For general upkeep of a wool rug, vacuuming regularly should be enough. Because wool hides dirt and dust so well, it might seem that your rug doesn’t need frequent vacuuming, but here's the deal: if you let those particles sit, they’ll dig deeper into the fibers, which can lead to wear and tear. Our rule of thumb: you should vacuum your wool rugs as frequently as you sweep hardwood floors, so about once a week.
The best vacuum for wool rugs is one that you’ll use, so choose one that’s easy to handle and has several attachments so you can use it to clean other surfaces, like hardwoods and your curtains, too. The most important thing to remember about how to clean an area wool rug is to always go with the grain of the pile: rather than moving your vacuum back and forth (which is how most of us were taught to use a rug) use long, one-directional strokes.
You’ll find a lot of recommendations for how to vacuum a shag rug, but our advice is to actually skip the traditional vacuum method. "Most shag rugs cannot be vacuumed without damaging them,” she says, noting that you can use a crevice tool attachment on your shag, but it’s an incredibly slow, painstaking process—one you'd really rather avoid. “You’ll be getting in row by row trying to remove everything caught in between those long strands." Yup, that sounds… incredibly tedious.
If it’s small enough, the easiest way to clean a wool shag area rug is to take it outside and just shake the heck out of it. If you are working with a synthetic shag rug, you can blast it with a leaf-blower, if you have one handy. Washing most shag rugs should be left to the professionals who have the technology to thoroughly clean and dry your rug, however—you don't want them to get moldy on you, after all.
Made from yarn spun from the dried stalk fibers of the corchorus plant, these woven rugs are full of texture and lend a natural warmth to any environment. They’re also great at trapping (and hiding) dust and dirt, and might need a clean more frequently than you think!
Jute rugs can handle vacuuming, but stick to low settings to avoid shedding and wearing down the rug. Unlike with wool, when working with a jute rug, you'll want to make sure you vacuum in different directions to remove any particles trapped in the weave. If you have a small area rug, you can also shake it out to remove any trapped dirt.
When you're considering how to clean a jute rug, remember that jute’s Achilles' heel is water. The dry plant fibers are very absorbent, and can start to mold a mildew as they take on water. This is why jute area rugs are never a good idea for bathrooms, cute as they would look in there. And of course, you should never take a jute rug for a spin in the washing machine.
Although viscose rugs incorporate natural fibers, they undergo a chemical treatment that puts them in the synthetic category. It’s important to know that natural fibers are still at the base of these types of rugs because, as with jute and sisal rugs, water damage is a big concern.
For general upkeep, use a suction-only vacuum cleaner without a brush attachment to prevent pulling up any fibers from your rug.
If you spill plain water on your rug, we recommends taking a big cotton towel and placing it over the damaged area, then placing a heavy object on top, like a hand weight or a gallon of water (this doubles as a good excuse to not use your hand weight for a day). Leave everything as is for 24 hours to let the towel absorb as much of the water stain as possible. “Don’t peek or you will halt the absorbent process. The idea is to have all moisture in those fibers move up into the dry cotton. If you have it pressed down, then this capillary action works best, but peeking stops it."
For other stains, use a thoroughly wrung-out sponge that’s been soaked in a solution that’s one part vinegar to two parts water, and blot the stain. The idea here is that we're getting the vinegar into the rug without adding too much more moisture to the stain—that's why you don’t want to spray the vinegar solution directly onto the rug. Dry by pressing down with a cotton towel, and then use the weighted method above.
There is both good and bad news when it comes to taking care of a polypropylene rug: cleaning these types of rugs should be easy, as they are virtually stain-proof and won’t be damaged by most rug cleaning solutions. The drawback with polypropylene rugs is that they don’t hide dirt and dust the way wool rugs do. They also trap these particles really well, and you’ll need to invest in a vacuum cleaner with a very powerful motor to try and get it well and truly clean.
Unlike most of the rugs we’ve talked about so far, these synthetic rugs can handle some industrial-strength cleaning. You can always rent one yourself if you're up for the adventure, but the truth is, professional cleaners know how to clean an area rug with a steam cleaner much more efficiently than a novice, so it’s often better if you leave the heavy-duty clean for them. Although if you want to take up steam cleaning your rugs as a hobby, go for it—your friends will love you.