How is Rug Cleaning different than Carpet Cleaning?

This is a question frequently asked by both current and prospective customers looking for information on the rug cleaning services we provide.

Customers want to know what is stopping them from having any of the many companies offering in-home carpet cleaning (think Stanley Steamer / Zerorez) from coming into their home and cleaning their area rugs.

To many, the words rug and carpet are synonyms – two different words that mean the same thing.  When it comes to how to protect, maintain, and clean however; each require a different process to ensure you are maximizing your investment.

First, let’s explore a rough definition of each.


A carpet is a textile floor covering typically consisting of an upper layer of pile attached to a backing.  The pile was traditionally made from wool, but, since the 20th century, synthetic fibers such as polypropylene, nylon or polyester are most common, as these fibers are less expensive than wool.

Carpets are used for a variety of purposes, including insulating a person’s feet from a cold tile or concrete floor. Typically attached to the floor and last 5-7 years (although actual replacement is another story…).


A rug is a heavy textile, made for a wide variety of utilitarian and symbolic purpose. Rugs are generally no bigger than a single room, traditionally do not even span from one wall to another, and are not attached as part of the floor.  Depending on the type and manufacture of your rug, it can last centuries.

Oriental rugs are woven by hand on a loom, with warps, wefts, and pile made mainly of natural fibers like wool, cotton, and silk.  The pile consists of hand-spun or machine-spun strings of yarn, which are knotted into the warp and weft foundation. Usually the pile threads are dyed with various natural or synthetic dyes. Once the weaving has finished, the rug is further processed by fastening its borders, clipping the pile to obtain an even surface, and washing, which may use added chemical solutions to modify the colors.

Today, there are many types of rugs/area rugs. Some are hand-made priceless heirlooms, some are modern hand-made artworks, and some are hand-tufted with a glued backing, and some are entirely machine made.

Now, we’ll explore the different care/maintenance requirements of rugs and carpets.

Carpet Maintenance and Cleaning:

The vast majority of carpet requires the same routine of maintenance but there are of course exceptions.

  • Vacuum 2-3 times per week to keep clean
  • Professionally clean carpets about once a year (depending on traffic) using steam cleaning or hot water extraction method to remove dirt, grime and allergens from your carpets (Stanley Steamer, etc).
  • Keep a bottle of liquid or dried carpet cleaning solution handy for spot cleaning as required. (follow manufacturers directions)

Rug Maintenance and Cleaning:


Do to the diverse nature of area rugs, there is no “one-size-fits-all solution” to ensure you are properly cleaning and maintaining your rug.  Only after describing your rug to a professional, can you understand the specific maintenance and cleaning requirements of your rug.  Typically you can procure this information at purchase but most industry professionals should be able to provide basic care guidelines via email or phone, after receiving a brief description of your rug.  The safest bet, obviously, is to bring the run to a professional to view or have a professional come by your house – especially if the rug is valuable.

Below are a few high-level tips for cleaning and care of your rug.

  • Vacuum rugs regularly (2-3 times per week)
  • Rotate rugs to ensure rugs do not wear unevenly due to high traffic
  • BLOT spills/accidents as soon as possible after they occur.  DO NOT use chemicals or soak the area in water, instead remove the debris from the accident and blot the stain to dry it to avoid damaging the rug.  It can then be treated by a mixture of warm water and a light fabric softener.  Use a clean cloth, dip the cloth in the mixture and BLOT the area of the accident or stain.  Rug should be taken to a professional as soon as possible.
  • Even without spills or stains, rugs should be professionally cleaned about once a year to remove dirt and debris set deeply in fibers and to repair any damage from normal foot traffic and wear and tear.
  • Use a rug pad under your rug to help preserve and extend the life of your rug

The main differences between cleaning rugs and cleaning carpets

  • Carpets are typically steam cleaned while rugs require the cleaning to be commensurate with the type of rug, how its made, what its made from (wool, silk, etc.), what type of dyes were used (natural or synthetic), the age of the rug, condition)
  • Oriental rugs are typically cleaned by
    • using a specialized machine to remove dust and debris from the rug
    • treating specific stains with specialized cleaners that are matched to the materials of the rug – so as not to cause damage
    • submerging the rug entirely in a treated, water-based, solution
    • drying the rug with specialized drying techniques
    • sometimes this process is done several times
  • The process to clean carpets is done in-home by a crew that requires little to no experience. Whereas rugs typically need to be done on site under the care of an experienced professional

Contact a Professional Rug Cleaner in Atlanta

It is always free to contact Atlanta Rug Cleaning & Restoration for a phone consultation.  If you are looking for advice, tips, or recommendations on your specific rug, we are always happy to lend our experience over the phone or via email at no charge.  Visit our Contact page or call/text Darious at (770) 715-9335