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How to Get the Summer Smells Out without Causing Damage

Summer’s here and the weather is warming up. Everybody is getting outside into the sun, the pool, the wilderness, maybe heading to the beach. And everybody’s coming home with the summer smells — sunscreen, chlorine, bug spray, ocean, and lots and lots of body odor! The heat is also going to warm up all the bacteria, mildew and other odor-causing particles that have been dormant in your house. Your Oriental rugs are not immune to those smells. Let’s talk about how to clean a smelly rug – particularly Oriental rugs that require special care to avoid damage.

What Exactly is an Oriental Rug? 

A true, traditional Oriental rug is heavy textile usually hand-knotted on a loom using wool, silk, or cotton yarn. Oriental rugs often get their color from dyes made with vegetables, plants and insects. They are called “Oriental” because of their countries of origin, including Afghanistan and Iran (traditionally Persia), China, Tibet, Turkey, India, Pakistan. 

Moroccan rugs are slightly different from Oriental rugs, not only because of where they’re made but also because in Morocco rugs tend to serve a more utilitarian purpose and are therefore less colorful, using simpler designs. How to clean a Moroccan rug will be similar to how to clean an oriental rug. They may also be thicker if they come from the mountains, or thinner if from the desert. Persian rugs are slightly different again, with a different design pattern than other rugs. Because they come from Iran, all Persian rugs are considered Oriental, but not all Oriental rugs are Persian and will vary in color, pattern, design, textile and pile depending on where they were created. 

How to Clean an Oriental Rug: Start with An Important Caution

Oriental rugs made with wool, cotton or silk must be treated very differently when you’re cleaning them. Wool can shrink, so you want to avoid using any kind of hot water or steam. Wondering how to clean a smelly rug made of wool or cotton? That requires the use of an acidic detergent with a PH5 level, to avoid fading any of the rich color of your rug. For high-end Oriental rugs, it really is in your best interest to let Zerorez® clean them. But, if you do decide to clean a rug at home that is made of these fibers with that kind of detergent, be sure to clean in a well ventilated area and don’t over-saturate it as it can cause brown staining. 

How do you tell what kind of fiber was used to make your rug? Just like furniture, newer Oriental rugs will have tags telling you the fiber. For older rugs, while there are tests you can do to tell you, we recommend you consult a professional to tell you exactly what you’re cleaning and how to clean it.

Tip #1: Wrinkled Rug Hack

Have you ever Googled how to clean a living room rug, followed all the steps,  doing all the right things only to find there’s a wrinkle or buckle in your rug? There’a a hack for that: natural sunlight will help to relax the fiber and get it out.  

You want to be careful about exposing your oriental rug to too much sunlight, as it can cause its brilliant colors to fade, but a little ultraviolet light can also kill bacteria and fungus. Leave the rug outside in the sun for no more than a few hours, then flip it over to the backside to expose both sides. The fresh air won’t hurt it either.

Kids playing with dog in oriental rug

Tip #2: Simple Solutions to Know How to Clean a Smelly Rug

Some of our advice for getting rid of odors from your rugs is similar to the guidance we give for how to remove odors from carpet. When trying to figure out how to clean a rug stain, the first thing to do is to find the source of your smell–food, dog urine, mildew, or some other contaminant. If it is a spot that needs to be cleaned, time is not your friend. 

As we’ve discussed before, how to clean a rug with dog urine, a glass of red wine or any other liquid soaked into it most effectively is to address it immediately. Blot (not rub!) the spot from the outer edge in, using a clean white or light-colored towel, so you can see that you’re getting up the spill. When you’ve gotten as much of the liquid up as you can (or if your problem is mildew) then you can start working on the tricks we use to get stink out of a carpet for how to clean a living room rug.

Tip #3: How to Clean a Rug with Baking Soda, Oriental-style

Baking soda is a really cheap, easy way to remove the odor from a rug that won’t damage the fibers. Simply sprinkle a thick layer of dry baking soda on the rug. Do it before everyone goes to bed at night so it can rest there undisturbed (plus, who wants to clean up the baking soda tracked all over the house?). 

If you know the odor is coming from deeper in the pile of the rug, brush the baking soda across the rug so it gets deeper into the fiber. You can leave baking soda on the rug for up to 2 days. But when you’ve let it rest, shake as much of the baking soda out of the rug as you can and then run a vacuum over the rug. Don’t vacuum first as the baking soda could cause damage to the machine. 

If one baking soda application doesn’t answer how to clean a smelly rug, try again. You won’t damage the rug by doing it all over again. Does vacuuming seem too simple to be true? Actually, no. Regular vacuuming of your oriental rugs can keep odor particles from settling into the fibers. Just removing the particles can go a long way.

Tip #4: How to Clean Rug Stains and Odor with Soap and Water

It might sound like a scary idea to clean a rug at home yourself, but with the right information it could be easier than you might think. If you’re dealing with a smelly rug, you’ll probably go to any lengths to take care of it. All you need is water, rug detergent or a mild dish soap, gloves, a soft-bristled brush, garden hose and a squeegee. 

After you’ve run a vacuum across the rug and shaken the loose debris out of it, color-test a small area with some water and detergent for color-fastness (be sure to read the detergent instructions, but always err on the side of caution–less is always more when it comes to shampooing a rug). If the color in your rug starts to run, stop what you’re doing. If the amount of color that bleeds is minimal or it doesn’t run at all, use a sponge or soft scrub brush to massage the water and detergent into the fiber until you see suds. 

Don’t panic if a wool rug sheds a little–that’s totally normal. Once you’ve got some suds, let the detergent sit for a few minutes and then rinse it thoroughly. Drying your rug thoroughly before you put it back on the floor is very important to avoid any secondary mildew problems.

Asking yourself, “How often should I clean my rugs?” Good Question!

This is one of the most common questions we get at Zerorez®. The frequency of deep cleaning your oriental rugs depends on how you care for them – and in this case, how badly they smell. If you vacuum regularly, take care of stains immediately, rotate your rugs so they wear evenly, you shouldn’t have to do a deep clean more than once every 1-3 years. We also recommend that for high-end oriental rugs made from wool or silk, that you let us do the heavy lifting to avoid damaging or ruining them. 

Need More Information? 

Have you read all this, determined it was beyond your clean rug diy skills, and asked yourself, how much does it cost to get my oriental rugs professionally cleaned? Zerorez® can help you get a free estimate on how to clean an oriental rug professionally. You can also contact us to find out about our current Monthly Specials on Residential and Commercial Cleaning Services. Call Zerorez® DC Metro at 703-382-1221 — or book a carpet cleaning appointment online. Does Zerorez® really work? Check out our Zerorez® reviews and you’ll find the answer is a resounding yes!

We invite you to connect with Zerorez® DC on Facebook to find the latest Zerorez® carpet cleaning specials or to see examples of our upholstery cleaning service! We can also be found on LinkedIn for business and commercial accounts — and get all our great cleaning tips on our blog, The Residue Chronicles!

Locally owned and operated Zerorez® DC and Fredericksburg“The Right Way To Clean” in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area, Stafford County (including Falmouth, White Oak, and Wallace’s Corner), Maryland (including Bowie, Annapolis, and College Park) and the Northern Virginia Region (including Burke, Herndon, and McLean) since 2015.

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