. These are nylon, olefin (polypropylene), polyester, acrylic and other derivatives.

These rugs should be cheap, because they are machine woven, and they do not last anywhere near the length of time as wool rugs do. Wool rugs can last decades easily, and many can last centuries if cared for properly. Synthetic rugs will last you a few years.

Synthetic fibers, especially polypropylene and acrylic, “ugly” with little use. Dust and grit has nowhere to hide, so it sticks to the outer shell of the fibers. Because these fibers are oil-based, they also grab soil and spills and attract them more than other fibers do.

These fibers also are not strong, so foot traffic will create pile distortion and wear much faster than with natural fibers.

However, because these are cheaper rugs, and most are stain-proof (because they are solution-dyed plastic), they are a perfect choice for an area you expect a lot of abuse with spills. They will fade, but most are able to repel juice and other dye-based stains.

Also, because synthetic fibers are plastic, they can be safely “steam cleaned” with hot water extraction carpet cleaning equipment, and much more aggressive cleaning chemicals. There is no need to hand wash these rugs, they can be blasted with high heat and high alkaline cleaning solutions, just as your wall-to-wall carpet can.
Blotting a rug stain after rinsing

Blot, Rinse, Repeat!


Blot, Rinse, Blot

The time will come when something is spilled on your rug – coffee, soda, wine, or juice. There is a tendency to grab a cleanser and scrub the area, and this inevitably causes more permanent harm than good.

A good emergency system is a very simple one, and all you need is club soda (or soda water) and cotton towels.

Immediately blot the wet area with a white cotton towel. Do not scrub the affected area, as this untwists and breaks the wool, silk, or cotton face fibers. (If the spot is an oil or dense substance, use a spoon or other curved tool to scoop up as much as you can before you begin the blotting process.)

Look at the wet towel for two things:
  1. Is the liquid spill absorbing into the towel? …and also,
  2. Are any of the rug’s dyes absorbing into the towel?

If the rug’s dyes are absorbing into the towel, blot a bit more and then STOP! No more work can be done to this area without causing the area’s dyes to bleed together. This type of damage can devalue your rug, so you want to stop before you make it worse. At this point you can pack the area with corn starch (or salt) and this will absorb the moisture and the spill into the powder.

If the rug’s dyes are NOT absorbing into the towel (you only see the spill absorbing into it), then place a folded towel underneath the affected area and using a sponge dampen the affected area with club soda. This will help you continue to remove the spill substance into the towel. Once you believe you have removed as much as you can through blotting, if you are still worried about anything foreign being in the fibers, or possible damage occurring to the dyes (if it is a pet stain or other damaging acid stain), then you can pack the area with corn starch.

When you believe the absorption to be complete, elevate the treated area so that airflow can reach the back of the rug (prop it up) and dry the foundation thoroughly. Do this for at least one day to ensure complete drying. During this process, the surface of the rug will feel dry to the touch, however, the cotton foundation will still have moisture within it, and without air drying it will eventually lead to mildew and dry rot. Use a warm hair dryer to assist if needed. (If you have used corn starch it becomes hard to the touch and caked when dry, and this can be broken apart with a spoon and scooped up and vacuumed away. However, you want to make sure the inner most cotton fibers are 100% dry, so elevate the rug to dry for at least a day.)

If you are unsure about anything, it's probably best to contact a rug cleaning specialist and get help. (To find a good one in your area, click here.)
Using corn starch to absorb rug stains

Corn Starch Covering A Spill
On A Wool Rug


Blot, Rinse, Blot

Pet urine and vomit stains are the some of the worst stains on an oriental rug. If you do not get to them right away, you can have permanent dye loss, dye migration (“bleeding”), urea discoloration, food dye discoloration, and of course odor!

With a pet accident, you want to follow the same steps except you SUBSTITUTE white vinegar for the club soda.

The vinegar will help lessen the dye bleed risk, and will help suspend and help you blot away the acidic urine or vomit.

If your work looks good when done, then TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE to get the area dry, and dried thoroughly. If you leave the area damp too long you risk dye bleed and mildew. As mentioned before, use a hair dryer if needed to help make sure BOTH sides are 100% dry. Keep the affected area elevated for airflow along both sides for at least a full 24 hours to be safe. 48 hours if possible.

If your work does not look “done” – and you still see red wine and food dye, or pet discoloration, then the next step is to try to absorb as much as possible before taking the rug to a professional rug cleaner. (To find a good one in your area, click here.)

Blotting a rug stain with towel

Blot, Rinse, Repeat!

Pack the area with CORN STARCH. Make sure you cover the spill affected area completely. The corn starch will pull up more of the spill as it dries. It is very absorbent.

>> Do NOT accidentally use baking soda! <<

Baking soda is alkaline and can create a yellowing of wool that will likely not be reversible.

>> Do NOT use any household spot removers! <<

Carpet spot removers that you buy in your grocery store are meant for the synthetic fibers in your wall-to-wall carpet, and not for natural fiber rugs. Folex, Resolve, Oxyclean are all no-no’s.

In most cases we see MORE damage done to rugs not from the initial spills, but from rug owners applying harsh over-the-counter chemicals to try to remove the stains. Even products approved for wool (like Woolite), in too large a dose, can create permanent color damage to wool rugs. When people are in a panic, they tend to over-apply products.

If you are in that place of panic, call a local rug cleaning specialist, and they can help you.

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