Hardwood and tile flooring are popular in both modern and historical homes, and area rugs often adorn walkways or large room sections. Here are some hints about area rug cleaning that will help them look great and last longer.

Vacuuming an area rug

Depending on the rug construction, the vacuuming methods you use will make a difference in the level of cleaning as well as preserving the fibers.

Wool and silk rugs should have very frequent, but very light cleaning with softer brushes than normally used with carpet. This eliminates abrasive dirt or soil on a regular basis. Longer vacuum schedules cause the dirt to act as an abrasive, rubbing against each fiber and breaking it down.

One directional pass with the vacuum is usually not sufficient to remove all hidden dirt particles. It’s best to use a light vacuum setting, and pass over the rug in many directions.

Brush pet hair away

Family pets enjoy laying on area rugs, and often leave fine hairs behind. If vacuuming doesn’t remove pet hair, use a soft-bristle brush and lightly brush in the direction of the nap, cleaning hair out of the brush frequently. Brushing too hard will break fibers in the carpet, and create fuzz; once that starts, the damage cannot be reversed.

Spots and spills on area rugs

If something is spilled on an area rug, the correct response is just as critical as when there is a spill on wall-to-wall carpet. Store-bought stain removers can cause irreversible damage to the fibers. The best remedy is to use a clean, white towel and immediately blot at the spot. Be careful not to rub across the spot, as this will cause the liquid to spread and the spot will become larger. Use a new area of the towel every time you blot, and then call a professional to treat and properly clean the spill.

Give the area rug a new view

Rotating the rug on the floor can reduce traffic pattern matting. If your room is large enough to move the rug to another position, pay attention to sunlight and lighting that might fade the pattern.

Area rugs can be constructed from a number of different materials. Synthetic area rugs include man-made materials that are constructed for high traffic areas and often retain the color better. Natural fibers include wool, cotton and silk. These can be more sensitive to bright sunlight, which might affect placement in the room.


The life of an area rug can be extended by using padding beneath. This prevents the rug from slipping on the hard floor, and gives extra cushion when walking across. Be aware of hidden dirt, crumbs, and other debris that might get caught on the surface of the padding, and check to be sure insect damage isn’t occurring.

Professional area rug cleaning

ServiceMaster by the Border recommends cleaning your area rugs every 12-18 months.

The service technicians will first conduct an inspection to examine the rug construction, dyes, types of soil and other contaminants, and any possible existing damage. A thorough vacuuming is a critical first step in the professional care of area rugs. Next, spot treatment is applied if necessary, followed by extraction cleaning process, and then dried flat.  Hanging wet area rugs can cause the backing to stretch, leaving a bump and distorting the true shape of the rug.

ServiceMaster carpet cleaning specialists who visit your home for general carpet cleaning will probably clean area rugs at their franchise location. This will ensure the rugs are cleaned properly and dried in an area without foot traffic. Attempting to dry rugs at home can cause water damage to the hardwood flooring beneath them, if left on the floor to dry. Area rugs up to 10 x 12 in size can also be dropped off at the ServiceMaster location, where they are thoroughly cleaned and dried, ready for pickup in about four days.