1. Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum
You should vacuum your rug regularly. Some sources say you should do this daily (yikes!) to prevent dust from settling in the fibers, but don't worry, other sources say that vacuuming once a week or once every two weeks should be enough. They all suggest turning the rug over and vacuuming the underside too. Also, watch the fringe! They have a tendency to get caught in the vacuum and can pull and damage the rug. You can gently brush out the fringes by hand.
To make sure your rug wears out evenly, you should rotate your rug at least once a year. This will ensure that wear from traffic and sun fading are distributed throughout your rug and are not concentrated in a specific area.
3. Spot clean, now!
If there is a spill, you should clean it immediately. Depending on the type of spill you facing, follow the appropriate steps:
Blot out the water with paper towels or a clean white cloth. You can place a paper towel or a cloth on the underside and blot out from the top to get the most water out. You can also dry it out with a fan or a hair dryer set on cold/warm (not hot).
With a paper towel, clean cloth, or a spoon if you need to, remove as much as you can. Rinse the stain with cold water. You can do this by sponging it with cold water, placing a cloth or paper towel on the underside, or you can place a plastic dish pan on the underside of your rug, make a hollow on your carpet over the dishpan so water doesn't run in every direction and an pour cold water through your rug. Make sure not to pour too much or your dishpan will overfill!
After the rinse, blot dry and sponge with rug shampoo or home made cleaning solution made of ¼ cup white vinegar, ¼ tsp dishwashing detergent, and 2 cups tepid water. Be careful not to use a stiff brush as this might pull the fibers. Sponge the area with cool water to finish. Let dry thoroughly. You can place something under you rug to help the air circulate.
Pet stains - urine, poop and throw-up:
Pet stains can be hard to deal with. Urine can cause the dyes to run, damage the structure of the rug, and attract moths. The smell is also very hard to remove. You can try to clean up a urine stain the same way you do a Food/Drink spill, just add a cup of white vinegar per gallon to the rinse water. As many rug dyes are acid-fast this will help to prevent the colors from running.
For poop and throw-up, you can scrape up all the foreign material, and sponge the area with a rug shampoo or the homemade cleaning solution listed above. There are also several specialized cleaning products in the market developed specifically for this problem that you can find at your local pet supply store. Just be sure to test the product in a small hidden area of the rug before your attempt to remove the stain.
4. Is it time for a professional?
If you have had your rug for a long time it might be time for a full professional cleaning. Here are a couple tips that can let you know if it's time.
a. After you vacuum, rub your rug with your finger vigorously in a short arc for 10 seconds. If your finger is dirty, your rug needs a deep cleaning.
b. Pull the pile apart and look at the foundation of your rug, if the warp and weft look dirty, the dirt has sunken in deep into your rug where the vacuum can't reach and you should deep clean your rug.
(Image: Natalie Espinosa)