Your bathroom is the moisture capital of your house, and if you’re not careful, you can run into some pretty stinky and unsightly problems. One major employee of the mildew factory is something you probably rarely think about: your bathroom rug. It gets a little wet (or a lot wet, depending on the age of your children) every time you use your shower, and that moisture combined with the warmth of your bathroom make your rug a breeding ground for fungus, bacteria, and mold.
It’s recommended that you wash your rugs at least once a month for high traffic areas or every other month for bathrooms that get visitors less frequently. Luckily, it’s a pretty easy thing to clean, and setting a reminder on your phone will help you get that rug into the wash at regular intervals. Cleaning your rug will keep your feet free of bacteria and fungus, and it will keep your bathroom from smelling like the swamp monster took up residence.
With each rug costing around $10, having multiple rugs in more than one bathroom across your house can add up, so you will want to take care of them to make them last longer. Here is how you should wash your rugs:
- Shake It Out. The first thing that you need to do before trying to clean anything is to take that rug outside and give it a good shaking or beating. (Think of the mom from “Little House on the Prairie” beating the rugs hanging on the line.) You’ll probably get a little less dirt than if the rug was in the middle of your living room, but you may be shocked (and slightly embarrassed!) by how much dirt, hair, dead skin, and other gunk comes flying out of that thing.
- Read the Directions. There are about a million different rugs out there to choose from, so your best bet is to look for the directions tag on your rug and follow them to the letter. The most popular bathroom rugs are made from chenille (super soft loops), microfiber, polyester, or cotton. You can also find bathmats made with memory foam or infused with charcoal for additional support against mold, mildew, and other smells. Most rugs following this cleaning regimen:
a. If there is plastic or no-slip coating on the back of the mat, gently wipe it down with a clean cloth. You don’t want to scrub too hard because that might cause the coating to crack or break, which could end up clogging your machine.
b. Place at least two rugs in the washing machine so that the load will be balanced. If you have a large washer and other bathroom linens that are in the same color family, you can probably throw those in, too.
c. Wash the rugs using the hottest water that they can handle (found on the instructions tag on your rug). Cotton, polyester, nylon, and plastic rugs like hot water, but rugs with memory foam do best with cold water.
d. Use the standard amount of washing detergent, and try to stay away from bleach. It may seem like that would help keep things cleaner, but it can break down some synthetic materials faster than you’d like (ex: the plastic backing, memory foam, etc.). If you’re looking for something a little more grime-busting, throw in a bit of oxygen-based cleaner.
e. Air dry or line dry your rugs once they’re done in the wash. You don’t want to dry them in the dryer because the heat can cause the non-slip coating or plastic on the back to crack or break off. If your bathmat doesn’t have a non-slip coating and the directions tag says that it’s safe to use the dryer, by all means, do it! The heat from the dryer will help kill any remaining bacteria.
- Do Some Preventative Maintenance. If you know that your bathroom gets a lot of use (or you have little kids who get a little splash-crazy at bath time), you might want to air dry your rug after every couple of uses. Letting them get a little bit of sunlight will help them dry completely and prevent mold and fungi from growing. Of course, you should also do your best to clean up spills as soon as you see them, and that will also help keep the mildew at bay.
If your rugs have that plastic grippy material on the back, and you notice that it’s starting to crack and flake off, it’s time to bite the bullet and get a new rug. That plastic stuff can really do a number on your washer and dryer, so it’s just better in the long run to fork over a few extra bucks for the rug than pay for a repair bill on your washer or dryer. That said, a little bit of consistent loving and preventative maintenance should keep your rugs looking nice for quite some time.
For more tips for caring for your home, contact our kitchen and bath experts.