Alright, we’ve got to talk about it. When it comes to keeping your home clean, most people pay attention to hard surfaces. But what about your rug? According to Phllip M. Tierno Jr., PH.D., clinical professor at New York University, a well-known microbiologist, and author of The Secret Life of Germs, the rug on your floor is one of the dirtiest parts of your home. All the more concerning if you have pets or if you wear shoes inside your house.
What’s in Your Rug?
Dr. Tierno’s research indicates that your rug hosts roughly 200,000 bacteria per square inch, making it 4,000 times dirtier than your toilet seat. Yes, you heard me right. Toilet seat. Between skin cells shedding, pollen, pet dander, and random food hitting your soft rug, you’ve got a fabulous environment to grow and breed bacteria.
So what kinds of bacteria could be lurking under your feet? According to Dr. Tierno, E.coli, salmonella, and/or staphylococcus love to hang out in this environment. Not surprisingly, these viruses are linked to a host of illnesses, with symptoms ranging from nausea and vomiting and all the way to boil-covered staph infections. Yep, the same bacteria you associate with the gym-locker room floor could be in your living room.
I’m a designer who loves nothing more than a gorgeous pattern on the floor, but not even I am willing to compromise cleanliness for style. So, let’s get to how you can keep your rugs and carpets soft and bacteria-free.
Your Rug Cleaning Solutions, Explained
Vacuuming is a good start, especially for weekly maintenance. However, most vacuums only penetrate the top layer of your carpet, leaving the lower layers untouched. To help combat this, experts recommend that you vacuum both sides of your rug to help get some of the dirt and dust that’s been trapped on the bottom layer.
2. Steam Cleaning
Dean Carter of Carter’s Carpet Restoration suggests getting your carpet professionally cleaned at least once annually to keep it in good shape. Steam cleaning, or “hot water extraction” as it’s known in the biz, is great because it not only gets rid of dust and dirt, but also sanitizes your rug, getting rid of the bacteria we discussed earlier.
If you decide to go the steam cleaner route, you have two options: get your own steamer or rent one. These steamers will generally run between $120 to $350, depending on the brand and features included (like scrubbing bristles and a large water tank). If you’re like me who lives in an apartment that barely has room for your winter jacket, you may want to look into renting.
Rental services generally charge per square foot, costing roughly around $0.25 per square foot, depending on your local rates. So, if you live in a 750-square-foot apartment with wall-to-wall carpet, that’s $187.50 for a one-time cleaning. For that price, you could buy a steamer, but then again, consider where you’d store it. If you just have two 10×14 rugs, that would only come out to $70 for both.
Most companies ask for between 6 to 10 hours of drying time after a cleaning before it feels dry to the touch, but you can walk across it in the meantime if you don’t mind wet feet.
3. Rug Shampoo and Powders
One of the pros to shampooing your rug is that you can do it yourself. Carter suggests keeping it natural as he’s seen some cleaners on the market leave residues on some of his clients’ carpets. He suggests going with just water and some abrasion, like a brush or sponge, for a light cleaning, or a mixture of water with dish detergent or white vinegar for tougher stains.
Sprinkling and then vacuuming up salt can work to soak up fresh stains, but if you prefer something off the shelf, a powder cleaner can work well too ($12 – $26). These cleaners are generally meant to spot-clean spills and stains and don’t do a ton to sanitize, but you can use them in between other methods of cleaning to keep your carpet fresh.
4. Invest in a Washable Rug
This is the easiest and cheapest option to clean and sanitize your rug, as your only investment is the upfront cost of your rug and whatever detergent you’ll be using. Pop your rug in a load once or twice a month with a mild detergent, dry on low heat or hang-dry, and you’re all set!
If you haven’t had a washable rug before, check out Ruggable’s machine-washable rugs. You don’t have to sacrifice style for function, as Ruggable has tons of great options perfect for any style or space.
Whichever kind of cleaning method you decide to go with, give yourself a pat on the back. Many people aren’t cleaning their rug, so no matter what you do, it’ll be cleaner than when you started.