With so much walking, playing, rolling, and crawling involved, it is no wonder rugs get so dirty. Most homeowners maintain a regular rug cleaning routine that involves vacuuming at regular intervals to freshen the rug’s look or clean up a mess. However, what most do not know is that that’s merely enough to enjoy a germ-free rug for your kids to play on.
According to experts, rugs can collect allergens, fungi, and mold spores and can even be reservoirs of viruses or bacteria. Some of the bacteria that can find a nice, welcome spot in rugs are Salmonella (it’s not only related to contaminated food – it can also be tracked into your rugs on the bottom of your shoes), Norovirus (aka Norwalk Virus), and Campylobacter that cause digestive problems, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and more dangerous issues, especially to people with compromised immune systems. And, since most of them can also become air-borne, every time someone walks on the rug, they migrate to other locations in the home. Add this to pet dander and around 1.5 million cells humans’ shed every hour that bacteria feast on, and you start to get the picture.
So, how do you disinfect your rug?
Step #1. Vacuum Thoroughly
Be meticulous when vacuuming your rugs so that you actually remove shed skin, dust mites, dander, and whatever other particles bacteria feed on. Ensure your vacuum cleaner has a multi-stage filtration system that captures micro-particulates and dust mites instead of shooting them back into the air you and your loved ones breathe. So, take your time and go over the rug with many passes for as long as you can, a cou
ple of times per week.
Step #2. Use Door Mats
Door mats outside your door (and any other exterior door in your home) are doing a great job cutting down on dirt and mud that enters your home and makes your rugs look dingy. And, considering that when we walk outside we step on all sorts of things, from dog urine to mouse feces (although we don’t realize it), walking inside the home with the shoes on is like bringing bacteria and viruses to dinner. Now, if you can’t implement a no-shoes-inside-the-home rule, the best thing you can do is get yourself some antimicrobial treated door mats.
Step 3: Sanitize
1. The Natural Way
You will need:(1) White Vinegar, (2) Steam Cleaner, and (3) Hot Water.
White vinegar has many miraculous attributes. One of them is to disinfect any surface or fabric. Using vinegar is an inexpensive, Eco-friendly, and non-toxic way to get rid of germs from your rugs and particularly handy when you want a quick fix. Plus, it is 100% safe for both children and pets.
Mix the hot water with the vinegar and fill the detergent vessel of the steam cleaner with the solution, making sure you don’t overfill. If the machine’s instructions mention no soap-to-water ratios, you can use one part of each. If the ratio is given, just replace the portion of soap with white vinegar. And, for severe cases, use no water, just vinegar (full strength vinegar).
Run the steam cleaner over the rug, always following manufacturer’s directions, and allow to dry completely before you start walking on it again (maybe clean the rug before going to bed?). At first, the smell of the vinegar will be intense. Worry not. It will dissipate as it dries.
1. If the smell of the vinegar is still present after the rug has dried, some baking soda will save you day. Sprinkle the rug (completely dry – otherwise the baking soda will react with the vinegar and create a mess) with it and let it sit for a few minutes (and up to an hour). Then, vacuum it up.
2. Wet rugs attract dirt like a magnet. If you can’t avoid foot traffic on the rug before it dries, lay some towels down (use some heavy duty ones). However, this will slow down the drying process so make sure you remove the towels when there is no traffic so that it dries more quickly.
2. With Commercial Cleaners
If you can’t stand the smell of vinegar, there are many commercial cleaners that will help sanitize your rug as you clean it. You can find them in the same areas where you can get steam vacuums and carpet cleaners.
However, always spot test the rug before you do anything, even if that’s treating your rug with vinegar. Apply vinegar or commercial cleaner on an inconspicuous area, and then blot with a clean cloth (the area should be wet at this point). If you see no color transfer or wash out to the cloth, then leave the rug as it is and return the following day to see if there is any damage done throughout the night. If there is no noticeable damage, you are free to use vinegar or the cleaner you got from the market.
One of the products that come backed up with the approval of the Carpet and Rug Institute as a highly effective carpet cleaner is Majestic Carpet Sanitizer, but there are many others in the market that do the job well, too. If you use Majestic, you will need only 1oz/gallon to say goodbye to germs, including H1N1 and E.coli (it is super concentrated), as well as the mold related to water damage and basement floods. The only thing you should keep in mind when using commercial carpet cleaning and sanitizing products is that you will probably need to purchase another product that will help restore the rug’s pH after the treatment and bring back its old shine and softness. Also, most of them can be used on other items, such as mattresses and pillows so make sure you read the label at the back of the product and then throw it in your bag next time you go on vacation and want a germ-free place to sleep!
3. With a Steam Mop
Instead of a steam cleaner, you could also use a super-heated steam mop to disinfect the rug. Many models even come with a carpet attachment to help you move the mop across the rug’s fibers easily. Of course, steam mops are not as effective as steam cleaners, but the heat released from the high-temperature steam will kill bacteria for sure since it penetrates deep into the fibers of the rug and kills the overwhelming majority of dust mites and germs (some models claim 99.9% efficiency). The procedure is similar to vacuuming. You slowly cover the entire surface of the rug and then open the window or use fans to speed the drying time, if you can’t prevent foot traffic on the rug while it’s still damp.
And, don’t forget: Don’t smoke while the rug is still wet or the smell will set in the rug!
To summarize, weekly deep vacuuming, annual sanitizing, and effective door mats can indeed help eliminate dust mite, allergens, and germs so you and your family and friends can enjoy great indoor air quality and a health-promoting environment.