Updated: Jun 22
Can you take a rug to the dry cleaners?
Most dry cleaners are not set up to properly clean oriental rug or area rugs, particularly large rugs. Rug cleaning equipment and process are specialized for the cleaning of rugs and different from dry cleaning and in-home carpet cleaning. Often dry cleaners send rugs to an established rug cleaning company we work with a few in the Portland metro area. In the end, it's hard to tell if a dry cleaner is doing your rug justice with quality cleaning or light topical surface cleaning.
How can I clean my area rug myself?
I suggest the motivated DYI rug cleaner ask themselves this question; If you clean a rug at home and damage or ruin it, will you be kicking yourself later? No? Ok, let's continue. Do you have the space to clean and DRY the rug? Rug drying is critical; if a rug is not dried quickly, it can result in mold and mildew, develop some really strange odors and even rot the rug. How and where will you get that rug dry? Four is the magic number; the average rug is four times its dry weight; when wet, thicker pile rugs even more. That rug that was manageable to move dry might be unmanageable wet. So heavy that trying to move the rug can cause damage to the rug and yourself. So before thinking of washing a rug, think of how you will move that wet, heavy rug and how will you dry it. For cleaning use, mild dish detergent like bio clean, Ivory, planet, 7th generations and never use laundry detergent, oxyclean or other strong cleaning products. Test the colors in the rug with a warm water solution, and your detergent wet small spots and blot with white towels to test for dye stability; a weak acid like vinegar might set the dyes or might not. Most of the washing is rinsing out soils and the detergent you put on the rug. Rug cleaning seems simple, but I cannot cover lots of nuances in a short-form blog regarding rug cleaning; I have taught a three-day rug cleaning class for ARCS (Association Of Rug Care Specialists), even in a 3-day class, it's impossible to convey all the subtleties of rug cleaning.
How much does it cost to clean a rug?
In Portland, Oregon, rug cleaning rates are 3-5.00 sq ft. depending on the rug, how the rug is washed, any specific issues. There are "real rug cleaning" facilities, and then there are "virtual cleaners" that don't have an actual wash plant but lead you to believe they do. Your rugs might end up in a residential garage or back patio to be hot water extracted, shampooed anything but a proper rug washing.
The pic to the right is of a wash plant outside of Dallas, Texas. It's a really nice-looking, well-run professional wash plant. The thing is, countless cleaning websites across the country have lifted this photo and used it as a representation of their modern well-constructed wash plant. We have had issues, even shutting a youtube page down using our photos; you'll notice some of our newer photos are watermarked now. It's a big issue; we see it all the time, even here in Portland.
In reality, some clean customer rugs in their driveway, as shown in the pic to the left. Like any profession, we talk about a standard of care with clients' property. That standard cannot be met in a home driveway or average garage, and what insurance company would provide commercial coverage with such a setup.
Is this wrong? Remember it's your rug and your and your choice.
The issue is that most consumers see the fancy pictures on a website and think that where their expensive Persian rug is going to proper well run secure and insured wash plant, not a residential driveway in the suburbs. Commercial wash plants and ARCS (Association of Rug Care Specialists) have set standards for wash plants, care, and custody of clients property. This standard of care and custody cannot be met in a home garage.
Some of these cleaners charge lower prices, but many have figured out with a few slick photos on a website they can charge real rug washing prices without doing real washing. There are a few rug cleaners with real wash plant at a home-based location, but there's not a lot of these and none here in Oregon that I know of?
How to shop for a reputable rug cleaning service
As someone in the industry, here's what I would look for when shopping for a rug cleaner?
-When you look at a cleaner's web page and social media, is it full of real pics of their wash plant or generic stock photos? Stock images are a giveaway.
-There's a website and wash plant pics, but the address is a post office box or no physical location listed? Every brick and mortar rug wash plant I know has customer drop-off and allows customers to tour their facilities. Ask for a tour see for yourself where your rug will go to be cleaned.
-Call around to local rug retailers and ask for cleaning references. Some retailers like Atiyeh Brothers have their own rug cleaning plant, and my company Renaissance Rug Cleaning works with most rug retailers in Portland Christiane Millinger Rugs, Tufenkian Carpets, Kush Carpets, NW Rugs, Ali Sharifi rugs.
What is the best way to clean a rug?
Washing them fully in water with mild detergent is how new rugs are washed. The pic below is a new rug being washed in Afghanistan before export to the USA. Most soil in rugs doesn't sit on the surface and filter into the base, and liquid soils like pet urine accidents and beverage spills are absorbed by the highly absorbent fibers like wool, silk cotton found in most rugs. This is why shampooing and steam cleaning fail to get oriental rugs clean. A full wash soaks the whole rug to the core and removes deeply embedded soils.
Handwoven rugs have what I like to call a personality because they are handwoven weaving, dyes, and material are inconsistent can have different issues that pop up in cleaning color bleed, shrinkage, for example.
Expert rug cleaners learn the personality of the oriental rugs they clean, and their workshops are set up to deal with the problems that pop up.