Have you ever spilled red wine on your favorite rug and wondered, “Can I just take this to the dry cleaners?” Or maybe your antique Persian rug is looking a little dull and dirty – is dropping it off at the neighborhood dry cleaners enough to restore its beauty? Rug cleaning can be confusing, but this guide will walk you through everything you need to know about dry cleaning rugs versus professional rug cleaning methods.
When it comes to keeping your rugs looking their best, dry cleaning and professional rug cleaning are two of the most common options. But what exactly do those terms mean? And how do you know which is the right choice for your specific rug? Let’s break it down.
The Pros of Dry Cleaning Rugs
Dropping off your rug at the dry cleaners may seem like an easy solution, and it does have some advantages. Here are some of the main pros of dry cleaning rugs:
It’s Convenient and Easy
This is probably the biggest draw of dry cleaning for many people. You can easily drop off your rug when it’s convenient for you, then pick it up a few days later – no hassle involved! No need to clear your schedule for a rug cleaning appointment or wait around for a technician. The dry cleaners does all the work for you.
It Can Remove Stains and Dirt Buildup
Dry cleaning uses chemical solvents to break down and remove stains and dirt from fabric. So if your rug has a few nasty spots and spills ground into it, a dry cleaner may be able to eliminate them. The solvents help release the stains so they can be cleaned away.
It Deodorizes Rugs
Along with cleaning away dirt, dry cleaning can also eliminate odors that have built up in your rug over time. Things like pet smells, smoke, and musty odors can linger in fibers. The solvents used in dry cleaning help remove these stubborn smells.
It’s Less Work Than Home Cleaning
Let’s be honest – cleaning a large rug at home is hard work! You have to move furniture, carry the heavy rug outside, and put some serious elbow grease into scrubbing out stains. Taking it to a dry cleaner saves you all that effort.
Dry Cleaners Use Specialized Detergents
Professional dry cleaners have access to heavy-duty chemical detergents that you can’t just buy at the store. These specialized solutions help sanitize, deodorize, and clean rugs more effectively and safely than typical household carpet cleaners.
The Downsides of Dry Cleaning Rugs
Dry cleaning is convenient, but it isn’t necessarily the best cleaning method for every rug. There are a few drawbacks to consider:
Not All Materials Can Be Dry Cleaned
Wool, cotton, silk, and synthetic rugs are usually fine for dry cleaning. But more delicate natural fibers like jute, sisal, or seagrass may be damaged by the chemical solvents used. Always check your rug’s care label before dry cleaning.
Improper Methods Can Damage Rugs
While many dry cleaners accept rugs, not all have the specialized equipment and training needed to properly clean them. The tumbling, agitation, and drying processes require adjustments for rug cleaning. Without the right techniques, dry cleaning machines can destroy fringe, cause colors to bleed and run, or even shred rug fibers.
It’s Less Thorough Than Wet Cleaning
Dry cleaning relies on chemical solvents to release dirt – but it doesn’t wash the rug with water like other methods do. So dry cleaning alone often can’t get your rugs as clean as a thorough wet cleaning. Ground-in dirt and stains may still linger after dry cleaning.
It Doesn’t Clean As Deeply
In addition to not using water, dry cleaning doesn’t use any kind of deep scrubbing or agitation on the rug. So it can’t penetrate into the base of the fibers or backing like other cleaning methods. Any dirt below the surface is likely to be left behind after dry cleaning.
The Cost Adds Up Over Time
Dropping off a rug at the dry cleaner a couple times a year can get pricey. You’ll usually pay at least $50 per rug, if not more. Do that a few times a year and the costs really add up, especially for larger rugs.
When Dry Cleaning Your Rug Makes Sense
Okay, so dry cleaning has some drawbacks. But that doesn’t mean it should be ruled out completely. Here are the cases when taking your rug to the dry cleaners is a good option:
For Lightly Soiled Rugs
If you have a rug that just needs some surface-level cleaning, dry cleaning can work great. Spot clean any stains at home first, then let the dry cleaners handle the overall light dirt and refresh the colors.
If The Rug Is Labeled “Dry Clean Only”
Some delicate or antique rugs are actually labeled “dry clean only” – so in those cases, you should follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Make sure you go to a reputable dry cleaner with rug experience though.
