Do it Yourself Rug Cleaning

Rugs Are Different in Construction than Wall to Wall Carpet

We recommend that you never clean your rugs in your home like wall-to-wall carpet.  Although area rugs may look a lot like carpet from the top, the two are actually very different in construction.

Carpeting is constructed with a backing that’s plastic, and it’s designed to be cleaned from the top. The foundations of area rugs are made of tightly woven and wrapped fibers that trap and hold dirt. This means vacuuming alone won’t remove the soil. With an area rug, the soil must be removed using special rug dusting equipment, and that can’t be done in the home.

Carpet cleaning equipment isn’t designed to clean the foundation of an area rug, it’s designed to clean the tip of the face yards of wall-to-wall carpeting. But the real damage from dirt occurs deep in the foundation layers of area rugs.

If an area rug is cleaned in the home, the dirt that is deep in the foundation of the rug simply isn’t removed; and any moisture that is added as a part of the cleaning process mixes with the dirt and the cleaning agents and hardens into a plastic-like substance in the base of the rug. This cuts the fibers and accelerates wear, and can cause the foundation fibers to become brittle and crack, ruining the rug.

Once these deposits are left in the rug they can’t always be completely removed, and even if they can the only way to remove these deposits is to use aggressive cleaning techniques with harsher chemicals. This can often clean the deposits from the rug

Rug Cleaning Should Include Dusting And Submersion Washing

Best wool rug submersion cleaners

Proper area rug cleaning should include thorough dusting and submersion washing. Immersion washing is where the rug is submerged in a pool or stream of water during the wash process. This type of washing thoroughly removes all the dirt and safely rinses away all the shampoo residues from the rug and leaves the foundation of the rug and the face yards clean and supple.

Carpet cleaning equipment can only clean the tips of the face yards in an area rug. In addition, the high heat from the hot water extraction or steam cleaning can damage the fibers in the rug and cause color bleeding.


Wool area rugs should only be washed in cold water. Dedicated rug cleaning facilities also have specialized equipment to safely and quickly get the rugs dry. Because of the tightly wrapped fibers in the foundation of the rug, special equipment is needed to dry it.

Wool rugs are also made up of very absorbent cotton, and it’s easy for the outside fibers to become completely dry, while the inside of the foundation fibers is still wet. If the inner part of the rug isn’t dried quickly and thoroughly, it can lead to mold, mildew and other problems like browning and wicking.


As good as modern carpet cleaning equipment is, it leaves residue behind especially in the tightly woven foundation of the rug. This residue attracts soil and allows your rug to become dirty very quickly. Nothing can rinse the shampoos and detergents from you rugs better than submersion washing. Which is another reason why true rug washing should be your only chose when cleaning your area rugs.


Wool Safe Cleaning Solution

Proper cleaning solutions are very different for wool than for nylon. Most carpet is made from nylon which is a type of plastic, and nylon fibers respond well and can be cleaned with strong detergents. While wool is essentially hair and is much more delicate. Wool safe cleaning solutions can be compared to the delicate shampoos you use on your own hair. Wool is the hair of sheep and is a natural fiber and requires a more gentle cleaning solution.

This article was written in collaboration with Lisa Wagner “The Rug Chick” and Mark Kennedy.

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