How to Maintain a Rug

Residential Rug Maintenance


General Instructions

  • Maintenance Required.  Growing technology has enhanced the durability of flooring products immensely. Yet, our fast-paced world still renders a lot of wear on our floors from spills to the family pet or foot traffic. Regular maintenance and preventative measures can significantly prolong the new look of your important investment.
  • Supremacy of Manufacturer.  The following information is the accumulation of many years of experience, the guidelines of regulatory flooring agencies, and the instructions provided by the leading manufacturers of flooring products. The manufacturer of your flooring product may have unique guidelines that should be given seniority over the general advice given by Wolfe Flooring.
  • Documents and Samples.  Retain the sales receipt and any product description from the purchase of the rug(s). If possible, document the manufacturer’s name and the manufacturer’s full product description, including color. Furthermore, retain a sample of the carpet for comparisons if yours is a custom-made rug. For insurance purposes, it is prudent to safely store a photograph of your new rug(s).
  • Generic Intent. These instructions are for normal rugs in common environments. Techniques, products, etc. change and some situations are very unique; thus, Wolfe Flooring assumes no liability for omissions, errors, or outcomes. These instructions may not apply to special situations (e.g., an antique rug). You’re welcome to call us for a specific professional address of your situation. Please exercise general caution implementing any of the following guidelines.
  • Education.  Read the manufacturer’s instructions. Print these instructions as needed.
  • Extra Supply & Storing.  If your rug was custom made, retain extra carpet for possible repairs that may be needed in the future. Keep your extra materials (a.k.a., attic stock) in a dry place that stays between 40°F and 90°F. Do not put rugs or remnants from a custom rug in humid or hot environments. Humidity (as in a moist basement) can be absorded by carpet and result in mold. Extreme heat (as in an attic) can damage the backing and discolor the yarn. Special precautions should be taken if you need to store your rug for an extended period. If the rug includes a natural yarn or thread (e.g., wool, jute, silk, cotton, seagrass, hemp, etc.) in the backing, edges, or face yarn, the rug is more susceptible to insect damage. Wool is a popular yarn for rugs, and moths will eat the wool if given a chance. Insects will also build webs or lay eggs in a rug (regardless of the fabrication materials) if given the chance. Therefore, the rug should be placed in a perforated plastic sleeve to avoid bugs or dust. Keep the rug on a flat surface and do not stack other items on top of the rug, as the extra weight will lend toward crush marks. The longer a rug remains rolled or folded, the more likely the rug is to develop yarn distortion or crush marks. It is also best to wrap the rug on a core. Simply fold the rug in half if the rug is small enough to avoid rolling. Store your rug laying on a flat surface. Rugs or remnants from a custom rug will conform over time.
  • Entrances.  To protect valuable rugs, keep the outside entrance areas (e.g., sidewalk, porches, driveway) free of sand and debris. Non-staining walk-off mats (avoid rubber mats) and budget-friendly entry rugs are strongly recommended at home’s entryways (both inside and outside) to catch most of the soiling. The mass majority of the soil and grit that will fall into the room will do so in the first six feet of the entrances. Transitional mats should be cleaned recurrently; otherwise, the mats will accelerate the soiling.  Read a blog article on an overall strategy.
  • Rugs and Underlayments.  Area rugs are very helpful in places of high activity (e.g., in front of the kitchen sink) and at pivot-points (e.g., a hallway intersection) to avoid the apparent traffic patterns. Never allow moisture to become trapped under your rug. Use non-slip underlayments under rugs to prevent possible dye transfer and to prevent the rug from sliding or “walking.” Small rugs are especially prone to slip on smooth surfaces. The grip that is provided by a non-slip underlayment can prevent a nasty fall. Underlayment also benefits by absorbing a portion of the impact of each footstep, which means that underlayment helps the rug experience less crushing.