For Valuable or Antique Rugs
Speaking of antique rugs, dry cleaning is a good option for these and other highly valuable rugs. You want to be extremely careful with fragile fabrics and dyes, so the gentler dry cleaning process minimizes risks.
Finding a Rug Dry Cleaner You Can Trust
If you do decide dry cleaning is the way to go for your rug, make sure you find a cleaning service you can trust to do the job right. Here’s what to look for:
Check Reviews and Experience
Find a dry cleaner who has specialized experience cleaning area rugs – not all do! And read online reviews to confirm they have a solid track record with customers.
Ask About Their Process
Do they dry clean rugs onsite, or send them to a rug facility? What equipment do they use? What solvents and detergents? Get details to understand their capabilities.
Get References From Past Rug Cleaning Customers
Any good rug dry cleaner should be able to provide references from happy clients they’ve cleaned rugs for in the past. Check in with a few references to hear firsthand experiences.
Why Professional Rug Cleaning Is Usually Best
Now that you know the pros and cons of dry cleaning rugs, you may be wondering about professional rug cleaning services. Here’s a look at why they provide the most thorough cleaning for most rugs:
Inspection and Assessment
Professional rug cleaners start by closely inspecting your rug to assess its materials, construction, and the types of soiling. This informs the proper cleaning method.
Dust and Dirt Removal
Before any washing, your rug will be vacuumed to remove loose dirt and dust. This prevents it from turning to mud when the rug is wet.
Pre-Treatment of Stains and Soiled Areas
Any visible stains, spills, or heavily soiled areas are pre-treated with specialized solutions tailored to that type of spot. This breaks it down so washing can remove it more easily.
Washing With Mild Shampoo
Your rug is gently washed with a pH-neutral rug shampoo that is safe for most fabrics. The shampoo loosens embedded dirt and stains from deep in the fibers.
Thorough Drying and Dehumidifying
After washing, wet rugs are immediately placed in specialized drying chambers that fully dry the rug and remove all moisture to prevent mildew.
Final Vacuuming and Grooming
Once dry, your rug is vacuumed again to raise the nap and remove any residual dirt. Fringe and edging are groomed to finish the process.
Proper Facilities for Washing and Drying
Professional rug cleaning services have the right equipment to fully submerge and wash rugs of any size, then dry them completely – which households lack.
Tips for Caring for Your Rug After Cleaning
Your rug will look fantastic after a professional cleaning, but you’ll need to take steps to keep it that way. Here are some useful tips:
- Vacuum frequently using a powerful vacuum
- Rotate your rugs to evenly distribute wear
- Use rug pads and chair pads under heavy furniture
- Blot spills immediately to prevent stains
- Avoid DIY stain removal – call the pros
When to Choose Professional Rug Cleaning Over Dry Cleaning
Here are the main scenarios when you’re better off choosing a professional rug cleaning service rather than dry cleaning:
For Heavily Soiled Rugs
If your rug is covered in stains, ground-in dirt, or odors that dry cleaning couldn’t tackle, go for professional cleaning. The deep washing process will get it cleaner.
If There Are Pet Stains or Urine Odors
The moisture, specialized treatments, and thorough drying of professional rug cleaning are much better at removing pet urine smells and stains than dry cleaning.
If the Rug Needs Complete Drying
Wet cleaning means the rug must be completely dried to prevent mildew. Professional services thoroughly dry rugs, while dry cleaners may not.
To Avoid DIY Stain Removal
Don’t risk DIY stain removal like rental machines – call the professionals to safely treat and clean stained areas of your rug.
For a Deeper, More Thorough Cleaning
With full submersion washing and extraction, professional cleaning removes dirt trapped deep in the fibers that dry cleaning can’t reach.
The Bottom Line
While dry cleaning works for some rugs in certain situation, professional wet cleaning methods are superior when it comes to deep cleaning and thoroughly sanitizing rugs. Dry cleaners also don’t have the proper facilities to wash and completely dry large rugs. For valuable rugs you want to preserve for years to come, your best bet is calling in the professional rug cleaning experts.