Area Rug Cleaning
Cleaning area rugs runs many of the same risks as cleaning carpet: Rugs can be permanently damaged by improper or poorly mixed chemicals, or improper brushing. But for some rugs—particularly expensive handmade wool rugs and many antique or semi-antique rugs—there are additional dangers: Dyes can run; fringes, backing, and the rug itself can tear; the rug can shrink or warp; and colors can become distorted.
Cleaning area rugs is also more challenging than cleaning wall-to-wall carpet because the yarns of many rugs are much more densely concentrated than the yarns in carpet. The most common method of manufacturing wall-to-wall carpet is by tufting, wherein a machine with hundreds of yarn-threaded needles pushes yarn through a backing fabric, forming loops as the needles push in and pull out. This process leaves a small amount of space between the carpet yarns and, during cleaning, this space facilitates the loosening and extraction of dirt. Area rugs, on the other hand, are usually made using processes such as weaving or knotting that create a much more dense pile. Because of this density, rugs won’t get dirty as quickly as carpet (since dirt tends to stay on the surface, rather than settling into the rug), but once dirt has penetrated the surface, this density makes it especially difficult to remove. Removing dirt from a typical area rug requires subjecting the rug to a washing process that vigorously agitates the pile to loosen dirt and then completely soaks the rug through with water to flush the dirt away.
Another key difference between carpet and rug cleaning is that, in most cases, rugs have to be cleaned outside of your home, where you can’t supervise the work. If a company improperly cleans wall-to-wall carpet in your home, you can ask it to correct errors on the spot, perhaps even before permanent damage occurs. But if an incompetent company improperly cleans a rug in its plant, you’re not likely to notice until it is too late.
Because the work is difficult and so much can go wrong—and since even a machine-made Oriental rug can cost well over $3,000—make sure you entrust your rugs to a true expert.
Here is how rugs should be cleaned.
Before cleaning, most companies will try to remove as much dust and dirt as possible by using heavy-duty vacuums, beating the rug, using automatic dusters, and/or spraying the rug with compressed air.
Inspection and Stain Treatments
If you can locate specific spots or stains, and know what caused them, point them out to the company and make sure that these problems are listed on the work order—before cleaning, spots and stains should be pretreated with appropriate cleansers. Also notify the company if the rug has been in contact with urine, feces, vomit, or blood, so that the company knows that it needs to be decontaminated.
As with wall-to-wall carpeting, some stains or problems can be difficult or impossible to correct; the company representative should speak candidly about the limits of its service. Keep in mind that companies often won’t know whether or not they can successfully treat a trouble spot until they try.
The rug is spread out in the cleaning area of the plant, which is a large concrete basin with plenty of drainage in a large garage, small warehouse, or, in large operations, a small factory-like setting. The rug is pre-washed and soaked by a high-pressure hose that sprays the rug with tepid water usually containing a mild detergent.
Usually, the rug is then shampooed. Hand-washing rug cleaners pass a hand-scrubbing machine back and forth over the rug. The scrubbing machine is similar to a carpet shampooer in that it runs a mixture of water and carpet shampoo through a rotating soft nylon brush, which is passed back and forth over the rug, loosening dirt and grime that lie deep in the pile. The rug is then rinsed with the high-pressure hose. The cleaner should rinse out as much of the loosened dirt and shampoo as possible: If loosened dirt particles are not removed, they will work their way deeper into the pile; and if the cleaner does not rinse out all of the shampoo, it may lead to a buildup of a sticky residue, which will accelerate re-soiling.
Be aware that “hand-washing” is a generic term used by almost all rug-cleaning operations, whether or not they clean rugs using the preferred method described above. So it makes sense to ask companies to describe in detail what they mean by “hand-washing,” and to perhaps drop off a rug yourself so you can see the plant’s cleaning facility and make sure you’ll get what’s advertised.
For example, some companies—particularly very large rug-cleaning operations—use large machines that pass rugs through an assembly-line process that automatically shampoos and rinses them. Unlike hand-washing cleaners, which employ a relatively labor-intensive procedure, automated cleaners can clean a rug in less than a minute. The machine first moves the rug underneath a spray of water to wet the rug, and then passes it through a series of brushes that move back and forth over the rug, scrubbing it with a shampoo-and-water mixture. After scrubbing, the rug is then rinsed underneath a series of rinsing jets.
