Here at The Rug Laundry, we believe that you should never let a carpet cleaner clean your rugs in your home. After reading this blog you’ll know more than most carpet cleaners do about the damage that can be done to rugs by uninformed, but well-meaning, carpet cleaners.
How are rugs different to fitted carpets?
Although rugs may look a lot like carpets from the top, the two are actually very different in construction. Carpet is constructed with a backing which is plastic and is designed to be vacuumed from the top. However, the foundations in rugs are made of tightly woven and wrapped fibres, that trap and hold dirt. This means vacuuming alone won’t remove the soil. The soil must be removed using special rug dusting equipment that we have in our facility and can’t be cleaned properly in the home. Carpet cleaning equipment isn’t designed to clean the foundation of a rug, it’s designed to clean the tips of the base yarns of wall to wall carpet – the real damage from dirt occurs deep in the foundation layers of rugs.
If a rug is cleaned in the home, the dirt that is deep in the foundation of the rug simply isn’t removed. Any moisture that is added as a part of the cleaning process mixes with the dirt and cleaning agents and hardens into a plaster like substance in the base of the rug. This cuts the fibres, accelerates wear and can cause the foundation fibres to become brittle and crack, ruining the rug. Once these deposits have been left in the rug, they can’t always be completely removed, and even if they can, the only way to remove these deposits would be to use aggressive cleaning techniques with harsher chemicals. This can often clean the deposits from the rug but sometimes does some damage to the fibres.
Proper rug cleaning should include thorough dusting and immersion washing. Immersion washing is where the rug is submerged in a pool or a stream of water during the wash process. This type of washing thoroughly removes all the dirt and safely rinses away all of the shampoo residues from the rug and leaves the foundation in the face yarns clean and supple.
What does carpet cleaning do?
Carpet cleaning equipment can only clean the tips of the face yarns in a rug. In addition, the high heat from the hot water extraction or steam cleaning can damage the dyes in the rug and cause colour bleeding. For this reason, wool rugs should only be washed in cold water. Dedicated rug cleaning facilities like ours also have specialised equipment to safely and quickly get the rugs dry – we have a temperature and humidity controlled drying room. Because of the tightly wrapped fibres in the foundation of the rug which are often made of very absorbent cotton, it’s easy for the outside fibres of the rug to become completely dry, while the inside of the foundation is still really wet. If the inner part of the rug isn’t dried quickly and thoroughly it can lead to mould, mildew and other problems like browning.
As good as modern carpet cleaning equipment is, it can leave residue behind, especially in the tightly woven foundation of the rug. This residue attracts soil and can cause your rug to become dirty, very quickly. Nothing can rinse the shampoos and detergents from your rug better than immersion washing, which is another reason that true rug washing should be your only choice when cleaning your rugs.
Finally, the proper cleaning chemistry is very different for wool than for nylon. Most carpet is made of nylon which is a type of plastic and nylon fibres respond well and can be cleaned with fairly strong detergents. Wool is essentially hair, and is much more delicate, similar to the hair on your head. If you washed your hair with something that was designed to clean plastic bathroom surfaces, it would dry out and become very brittle and damaged. The same thing happens to your rugs when carpet cleaners use detergents that are designed for plastic carpet fibres on your delicate wool rug fibres.
For these reasons, it’s important to never let your rugs be cleaned in your home with regular carpet cleaning equipment. It’s also important to have your rugs washed every six months to a year by a professional rug cleaner.