If you’ve made the decision to get rid of the carpet in your home in favor of hardwood or tile floors, you may have also decided to invest in some area rugs to warm up the space. Hard floors can be chilly in the winter months, and area rugs provide warmth, comfort, and a designer touch to your space. Just like carpet, though, it’s important to take care of your rugs to ensure that they look nice and stay comfortable for many years. Here are some simple tips to help you stay on top of area rug maintenance:

1. Vacuum Regularly

Making the switch to hard floors doesn’t necessarily mean that your vacuum can take an early retirement. For clean area rugs, the easiest thing you can do is vacuum regularly—at least once a week, but aim for more often if you have a family or pets. Decide on a vacuuming schedule when you bring your area rugs home, and stick to it. Regular vacuuming will help prevent dirt from becoming embedded in the rug fibers, thus making it much harder to remove. If your rugs are reversible, vacuum both sides, and if they have fringe on the edges, be careful to keep that fringe out of the clutches of your vacuum cleaner.

2. Go Barefoot

Think for a moment about all the surfaces your shoes touch on a daily basis. If that isn’t enough to convince you to leave your shoes at the door, consider making it a habit for the sake of your area rugs. The reality is that rugs (and carpets) hold dirt, so the less dirt you can bring into your home, the better. The overall cleanliness of all of your floors will benefit from a “no shoes” rule, too.

3. Take Care of Spills Immediately

Start treating spills and spots as soon as you notice them. Most substances can be removed if the area is treated quickly enough, but time is of the essence. Before you do anything, check the rug’s tag to see if it can be spot-cleaned or if it needs to be laundered or dry-cleaned. A dry-clean-only tag may indicate that the rug is not colorfast, so make sure to do a patch test before embarking on any cleaning task. If you do decide to tackle the stain yourself, the good news is that most of the products you’ll need are probably already in your kitchen. Remember to always blot—not rub—the stain first with a clean cloth to remove moisture before applying a cleaning solution. The solutions listed below address some of the more common stains:

  • Club soda can remove stains from acidic substances, such as wine, juice, and coffee.

  • White vinegar can get rid of berry and tomato stains.

  • Another good all-purpose rug cleaner is a mixture of one teaspoon of clear liquid dish detergent, one quart of warm water, and a quarter teaspoon of white vinegar.

Carefully apply the appropriate cleaning solution to the stain, and then rinse the area by blotting it with a clean cloth dampened with lukewarm water. You may need to repeat the process a few times, but if the area just doesn’t come clean or if the stain was already dry by the time you addressed it, you may need to consider professional rug cleaning. To put your mind at ease, check out a Best Pick that specializes in cleaning area rugs.

4. Brush, Shake, and Rotate

If you have pets, regular vacuuming is a must, but your vacuum may not be able to grab all of the pet hair from your rugs. To finish the job, use a stiff brush and work in the direction of the rug fibers to remove any pet hair that was left behind. If any of your area rugs are relatively small, take them outside to beat or shake them to remove additional dirt and dust. Better Homes and Gardens warns that some areas have ordinances about shaking rugs outside, so check local codes before you gather up your rugs to take them outdoors. If your rugs are in a sunny room or a high-traffic area, rotate them periodically so that wear and fade patterns even out. Rotation is especially important for antique or handmade rugs, as they tend to be more delicate and susceptible to wear and fading.

Area rugs can instantly change the tone and feel of a room, and they can be found at almost any price point. With proper care, any rug—from an inexpensive entryway mat to an antique, handmade masterpiece—can last generations.

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Sources: Apartment Therapy; Better Homes and Gardens; The New York Times.

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