It’s likely you have at least several area rugs in your home, no matter what type of flooring the house has. And, whether you chose them for purely aesthetic reasons or to add a soft spot to the family room or bedroom, every area rug will need some regular maintenance to keep it clean and looking great.
Fortunately, learning how to clean a rug properly is not difficult. Most importantly, it doesn’t necessarily require professional cleaning.
How to Clean a Rug
Before you get started, honestly assess the state of the rug, its size, and whether you can handle the cleaning yourself. The first thing to check is the tag on the rug, if there is one. If the tag – or other documentation you might have about the rug – specifies a cleaning procedure, be sure to follow it. Also, how you clean the rug will be determined by the material used to manufacture the rug. We’ve included this information below, after the general cleaning instructions. Finally, if the rug is very large, you may well want to leave the cleaning to a professional service.
What You Need to Clean a Rug
- Carpet shampoo or liquid dish soap
- Laundry drying rack
- Garden hose with sprayer
- Soft-bristle brush
Not surprisingly, regular cleaning of a rug can minimize how often you need to deep clean it. In general, it’s best to vacuum a rug once or twice a week, depending on how much traffic the area rug gets. Be sure to flip the rug over and vacuum the back side to remove the dirt and debris that tends to collect there. If the rug has no visible spot or stains and doesn’t smell, you probably don’t need to wash it.
Just Beat It
If it seems like the rug needs a little extra TLC, take it outside. Lay it over a railing, fence or clothesline, and use a broom to beat the backside of the rug. If you see puffs of dust escaping the rug, keep beating it until you don’t see them anymore. If the rug has an attached rubber backing, don’t hit it too hard to prevent damage to the rubber.
A Deeper Clean
If the rug is soiled, stained, has a bad smell, or is just plain dirty, it’s time for a deeper clean. Typically, this doesn’t need to be done more than once a year. Please note that this is an outdoor job is best done on a sunny day when the rug will be able to dry out properly. Here are the general steps, which work on most area rugs made from cotton and synthetic fibers. By the way, if it’s a small area rug that fits into the washing machine, that’s a fine way to wash it as long as you use cold water and air dry it.
- Vaccum. If you haven’t already done so, vacuum the top and bottom of the rug. If there’s still dust and dirt in the rug, beat it to loosen whatever is left in there.
- Color Test the Rug. Before you use any cleaner on your rug, make sure that it won’t discolor the rug or cause it to bleed. Do this by mixing up the cleaning solution – commercially made or DIY – and try it out in an inconspicuous spot. Be sure to use warm water and not hot, which could cause the fibers to shrink. If it looks okay and the colors don’t bleed out of the fibers, you should be good to go.
- Apply the cleaner to the rug and let it sit, giving it a chance to work on the dirt. This shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Next, grab your sponge or brush and start scrubbing. Work the cleaner into the rug until you create some suds. Then, let it sit for a few more minutes.
- Hose it off. Using your garden hose and sprayer attachment, rinse the rug until all the soap is gone and you don’t see suds. In some cases, you might need to turn it over and rinse it from the back as well, before repeating the rinse on the front.
- Squeegee the surface. The same squeegee that you use to clean your windows will help you get a good deal of the water out of your newly washed rug. Working with the nap of the rug, press the rubber blade firmly into the rug. Pull it across the rug to squeeze out as much water as possible.
- Dry it out. Lay the rug out to dry. When one side is dry, turn it over and let the other side dry thoroughly. Before taking it back inside, make sure the first is still completely dry. If not, let it dry for a while longer.
- Fluff it up. Washing the rug may have tamped down the nap, making it seem less plush. All you have to do is vacuum the rug or use a soft brush to fluff the fibers back up. Now all that’s left is to put it back in place. When you do, it’s a good idea to rotate the rug to make sure that no single area gets overly worn from foot traffic.
Wool Area Rugs
As we mentioned at the start, some types of rugs need special attention and wool is one of those that need some special care.
Supplies You Will Need
- Laundry detergent made for wool
- 2 buckets
Vacuum – Just as with the other types of carpets, vacuuming is the first step. Vacuum the top and bottom with the beater bar off, if possible. This will prevent any damage to the wool fibers of the rug.
Beat it — Take the rug outside, lay it over a railing, fence or clothesline, and use a broom to beat the backside of the rug to dislodge any remaining dirt or debris.
Wash the Rug
Before getting started, determine which way the nap runs. Slide your hand across the rug’s surface and see which direction feels smooth. Be sure to wash with the nap, which means in the smooth direction.
Mix up a cleaning solution in a bucket of cold water using a tablespoon of laundry detergent made for wool. Fill up a second bucket with cold water. Wet the sponge with the cleaning solution, squeezing out the excess. Test it in an inconspicuous spot to make sure the colors don’t bleed and then wash the rug with the sponge, working in sections.
Rinse the Rug
After rinsing out your sponge, use the second bucket of cold water to rinse the rug by dabbing it with the clean, damp sponge. Don’t use too much water or soak the rug,
Dry the Rug
Using a clean towel, start drying the rug by pushing the towel into the surface of the rug to soak up the water. Swap out the towel whenever it gets too wet and then let it air dry.
Jute, Sisal, and Bamboo Rugs
These types of rugs are made from natural fibers and cannot be cleaned in the same way because water can damage them. The best way to clean a rug made from these materials is to vacuum the rug as well as the underside and clean the floor underneath.
If one of these rugs gets a stain, you can try to remove it with a microfiber cloth that has been dipped into a cleaning solution made of warm water and a tablespoon of laundry detergent. Using the cloth, blot the stain until it’s gone and then rinse it with warm water. Blot the whole area dry using a clean cloth and let it dry.
There’s nothing worse than a smelly rug, so odors are something to take care of right away. This is typically a very easy thing to do. Just sprinkle baking soda across the top of the rug, wait 15 to 20 minutes, and then vacuum it up.
Some Extra Tips
- Antique rugs or Persian carpets are a special case and the best way to clean them is not a DIY project. These require professional cleaning and care to keep them at their best.
- If your rug is quite soiled, it may be worth considering steam cleaning. It’s possible to rent a steam cleaner and do it yourself, or send it out to a professional team.
- Clean up spills right away.
- Avoid wearing shoes on the rug as much as possible.
A great rug can be a big investment so you want to keep it looking great for the long term. All it takes is a little regular maintenance and an annual deep clean. Follow the steps outline and you can keep all your spaces looking good when you know how to clean a rug