Area Rug Cleaning: Safe and Natural Rug Cleaning Ideas

As we begin yet another season change, many of us start to feel a bit of spring cleaning fever. If your house is like my house, the area rugs have taken a beating after a long, cold, and icy-wet winter. Here is a tutorial on how to clean area rugs. Please note that I have made every attempt to keep photos accurate and representative of the actual result; variations within the before/after photos are due to natural changes such as existing lighting, daytime/nighttime, etc. at the point of photo-taking. Ultimately, I want to show you what you can reasonably expect from these methods of area rug cleaning.

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To begin, my first method of area rug cleaning involves this DIY natural-ingredient carpet cleaner.

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I tend to give this method a go before anything else.

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Spray it on, and follow the directions in the previous post about letting it sit.

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You’ll be vacuuming the rug on the spots as well. In fact, you should vacuum first before attempting to treat the spots.

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There were some other spots on this stair rug that needed cleaning…

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…so I went ahead and sprayed them, too. This is a pretty good method for spot-cleaning carpets and area rugs alike.

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As you can see by the wet spots on this stair rug, there were quite a few little spots to clean.

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The one that we’ll be paying closest attention to is this grape juice stain, about halfway down the stairs. If you’re not aware, grape juice isn’t an easy stain to remove.

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Here is what the grape juice stain looked like after treating with the original carpet cleaner. It was still pretty apparent.

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The next step in rug cleaning is to steam clean with plain hot water. Sometimes, that’s all the rug or carpet needs to lift the stain. So, to remove a spot stain, you’ll want to steam that spot.

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Then blot it as dry as you can with a clean, white rag. I like to use old t-shirts or cloth diapers.

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When you’ve blotted up as much as you can, let the spot air-dry. Do your best not to walk on the area, as a wet rug will attract more dirt and grime than normal if stepped on.

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Here is another example of a spot stain that was steam cleaned with just water.

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And here are some more.

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One word of warning: Some rug cleaning advice involves scrubbing with the steamer’s scrub attachment after the area has been steamed. Use caution with this advice. If you have a loose-weave rug, or one that is looped or easily frayed, or are trying out an oriental rug cleaning, this scrubbing movement may cause more damage to the rug itself – and make it look much worse than having a simple stain. Always pretreat a hidden section of the rug if you’re unsure.

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Another section of area rug in my house that needed attention is the area in front of our baby’s rocking chair. At some point this winter, someone came in to rock with her at bedtime without taking off their dirty boots, and the stain has stuck. It seems mostly to be of some sort of oil residue.

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I used my trusty hand steamer on this oily-boot section of rug.

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Thoroughly steamed the area with a simple water-steam and, for this one, I attempted a light scrubbing.

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After blotting the section as dry as possible with a white rag, it looked much worse than it did when I started. This was disconcerting, to say the least. But it’s important to note that wet textiles always appear darker than do dry ones.

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Here is that same section of rug after a simple water-steam cleaning treatment. The stained area looks lighter than it did, but not significantly.

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It’s time to attempt our third round of area rug cleaning, using Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds. This is great cleaner for a variety of things. It’s natural and biodegradable, so it’s a nice way to clean “green.”

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To use it for steam cleaning the area rugs, you’ll want to get about 2 quarts of warm to hot water.

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Pour the water into an old cleaning bucket, such as a gallon ice cream bucket.

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Add a drop or two of Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds to the two quarts of hot water. Don’t add more than this, or your area rug will be left with a filmy residue.

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Stir the Sal Suds into your water until it’s evenly dispersed.

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Fill your steamer’s fill cup to the allotted amount.

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Pour the Suds water into your steamer, using a funnel.

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Screw the steamer lid on tight, and plug your steaming unit in so the water can start heating up.

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Attach your steam attachments to the cleaner as the water heats up. Follow the directions on your steam cleaner for heating times and other safety precautions.

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Go ahead and hit up any spot stains on your area rugs.

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Steam the area, then let it sit for a couple of minutes to allow the Sal Suds to work to lift the stain.

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After the Suds steam/water has sat there on the stain for 3-4 minutes, blot it dry with a clean, white rag. Your rug won’t look completely dry at this point, however; you’ll have to wait quite a bit longer until it dries thoroughly.

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Here is a shot of that grape juice stain on the carpet rug after applying the Suds steamer to it.

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Here is some Sal Suds steaming on the oily-boot section on the area rug in the nursery. I learned from the first attempt with hot water steaming that this particular rug tends to frizz out when scrubbed, so I held off and left the Suds to do their work.

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After waiting a few minutes, I blotted the Suds water dry with a clean, white cloth.

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You can’t necessarily tell, but this is the blotted-up oily-boots section of the area rug that is now left alone to dry completely. It sure looks terrible in this state. Again, try to keep any foot traffic off of wet area rugs while they’re drying, to keep additional and/or new staining elements away.

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Here is the oily boots section of the nursery area rug after drying thoroughly. As you can see, the stain is still there, even after a Sal Suds area rug cleaning treatment. The section is lighter, but I’m showing this to you, readers, to be fair in stating that not every stain will lift perfectly. Many spots did (I’ll show you one example next), but this particular one has not lifted completely. Not yet. Perhaps it will take a few more rug cleaning applications.

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Aside from the oily boots section, there were a couple of other spots on the nursery area rug that needed cleaning, so I hit them with the Suds steam cleaning, too.

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This mystery spot, and many others that I didn’t photograph, blotted up like magic.

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There are no camera tricks here. The steamed section looks a little whiter here, like it maybe bleached out, but when the rug dried completely, it dried beautiful and smooth (and stain-free). Again, if you’re concerned about any of this, please test an inconspicuous area of your rug before hitting up the main section!

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Here is a shot of the stairs rug cleaning waiting period.

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Here is a photo of the top two stairs after the Sal Suds area rug cleaning regimen. The arrows are pointing at nothing here, because the spots are completely gone.

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You’re probably curious about how that grape juice stain fared. It’s still there, but it is much, much lighter (regardless of how this photo makes it look) than it was previous. This is also after only one Sal Suds steam cleaning treatment; I am confident the stain will become even lighter the more it is treated.

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For the final example of this area rug cleaning regimen’s effectiveness, this is a quick “before” shot of our front door Flor tiles. They accumulated quite a busy, snowy winter’s worth of staining (too many spots to point to, in fact!).

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The lighting is different in this photo than the “before” shot (I took the “before” one at night), but the Flor tiles look amazingly clean and bright. The stains are gone, as is the underlying dirtiness of the carpet tiles themselves. So, all in all, this area rug cleaning regimen might not take out every one of your stains. But, in fairness and in all honesty, it will take out (or at the very least lighten) most of them. This is the regimen that’s used regularly in my rug cleaning, and I’m pleased with the results. Happy rug cleaning!