  • Vacuuming.  About 80% of soiling in a rug’s yarn is dry particles. The easiest removal of soil particles is before it sifts down to the base of your rug’s yarn. Residential customers usually need to vacuum a rug once per day or every few days. Vacuum before debris becomes noticeable. Vacuuming should include between three and six passes. Vacuum in a north/south direction and then in a east/west direction to get maximum benefit. If your rug has fringe, be careful not to get the tassels caught in the beater bar. We cannot emphasis enough how important vacuuming is to protect your flooring investment. If your rug is a manageable size, hang the rug over a bar or fence. Then, gently beat or vigorously shake the rug to release the sand and dust from the rug. Beating or shaking the rug is best done outside. (Follow the operating manual of the vacuum cleaner’s manufacturer.)
  • Vacuum Equipment.  Use a vacuum with a beater bar on rugs with yarn of a common length. Use a vacuum with no beater bar if your rug is very delicate, has a very thin profile, or possesses yarn of a long length that could be entangled onto the beater bar. Generally speaking, a vacuum with a beater bar will give better results. Adjust the beater bar to the correct height to increase suction. Do not put the beater bar so low that the rug’s pile or edges are damaged. The belts and brushes on your vacuum cleaner should be checked occasionally to verify they are in good working order. Change the bag on your vacuum cleaner or empty the vacuum cleaner as specified by the manufacturer to not over stress the engine and to maintain strong suction.
  • Keep Dry.  Keep your rug dry, unless the rug is intended for a wet space (e.g., exterior front door). (A rug in a designated wet area should have a special yarn and backing to offer a higher friction coefficient [i.e., more surface grip] and to dry quickly.) A wet rug presents the risk for (1) slipping, (2) mold or mildew, (3) discoloration, and (4) delamination (if not woven). Be especially mindful of walk-off moisture or drips when weather conditions outside are wet or snowy. For safety, immediately direct a fan toward the area of moisture. Fans will accelerate drying. Warm air is more effective than cold air to dry up moisture.
  • Professional Cleaning.  Have your rug professionally cleaned on a regular basis. Recommendations vary as to which method and as to how frequently. Abide by the manufacturer's directions if given. Look for a label on the back. We recommend that you have your rug professionally cleaned before the soiling becomes noticeable. Sand and grit accumulate at the base of the rug’s pile before it’s noticed at the top of the yarn. Sand and grit are abrasive to the rug’s yarn, thus shortening the rug’s life span. Another reason to clean the rug frequently is that we spend most of our time indoors. A clean rug contributes to a healthy home in many ways, including the indoor air quality (IAQ). The average residential rug needs to be professionally cleaned about once per year. Entry rugs and rugs in homes with small children or pets may need professional cleaning about three times per year. Some manufacturer’s warranties are void if the rug is not professionally cleaned within some stipulated frequency. Some rugs should be cleaned with cold water only. Other rugs should be “dry cleaned” only. When rugs are cleaned with a water-based method, the water temperature should be adjusted accordingly. Wool, silk, and other delicate yarns should not receive cleaning at high temperatures. (Lower temperatures are safer to protect dye colors and to avoid shrinkage. Higher temperatures are more effective at breaking down oils and soiling.) If a wet method is used, the professional should test the rug for color fastness in a small area before beginning a full cleaning. The professional cleaning company that you use should also have the ability to give your rug a completely dry method of cleaning for rugs with unstable dyes. The professional should leave little residue by using high-quality solutions and by doing a good extraction/rinse. Detergent residue left in the rug will be sticky and thus cause the rug to re-soil more quickly.
  • Soiling, Stains, Spills, and More.  See our Rug Spot Cleaning Guidelines and Carpet Stain Removal Guide.
  • Repairs.  Tend to repairs immediately to limit exposure and to keep repair expenses as low as possible. Remove a rug from service if a tripping hazard develops. Place painters’ blue tape over an edge or fringe that is pulling loose or unraveling. Clip short yarns that are higher than the pile, called “sprouts.” Do not cut long yarns nor pull long yarns, especially if your rug is a loop-pile. Long yarns can be retufted in some cases. NOTE: Some investment rugs may lose value if altered, even for repairs.
