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Rancid Rugs

By: Helena Stratford - Updated: 23 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Rancid Rugs

Gone are the days when the maid would take the rugs outdoors and beat them. Now, with our central heating, double glazing and busy lives our rugs rarely get an airing.

But maybe we should think again…

What’s Wrong With Our Rugs?

Rugs can also be hard to keep clean just by vacuuming. Unlike carpets, many rugs are chosen specifically for their comfort and decorative look such as oriental hand-knotted rugs, pure wool rugs, long-haired, shag pile, or boucle.

However, these fibres tend to trap contaminants and micro-organisms and possibly hold on to them for years. One report suggests that in an old, much used rug, as much as 8 times the weight of the original rug can be dirt. Certainly, one of the problems lies in that the thick texture of such rugs makes it much harder to wash or Hoover them effectively.

Rugs Can Cause Asthma

Rugs, just like carpets and bedding can harbour dust. Long-haired or wool rugs in particular are very efficient at trapping the dust particles within the rug and despite vacuuming, may keep hold of them for years. This will ensure a very happy home for a large amount of dust mites – hundreds of thousands, if not millions in fact.

Dust mites are microscopic creatures that eat our shed dead skin. They multiply quickly in the right environment and love wool for its warmth and moisture-retaining properties.

But these little critters are responsible for producing strong allergens in their excrement (yes, I know – Yuck!), and will trigger attacks in 85 percent of asthma suffers. They also affect non-asthmatics as well, producing hay-fever type symptoms such as runny nose and itching eyes. Vacuuming does help, but because of their ability to hang tightly to the wool with their claws, the only way to really reduce their numbers or get rid of them is to put the rug out in freezing temperatures to kill them, or to have it dry-cleaned.

Chemicals In Rugs

But the dust mites can be the least of your problems. Our indoor air pollution can be as much as five times worse than the air outside, some scientists have stated due in part to pollutants being trapped within rug pile.

If the rugs are synthetic, then the chances are they will have been produced using petroleum by-products – a hugely intensive and non-environmentally sound industry. They will also have been sprayed with chemicals to help the rug resist moisture and soil, as well as fire retardants which emit persistent and harmful chemicals into the atmosphere.

These have been found to penetrate the blood stream and potentially affect the endocrine system.

It is not yet known how the chemicals are entering the blood stream, but one theory is that they are being caught in the dust that settles on the rug and which is then moved around.

And even if your rugs are pure wool – a sound environmental choice – they can still become contaminated, not only with toxic dust from other objects in the room, but through soils and pesticides carried on the bottom of shoes or from an insect spray which has been used in the room. This seems hard to believe, but America’s Environmental Protection Agency estimates that at least 80% of people’s exposure the pesticides, is from indoors rather than outside.


Sad fact though it is, your pet is likely at some point, to get fleas. Fleas exist on and near to the animal – most often cats and dogs. Eggs are usually laid near to where the animal is used to resting, so if this is on your rug in front of the fire, beware! The eggs are ‘hidden’ under the rug or pet bedding, or wherever they are living, hatch out and stay put for another 200 days as larvae.

Regular vacuuming and washing will help but if the fleas persist, then steam cleaning should do the trick.

Carpet Beetles

Notice a bald patch at the edge of your rug or even whole patches of rug being swallowed but the Hoover? Well, it may be that you have an infestation of carpet beetles.

They usually originate from birds nests under the eaves and find their way into the home via the roof attracted by the warmth. The beetles will then lay up to 200 eggs in any material of animal origin - such as your wool rug – in the spring and summer.

Most advice given is to vacuum and use a pesticide but a chemical-free solution is to apply some diatomaceous earth for a week before re-vacuuming the infested area.

Protect Your Children!

So next time you watch your toddler rolling around on the rug, think of their health and go back to beating it outside (not the child, the rug, you understand).

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