Thursday, January 14, 2010

Let it Snow: Snow-washing Your Rugs

Clean rugs, no chemicals, good upper body workout -- what's not to love?

As I hope it is becomming clear in these posts, I am no fan of winter.  I am so eager to go south that I grow a dwarf key lime tree, letting it live outside during the warm months and bringing it in to a south-facing window in winter, where we both look longingly out, searching for sun.

However, there is one thing that you can do in winter that meets our trifecta of fast, cheap, and good.  (Well, two things, but the other one really shouldn't be all that fast....)  You can snow-wash your wool (and other fiber) rugs.

Cleaning wool throw rugs is problematic, because you can't always vacuum them completely clean, and they don't wash well.  So, you are often forced to use a spray or sprinkle carpet cleaner, which just introduces unnecessary chemicals into your house.

A better solution is snow-washing, the traditional technique for cleaning rugs from before the era of vacuum cleaners.  Nothing could be easier:

  1. Wait for a snowfall.  A fairly cold snow is best; a good packing snow has a tendency to pack itself right onto the rug, making it a little too wet.

  2. Take your wool rugs outside and turn upside down in clean snow.

  3. Beat out your frustrations on the backs of those rugs.  I have a rug beater because I actually clean rugs with it, but you can get the same result using a clean broom.

  4. Pick your rugs up.  If you have really waited a while between cleanings, you will be rewarded with a spot of dirt in the snow where the rug once was.  The snow flakes and granules have worked their way into the rug and scrubbed gently on their way out, removing the dirt.

  5. Shake off the excess snow and lay the rug flat in the house in a place it can dry.  A basement or foyer with a hard surface floor is perfect, as you don't want any residual snow melting onto other carpets.

  6. Return to its place when dry.

The Analysis:

Fast:  Yes.  I feel this strategy is actually faster than spraying on a chemical and dragging out the vacuum to sweep.

Cheap:  Yes, this one is my favorite kind of cheap:  free.  You just wait for Mother Nature to provide a snowfall.

Good:  I think so.  The rugs get clean without introducing chemicals into your home at a time when your home is likely closed up and less ventilated anyway.  You even burn a few calories and work out some frustrations in the process of beating.
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