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I’m a devoted dog owner who’s also crazy about clean carpets — a complicated state of affairs. So I’m always up for advice on how to keep rugs clean when you have pets. Tracked-in dirt and even less mentionable messes come along with my cute bundles of ever-wagging love, but with a little work (and some expert advice), it is possible to balance dog parent life and clean rugs.
Simplemost spoke with Sara San Angelo, founder of The Cleaning Lady and a housekeeper for over 20 years, and Jade McNeil, an interior designer and owner of Jade McNeil Interiors, on their best advice for keeping rugs clean when you have pets.
1. Buy the Right Rug
According to McNeil, the best type of rug for pets is partially about what the rug is made from. When buying a new one, she recommended looking for rugs with stain-resistant fibers and opting for short pile over long which will make vacuuming easier. Also, she pointed to wool and nylon rugs as some of the most durable and easiest to spot clean.
In addition to fabrics, McNeil said to choose darker colors and patterned rugs which will assist with disguising intractable stains, and when you can, opt for machine washable options.
For example, area rugs from Ruggable can be tossed in the wash, and they come in two pieces: a rug cover with stain-resistant fibers (made from polyester with a polyurethane water-resistant barrier) and a non-slip pad underneath that comes in various heights. When the rug gets dirty, simply remove the cover and clean it in the washer and dryer.
McNeil herself even told us that Ruggable rugs are great for those with pets.
Ruggable isn’t your only option, though. Revival Rugs also has a line of area rugs that can be tossed in the washing machine. They recommend taking their larger rugs — sizes 5 by 8 feet and above — to a professional laundromat with a 60-pound washing machine, though. A 4-by-6-foot rug like the one pictured costs about $199 and is made from recycled polyester, recycled denim, wool, and cotton.
According to Revival’s website, you should wash your rug with like colors on the delicate setting, using one tablespoon of gentle detergent, and then line dry it. There’s no cover to remove. It’s simply light and foldable enough to be washed like clothes! Of course, you can vacuum them between washings as well.
2. Protect Your Rugs
McNeil says she typically stays away from rugs made from hard-to-clean materials like viscose unless its sealed with Fibershield. Most carpet sellers will offer this for an additional fee.
“It adds a protective coating to the rug for easier cleaning and lasts about 6 months,” McNeil said.
As for other fabrics like silk, McNeil said they take more time to clean, and anything too plush is also going to be a challenge due to the individual fibers. But if you already own them, there is a method of protection you can try. A carpet protector like Scotchgard contains a chemical that resists soil and stains, that’ll provide a decent measure of protection and means you don’t need to go out and buy a new rug.
3. Catch Messes at the Door
To prevent pets (and, let’s face it, people) from tracking in all kinds of dirt and germs, consider investing in a dirt-trapping, microfiber door mat that can be placed just inside your entryway, in hallways or wherever you need extra carpet protection.
“You want to place a mat inside of your entryways and doors to the outside,” said San Angelo. “This way, if your dog has muddy feet or if it is raining, the mat will help collect some of that water and dirt.”
San Angelo is also a big advocate of placing dog beds throughout your home, which encourages your dog to lie on the bed rather than your carpet.
“I have so many dog beds around my house,” San Angelo said, “you would think that it is just the dogs that live here!”
You can opt for a mat like the Muddy Mat which is machine washable and doesn’t slip on either tile or hardwood floors. Plus, it comes in different sizes and colors to match your decor.
In addition to mats, though, you can use a Jenseits paw washer cup as soon as your furry best friend walks in the door.
Shortly after getting my poodle mix, I discovered his backyard digging habit — which launched me into a habit of thrice-weekly dog baths. Sometimes, he’d get so much mud on his paws that I had to carry him straight to the upstairs bathroom tub.
Then, I found the paw washer cup. Now, when Jake shows up at the back door with mittens of dirt, I grab this cup and add warm water and a squirt of shampoo. Then, I take his paws one at a time, thrusting each one down and up inside it a few times.
How do I know the silicone bristles are doing their job? His paws emerge wet but clean, and when I pour the cup out in the sink, the water is very, very brown. Ick — but better down the drain than on my rug.
4. Have a Good Vacuum on Hand
Regular vacuuming sessions are a must, though how often to vacuum depends on how much your pet sheds. McNeil recommended vacuuming at least once a week.
During shedding seasons (often once in the spring and once in the fall), you may have to bring out the vacuum more often. And as for deep cleaning carpets? You may want to schedule a regular carpet cleaning with a professional every year or so.
A powerful vacuum like this Bissell PowerClean Rewind Pet Vacuum is essential. It works on both carpet and hard floors and has an automatic cord rewind that you’ll appreciate when you’re done and just want to put the thing away neatly.
“This is my personal vacuum and I love it!” said San Angelo. “Every time I vacuum I dump out enough fur and dander to cover a Pomeranian.”
San Angelo noted that whatever vacuum you buy, make sure it has good suction and special attachments for picking up pet hair.
5. Be Ready to Tackle Tough Stains
I wish I didn’t have to use this product as much as I do, but my Boston terrier apparently has a bladder the size of a gum ball. If I wake up in the morning to a wet spot on the rug, I sigh deeply and grab the Nature’s Miracle.
I soak the stain, allow it to set for 15 minutes and blot it up with a cloth. When it dries, it’s gone. McNeil also uses Nature’s Miracle — and recommended it to her clients.
This solution is bacteria-based and produces enzymes when it mixes with an organic source like pet urine, feces or vomit. The enzymes work on this food source until it’s gone.
“It’s one of the best products out there that gets rid of stains and smells,” McNeil said.
Having an at-home wet-vac is also an essential appliance for those who have pets. I was pleased to learn that San Angelo owns a Bissell, the same brand I have. She recommended the Crosswave All-in-One Multisurface Wet Dry Vac for hard floors and area rugs, because it vacuums and washes at the same time.
I’ve had a good experience with the Bissell Pro Carpet Cleaner, which leaves my carpet smelling fresh and clean — and allows me to empty a tank full of brown water down the sink when I’m done. Good riddance!
6. Don’t Neglect Your Hardwood Floors
When it comes to cleaning hard floors that have been soiled by pets, things are a lot easier. After all, carpet absorbs. Hardwoods don’t.
When a pet makes a mess on the floor, there are various floor cleaners you can use, but not all of them are particularly healthy for your pet. Several common floor cleaner ingredients can pose a threat, so it’s important to check your labels before spraying down a floor.
The Bona hardwood floor cleaner is especially well-suited for pet owners because its plant-derived ingredients are safe and biodegradable. Vacuum first, then mist the floor and wipe up messes with this cleaner.
The company also has an all-in-one cleaning mop, the Bona Spray Mop for Hardwood Floors, which includes this cleaner in a refillable cartridge along with a washable microfiber pad.
7. Make Sure You Get the Odd Spots on Stairs and Edges
Vacuuming the stairs is such an arduous job — which is why I simply don’t do it as often as I should. Luckily, there’s the Uproot Pro pet hair remover. In a few minutes (and no hauling of heavy machines), I can clear the stairs of fur. Just slide the fuzz remover across the affected area and when you’re done, throw away the hair, fuzz and debris. There’s no need for batteries or plugs, and it’s very lightweight. Love!
It’s also handy for cat trees, couches and the wall edges of carpet that vacuums can miss.
If you have a dog that’s always tracking in some sort of mess, these expert recommended ways to keep rugs clean might come in handy the next time fido goes for a walk.