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Which Method Cleans Best

Dry Foam:

The carpet cleaner applies shampoo to your rug, allows it to dry, and then, without rinsing, sucks the dried shampoo crystals into a vacuum.  Can you imagine applying shampoo to your hair, allowing it to dry and then removing the shampoo from your head with a vacuum?  This method leaves dirty chemical residue in your rug, which not only contributes to faster resoiling of the rug, but also sticks on to any kids, pets, or feet that come across it.

Absorbent Pad (bonnet cleaning):

This method is similar to dry foam, except that the company sets a large cotton bonnet on your rug and with a floor polishing buffer machine on top “buffs” the rug.  The rotating motion causes the bonnet to absorb dirt from your rug.  This method is also called bonnet cleaning.  Bonnet cleaning is like trying to use a large cotton towel or mop to rub the dirt out of your rug.  It’s not very effective as a “deep cleaning” method.

Dry, Absorbent Powder:

The dry-compound method spreads a moist, absorbent powder through the carpet.  The powder is allowed to dry and is then sucked into a vacuum.  This method leaves dry sponge particles at the base of the rug fibres, and, because the rug is not rinsed, this method is not very effective.

Hot Water Extraction (aka “steam cleaning”):

This is a fancy way of saying that a hot water cleaning solution under high pressure is forced into your rug and then sucked out of the fibres.  Many broadloom carpet manufacturers recommend this method as the best way to clean fitted carpets … but this is not a safe method to clean Oriental rugs.  Natural fibre rugs (wool, cotton or silk) should NEVER be cleaned with hot water, and should NEVER be cleaned with chemicals developed for use on synthetic fitted carpets.  The heat will cause non-colourfast dyes in a rug to bleed (or to be stripped out of the rug) and can cause shrinkage.  The high alkalinity of certain on-site cleaning solutions (and the fact that depending on the technician and equipment 10-30% of their solution will be left behind) will cause some rugs to change colour, bleed, or fade.

Think about your wool or cotton sweater, or your silk blouse … you would never throw this into a washing machine with hot water and aggressive detergents – they’d fade and shrink.  Instead, you would hand wash them in cold water, and would use vinegar to “set” the dyes and prevent fading.  It’s the same with your wool, cotton, or silk rugs.

Dry Solvent Cleaning

If a rug has very unstable dyes and cannot be wet cleaned (very rare); dry solvent can be used (subject to colourfastness). The rug still needs to be cleaned by hand. (not in a dry cleaning machine) and the rug should still be properly dusted .

Full immersion wet wash:

This is the method recommended by rug retailers, rug conservators, and rug collectors … and is the method that has been used by rug weavers for thousands of years.  The process incorporates five key steps:

  • Dusting: vacuuming or shaking out the pounds of dirt in the rug’s foundation.
  • Dye Setting: using vinegar to set the dyes during the wash.
  • Shampoo: using products safe for cleaning rug fibres.
  • Rinsing: thoroughly rinsing the fibres clean.
  • Drying: removing the excess water and drying using a combination of heat, airflow and dehumidification under carefully controlled conditions.

There is a big difference between someone who jumps in a tub and scrubs and rinses off the dirt and soap, and someone who takes only a sponge bath. 

The full immersion wet wash method is the most thorough way of cleaning rugs, and is also the safest method because it does not incorporate harsh chemicals or high heat, and it thoroughly rinses the fibres clean.  Furthermore, because the other methods are done in your home, they eliminate the two most important steps in the cleaning – the dustingand the rinsing.  This means you not only have a rug that has mud in its foundation, but also chemical residue all throughout its fibres.

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