  • Furniture Placement.  Relocate furniture occasionally to distribute traffic patterns. Displace the furniture just a little (about 1″-2″) when you vacuum to prevent the rug’s pile from being permanently crushed.
  • Furniture Legs.  Rugs can tolerate a limited amount of pressure per square inch (PSI). Prevent indentations due to heavy weight concentrated upon the legs of furniture by using casters with a flat undersurface made of glass or hard plastic. A caster should be no less than 3 inches in diameter, depending upon the weight of the object. A wide caster will disperse the weight of the furniture better than a narrow caster.
  • Chair Mats.  Chair pads are required under desk chairs (including those with roller casters) to preserve appearance, prevent accelerated wear, and act as a deterrent toward delamination. The thickness and flexibility of the rug and underlayment determines the thickness and rigidity needed in the chair mat. A thin rug without underlayment will need a mat of 110 mils (0.11″) thickness. A thick rug or a rug with underlayment of a combined thickness at 1 inch or more will need a mat of 170 mil (0.17″) thickness. Purchase a mat with cleats to grip the rug’s pile.
  • Moving Furniture and Heavy Equipment.  Sliding or dragging furniture or equipment over your rugs may snag or tear the yarn. This advice is especially important if your yarn has a loop construction. Rolling a heavy load over your rug may damaged the structure. Appliances and pianos present risks. If possible, roll up your rug and remove it from the area. At a minimum, use 1/4-inch hardboard runways.  See our expanded guide, How to Protect Flooring, to learn more.  The Plywood and Masonite section and the Moving Tools section are most applicable.
  • General Renovations, Painting, or Major Events.  If you will be renovating, painting, moving in or out, etc., then read our guide, How to Protect Flooring.
  • Pets.  Be mindful that both cats and dogs are, at times, tempted to turn the edge or fringe of a rug into a toy. As with humans, pets can track in dirt, mud, etc., so attempt to keep your pet's paws clean. Keep your pet's nails trimmed so that its nails are not caught in the yarn. Finally, address urine and other accidents as quickly as possible. (See our stain removal guide.) Rinsing is the key to success by an application of cold water and concentrated extraction using a wet-dry vacuum or an equivalent machine. In some cases, it may be best to simply rinse your rug clean with cold water. Check the instructions provided by the manufacturer or on the rug's label (if provided).
  • Plants.  Do not set a potted plant directly on your rug. Excess moisture migrating from the plant may ruin the rug. Place a waterproof tray underneath. Over time, your rug may oxidize from light at a different rate than exposed flooring, as would be caused by any furniture or fixture that covers the rug.
  • Temperature.  A steady temperature is best for all flooring products. Maintain temperatures between 65°F and 85°F to avoid substantial contraction or expansion. Some rugs possesses broad tolerance for temperature fluctuations without permanent damage. Cold temperatures make a rug stiff and contract; hot temperatures make a rug flexible and expand. Over time, heat will cause some rugs to become brittle and develop dry rot.
  • Heat.  Avoid placing an appliance directly on your flooring that produces high levels of heat. Refrigerators and ovens are known to produce heat that can permanently damage your flooring. Avoid direct exposure to heat from radiators, hot-air registers, and other heating devices. If you have a radiant floor heating system, be cautious to not exceed the limit (which is commonly at 85°F to 90°F) established by your manufacturer. Excessive heat can cause rugs to discolor or dryrot.
  • Sunlight.  Deflect direct sunlight away from your rug to prevent fading and discoloration.
  • HVAC.  Change the filters in your air conditioning system regularly to minimize pollen and other airborne particulate.
  • Position.  Rotate your rug 180 degrees every six months to avoid a distinct wear or fade pattern.  Over time, a heavily used rug can become threadbare.