Cleaning a rug can be a simple task or an involved one, depending on what type of rug you're working with. Just like clothing, some rugs can simply be tossed in a washing machine, while others require special care, such as dry cleaning or spot cleaning. How to clean your rug depends on the materials your rug is made from and how it's constructed.
How to Clean Shag Rugs
Shag rugs get their name from the long length of their fibers, also known as a long pile. While this pile does give the rugs a fun, lush look, it can also make them difficult to clean.
Liquids should never be used to clean shag rugs. The rugs' fibers are too long for liquid to penetrate, and a wet shag rug will take much too long to dry. Instead, you can use a combination of dry carpet shampoo (available at many home and carpet stores in powder form), shaking and vacuuming to clean your rug.
When vacuuming a shag rug, be sure to use a small upholstery attachment. Vacuuming without an attachment will be ineffective and could harm both your rug and your vacuum.
How to Clean Oriental Rugs
Oriental rugs tend to feature intricate, colorful designs, which makes keeping them clean a top priority. Because of their short pile and easy-to-wash materials (most oriental rugs feature wool threads and a cotton base), oriental rugs aren't difficult to clean.
Oriental rugs can be gently vacuumed on both sides with an upholstery attachment. For a deeper cleaning, mild liquid carpet shampoo may be used, along with cool water. Hot or warm water may cause the color of your rug to fade, so be sure to use cool water only.
A laundry brush should be used to brush your rug's pile during the washing process. To dry, lay your rug in a clean, cool space. Once the top of the rug is entirely dry, flip the rug over to dry the bottom. If the fibers seem stiff after the rug is completely dry, use a laundry brush to gently brush it until it's soft again.
How to Clean Synthetic Rugs
Unlike cotton, silk or wool rugs, synthetic rugs are created using man-made materials. These rugs come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and colors, and are usually inexpensive. Some synthetic rugs can even be tossed into the washing machine with the rest of the laundry. Air drying is still best, however, since machine drying can cause early signs of wear and may eventually cause the back of the rug to peel or crack. If machine drying your rug is a necessity, be sure to use a low-heat setting.
For synthetic rugs that cannot be machine washed, washing by hand with a liquid carpet shampoo is a good alternative. Unlike oriental rugs, most synthetic rugs can be washed with warm water. A sponge or laundry brush may be used to gently scrub during washing. Lay your rug flat in a clean area to dry.
Maria Cook is a freelance and fiction writer from Indianapolis, Indiana. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Butler University in Indianapolis and has written about eco-friendly home improvement projects and architecture at Green Matters.