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Children and pets - two of the greatest joys in life, right? Yes, we agree! But they also represent the greatest danger to the wellbeing of your home's beautiful area rugs. More than sunlight, more than water damage, more than years of foot traffic. Kids and pets are the sworn enemies of expensive area rugs!
OK, maybe it's not that bad. But animals and children are prone to accidents and usually don't have much conception of the ramifications of their actions on your home's furnishings, especially those placed on the floor. Mud on my shoes? Need to run through the living room to get to the back door? No problem here.
As gross as it may sound, there is no single substance on the face of the Earth that is worse for an area rug than - yuck - pet urine. It stains. It's highly acidic and corrosive. And it smells horrible. It's almost impossible to get out of a rug completely, and as a result, the pet assumes this is now an OK place to relieve itself if there are no better alternatives. It's a vicious cycle and your area rug is the ultimate victim, not to mention the potential damage to the wood floor underneath.
Quite bluntly, the best way to deal with pet urine on an area rug is to carefully avoid it in the first place. There are products available at pet stores that supposedly will keep a pet from using your furniture and rugs as a personal lavatory. These are considered "training aids" and are not a permanent solution. Most have to be reapplied every 12 to 24 hours to remain effective. Simple Solution, available from Petco for about $10 a can, is one product that seems to work for some people. Of course stories abound of pets who assumed their owners were spraying these types of products to help them FIND suitable places to go instead of the other way around!
Sometimes it works to sprinkle an ounce or so of moth flakes under the rug along the edge to deter a dog from showing too much interest in your floor covering. However, please be certain you use something that is non-toxic and will not harm the animal if it ingests a small amount. Dogs will eat anything. Don't run the risk of poisoning yours just to protect an area rug.
As for cats, one of the best ways to help them lose interest in your rug is pretty low-tech. Get a spray water bottle or squirt gun and zap them every time they get too close to your nice rug!
If despite your best efforts your pet manages to soil your rug, you should clean it as quickly as possible with a mild detergent and water. If the stain is allowed to set and penetrate the rug's fibers, you've got a much more difficult cleaning problem on your hands. You'll probably need a product such as Tomlyn's See Spot Go (yes, that's what it's called), again available at most pet stores for around $10.
But let's back up a bit. What can you do before you buy your rug that will take into account the fact that there are pets and/or children living in your home? Surprisingly, there are many!
First of all, you should only consider wool or it's synthetic counterpart, olefin. You'll want the increased "wearability" of these materials and you'll find they are much easier to clean than most other fibers. In fact, wool is naturally stain-resistant and the fibers hold dirt high, making it much easer to vacuum. If you have children or pets, buy a wool rug.
Color is something else you should consider. A multi-colored wool rug will hide dirt and stains much better than a light, solid-colored one. If you must go with a solid color, remember that dark colors will show lint, dust and pet hair more than light ones; but a light color displays dirt better. One strategy is to buy a rug that closely matches the color of your pet's coat if, in fact, you have a shedding breed. Don't use this as a substitute for regular vacuuming! But it certainly will help turn it from a daily to a weekly task - especially during shedding season.
Another thing about households with pets and children is that they often tend to be somewhat noisy. There is a direct correlation between the ambient noise in the home and the square of the sum of the number of children under the age of 10 multiplied by the combined weight of all of the dogs and cats in your domicile. It's a scientific fact. You can look it up. The best way to cut down on this noise? A nice, plush, thick area rug placed on top of a super-absorbent rug pad. Get them both at Rugs Direct.
A little careful planning prior to purchase, combined with regular care and maintenance, sprinkled with emergency intervention when necessary, can result in your beautiful area rugs surviving childhood and pet ownership for many, many years. Good luck!