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The Effective (and Totally Free) Rug-Cleaning Secret I Learned from My Dad

While not for everyday use, this technique is the best for giving your rug a deep cleaning.

Apartment Therapy

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Photo by Liz Calka

Most of my housekeeping habits come from my German mother. She is the queen of clean and the reason my home is mostly spick-and-span. (Although it will never be as tidy as hers, ever.) Still, I have to give credit where credit is due: My favorite trick for ridding rugs of dirt, dog hair, and whatever else ends up embedded in my treasured carpets comes from my dad (who is Irish and English, if that matters).

To say that my dad has a penchant for nice rugs is an understatement. And I have luckily been the recipient of a considerable number of hand-me-downs. This term, also, is something of a misrepresentation. These are really, really nice rugs that probably cost more than anything else in my apartment and they deserve to be properly tended to.

Photo by Diana Paulson

Regular maintenance is a given, especially if you are a pet parent. (If you are also a mostly lucky owner of a cat, dog, or other fuzz-bearing creature, then you know about the hair-everywhere phenomenon whereby there is always, always fur to be swept or vacuumed.) What I am talking about here, though, is more of a special-occasion cleaning. Say, part of your monthly or seasonal regimen.

Are you ready to find out what it is?

My Dad’s Ingenious Hack for Cleaning Rugs

Here’s what you do: First, you vacuum your rug just like you would ordinarily. Then, you flip your rug upside-down and vacuum it again. This has the effect of sucking dirt out, but also (somehow?) pushing dirt from the front side of the rug. If you lift up your rug, you’ll see. (Warning: The first time you do this, it may be a little gross.)

To avoid getting all that dirt back in and on your rug, you should fold up half of the rug so that it sits on the other half, vacuum the dirt from the floor and then repeat on the other side.

Now, you vacuum the front side again. And then you flip it over again. If you flip the rug up and there’s dirt on the floor again, it means you’ve gotta keep going. And going. Until no dirt gets pushed out.

Admittedly, this is a rather painstaking process and if you, like me, have multiple rugs (I have six in one apartment!), this may be an afternoon activity. But it is worth it!

P.S.: When I told my mom I was writing this article about my dad’s trick, she had to chime in that the way they cleaned rugs in Germany was to bring them outside and beat them. If you have the luxury of an outdoor space for doing so, this is another option.

Geraldine Campbell is the Managing Editor at The Kitchn. She loves semi-colons, em dashes, and serial commas. She lives in Brooklyn with her dog, Charlie.

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This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy and was published January 13, 2019. This article is republished here with permission.

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