This article was crafted with the help of Larry Rosenthal from Unique Upholstery, Carpet & Rug Cleaning, Inc.

So you’ve had a spot or two in the past few years—a little coffee here, a little wine there, but you’ve cleaned the area so well that you can’t even remember where the incident occurred. You vacuum regularly, and overall, you would say your rug is in good condition. It’s possible, though, that your rug isn’t getting the proper attention it needs to last for years while still looking good. Fortunately, Larry “Unique Larry” Rosenthal, owner of Unique Upholstery, Carpet & Rug Cleaning, Inc., is able to give insight into professional rug cleaning.

“Homeowners will oftentimes look at their rugs, and because they don’t see any visible spots, they don’t realize that the rug is soiled,” Larry explains. After just a year, Larry says that a carpet or rug will be soiled even if the room or house is left vacant. This is because dust and oils accumulate over time and hide in the bottom of the rug fibers.

Proper Rug Cleaning Is Not for Amateurs

Having an unqualified person clean your rug or carpet may give the appearance of a slightly cleaner area, but it could also have a disastrous result. Some homeowners have experienced rug cleaning jobs that have left their rug completely ruined. In this situation, Larry says that the only solution is to remove and replace the damaged rug. “Rug and carpet cleaning is extremely difficult to do yourself, especially if you don’t have the equipment or cleaning agents to do it properly,” he says. “It’s a shame when I go into a home improvement store and see people rolling out the little carpet cleaning machine that is incapable of removing all of the moisture from your rug, which could cause mildew and mold problems down the line. The area may look cleaner, but it’s possible that you’ve only removed a small percentage of the dirt. Anyone can make the top look good, but you have to get down to the bottom of the fibers to get it truly clean.”

A great deal of technique and chemistry goes into cleaning a rug or carpet correctly, and even with the right machinery, it can still be difficult to do the job properly. Homeowners can ruin their rug when they try to over wet it or use the wrong cleaning agents. Some cleaning agents leave behind residue, and when it dries, it collects dirt. “If you use a soapy towel to clean a dirty window, the cloth will get the dirt off, but when the window dries, dust will stick to any residue from the chemical used. The same thing happens with a rug. It’s important to thoroughly rinse it out and remove any residue or chemicals,” Larry explains. Even if you’re able to clean your rug without damaging the fiber, the cleaning process used could void the manufacturer’s warranty—most expect rugs and carpet to be cleaned a certain way.

It’s All in the Fibers

Larry recommends for homeowners to vacuum at least twice a week and to use good-quality mats for doors leading outside of the home. Vacuuming doesn’t remove everything, though. According to Larry, regular vacuuming removes only about 70 percent of the dust and dirt from your rugs and carpet. Along with the other 30 percent of dirt, rug and carpet fibers hold on to oil and allergens, so it’s important to get high-traffic rooms like hallways, stairs, and family rooms professionally cleaned at least once a year.

Also, when you do hire a professional carpet cleaner, it’s important to point out areas of concern in your home. “Generally, homeowners are worried about areas in front of a sofa or lounge chair, but we want to know exactly what they’re concerned about before we begin cleaning, especially tough situations—we love solving tough situations,” Larry says.

No Two Rug Cleanings Are Alike

Every cleaning situation is different, and because of this, professional carpet cleaners vary their tactics to address each homeowner’s concern and the state of the fabric. Newer rugs may be more sensitive or a rug may have color issues, but a professional technician should know how to cater his or her technique to each unique situation. “We use a specific carpet shampoo depending on the type of rug and the degree of soiling,” Larry explains. “Our technicians can use different products based on the homeowner’s preference, the type of fibers, and the amount of dirt.” In some situations, the temperature of the water also plays a key factor; for example, wool rugs are sensitive to hot water, so cooler water is used to help protect the integrity of the fibers.

While there are many different cleaning methods out there, Larry warns against using companies that have prices that are too good to be true and spend 30 to 45 minutes cleaning your entire house. “If you want a professional job, it will cost more than other companies that advertise extremely low prices. Typically, those companies will advertise one price, but they will try to sell you other services. Homeowners may think they’re paying more for a professional service, but there’s a big difference in quality between us and the other guys.”

Some professional carpet cleaning companies even offer off-site rug cleaning services. Usually, a company will pick the rug up from your home and take it to an off-site facility for cleaning, and the rug will be delivered back to your home afterward. Whatever you decide works best for your situation, remember to pick a professional who has experience with cleaning the type of rug you own, and avoid DIY methods that could become costly in the end.

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This spotlight article was crafted with the help of Unique Upholstery, Carpet & Rug Cleaning, Inc., a Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning Best Pick in Chicago. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.