One disadvantage of automated rug washers is that operators have little control over the cleaning process. If a certain area of the rug needs more attention than others, automated machines won’t spend extra time scrubbing the problem area. And a possible risk of automated rug washing machines is that the fringes of the rug, or the rug itself, can be snagged and damaged as it passes through the assembly line—although this risk can be largely avoided if operators carefully monitor the machine.
Other companies—particularly small rug-cleaning operations—skip the shampooing step altogether. These companies spread the rug out onto the floor of a garage or small warehouse, and then clean the rug using the same hot-water-extraction equipment they use for in-home carpet cleaning, except that they usually run tepid water through the machine. Hot-water-extraction machines can adequately clean a rug made from wall-to-wall carpet remnants, but avoid companies that use this process for other types of rugs because hot-water-extraction equipment is designed for cleaning less dense wall-to-wall carpet and isn’t likely to effectively remove dirt that has become embedded into a rug’s dense pile.
Similarly, other small rug-cleaning operations may clean rugs using the same bonnet-cleaning system they use for wall-to-wall carpeting. As with bonnet cleaning wall-to-wall carpet, this method’s limitations are that it provides only a topical cleaning—many of the loosened dirt particles are never removed. Also, since companies that use the bonnet method rarely utilize a rinse process, repeated cleanings can overload the rug with residues that may contribute to accelerated re-soiling.
Special Treatment of Delicate Rugs
A common problem with antique or semi-antique rugs is that the warm water used to clean them can cause dyes to run. Companies can prevent this problem by lightly spraying the rug with an acidic conditioner before cleaning.
The vast majority of rugs can be cleaned using the cleaning processes described above section, and, in fact, most rugs—even expensive handmade rugs—are washed using an immersion washing process after they are manufactured. But highly delicate rugs may require a different method, particularly rugs made of silk or imitation silk and very frail rugs.
If you want to clean a highly delicate rug, hire an expert to do the work. In most cases, cleaning delicate rugs is similar to cleaning other rugs, except that they receive a lighter, lower moisture cleaning. Often the rug can be lightly shampooed by hand. To rinse out remaining dirt and shampoo, the rug is lightly misted and then wiped clean before being spread out to dry.
Other types of delicate rugs can be cleaned using steam-cleaning equipment, but replacing boiling-hot water with tepid water. In these cases, the cleaner is treating the rug as he or she would clean upholstery.
Some delicate rugs just can’t stand water at all. In these cases, the cleaner will remove as much dirt from the rug as possible by brushing it, vacuuming it with heavy-duty equipment, beating out as much remaining dirt as possible, and then using a dry-cleaning process.
After cleaning, a good company will “groom” the rug with a brush so that the lie of the rug’s nap runs in the correct direction to give the rug an even appearance. Companies may also provide special treatments or care to the rug’s fringe or edges, and may repair damaged areas.
It is important for the rug to dry as quickly as possible; a rug—particularly a wool rug—that remains damp for more than a few days can become mildewed, warped, or discolored.
Drying a rug that has been completely soaked through with water is no simple feat. One option is to use a large wringer system to squeeze out most of the water. A wringer device is usually the last step in the assembly line for large automated operations, and some cleaners that do not have automated systems may still use a wringer after rinsing the rug. Cleaners that have no wringer usually use hot-water-extraction equipment to pull out as much water as possible. After the rug is sent through a wringer or sucked dry using extraction equipment, some companies then use a high-power wet vacuum system to pull out as much remaining moisture as possible.
Larger operations will then hang the rug in a drying room, usually a climate-controlled area with industrial-size dehumidifiers and a heating system that pumps in dry heat. Using this method, a rug can be completely dried in six to 12 hours, depending on its thickness, how much water the cleaner has pulled out of the rug, the humidity level in the drying room, and the number of rugs hanging in the drying room.
Smaller operations will spread the rug out flat on a floor and direct large fans onto it—depending on thickness, how much moisture remains after cleaning, and humidity levels, it will take 24 to 72 hours to dry a rug this way.
Call CitruSolution today 251-621-6880.