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What's the right way to clean really dusty rugs and carpets?

Grainne O’Reilly on how to get floor coverings clean once and for all.

Image: Shutterstock/Opat Suvi

A GOOD RUG can really tie a room together, so once you’ve found one that you love you’ll want to make sure you look after it well.

A properly cared-for rug can last you a long time and can be a lovely feature, so long as you take into account appropriate treatment for the type of weave and the material of the fibres.

A build-up of dust and dirt in textiles can dull their colour, affect their texture, and also cause allergies to flare up, so how can you best get rid of dust from your rugs, mats, and runners?

Here are six steps you can take to keep the dust level down. 

1. Make your home a shoe-free zone

This is a divisive preventative measure – some people will love this idea and are probably already doing it; others will be think it strange or unnecessary. Taking your shoes off as soon as you come into the house isn’t something Irish people typically do, but in many European countries, people don’t wear shoes in their homes, and even guests will be expected to take off their shoes when visiting.

Removing shoes at the front door will keep an awful lot of dust and dirt out of your home and away from your rugs in the first place.

2. Choose rugs with a dirt-repelling pile

Rugs come in a range of different piles, which refers to the rug’s woven threads. Some of those threads are designed to keep dirt out of the fibres and some of them allow dust and trap it. If you’re on the lookout for a rug for a high traffic area, choose a loop pile. Loop pile rugs are durable, high impact, and the loop weave helps to prevent dust and dirt getting in.

For areas where people won’t be walking dirt into the rug so much, a cut pile will be fine, but bear in mind that the looser the weave and the less dense the pile, the harder it will be to keep it clean.

3. Dust before you hoover

It won’t do much good getting all the dirt out of your rugs just to go and sweep dust off the furniture and back down on to them. A good rule of thumb for most cleaning jobs is to start at the top and work your way to the bottom, so tackle cobwebs and dusty furniture with a slightly damp microfibre cloth before you hoover. Likewise, fluff your cushions, shake out your throws, and do any ornament rearranging before you hoover. 

4. Vacuum regularly

The next step is to hoover your rugs and floors regularly – dirt and dust will be easier to remove if it hasn’t had a chance to work its way into the pile. Hoover in long, slow strokes, allowing time for the suction to do its stuff, and in all directions, to get as much dust out as possible.

You could also flip your rug and hoover the reverse of it every once in a while to access any dirt that has worked its way right to the bottom of the pile. If you have pets, make sure you use the brush setting or a rug rake to get rid of any hairs they’ve shed.

shutterstock_779600965 Source: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

5. Take rugs outside for a once-over

To really shake out any built-up dust, take your rug outside for a beating. Thin woven rugs with no backing should be lightweight enough to hang on your washing line, but anything heavier will need to go over a wall or be hung on something sturdy. Grab yourself a broom handle or a traditional carpet beater and give it a thorough once-over until no more clouds of dust come out. Don’t overdo it though – you don’t need to go particularly hard; you don’t want to end up damaging your rug!

6. And try a proper wash once in a while

Spot cleaning with a warm damp cloth should take care of any small-scale spillages or stains, but your rug may benefit from a deep clean occasionally. Some rugs, such as bathroom mats or rag rugs, are small and light enough to go into the washing machine (just check the care label to be sure).

You may be able to clean other small area rugs yourself by taking them outside to a flat path or patio on a warm dry, day and giving them a gentle scrub with a soft brush, warm water, and a small amount of carpet cleaner. But go easy on the amount of water you use, as a thick, dense pile will take a long time to dry out. If all else fails, rent a carpet cleaning machine or call in a professional – heavy duty cleaning equipment can bring a tired rug back to practically good as new.

Follow Gráinne @parsekus on Instagram for more home hacks and décor inspiration

More: What are the basics I should have in my toolbox?

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About the author:

Grainne O'Reilly

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