How to Clean a Rug Without Calling the Pros

Updated 11/05/19

Design: Emily Henderson Design, Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

While an area rug can be a great addition to nearly any room (yes, even kitchens), every rug needs to be regularly vacuumed and spot cleaned to ensure it looks its best. Most rugs will come with a care tag or instructions so you know exactly how it should be cleaned, but the good news is most area rugs can be cleaned without calling in the professionals. If the rug is small enough, you can wash the whole thing, but if it's too large and unwieldy, a spot clean is a better choice.

Depending on the stains on your rug, this is a chore that you should dedicate an afternoon to or at least a couple of hours.

Materials Needed

  1. A vacuum
  2. A soft bristle brush
  3. Carpet shampoo (depending on your rug)
  4. A bucket
  5. Water
  6. A hose (depending on your rug)

Remove All Excess Dirt

The first step to cleaning any stained rug is to vacuum. A thorough vacuum will help loosen up dirt and debris that can get in the way when you're scrubbing. If you have pets, opt for a pet fur attachment to really get into the fibers and suck up all hair. If you're planning on taking the rug outside to clean, flip it over and vacuum the underside as well.

Mix the Right Carpet Cleaner Cocktail

The right carpet cleaner will depend entirely on your rug. A mild dish detergent mixed with warm water is a safe cleaner for most rugs, but if you are hunting for something a little stronger, check your rug's label to ensure your solution is safe.

Wool or Antique Rug

  1. Opt for a gentle cleaner like dish soap or Woolite.

Jute Rug

  1. A mixture of baking soda and water can help get into the fibers of a jute rug.

Clean Woven

  1. Many clean woven carpets can hold up to a commercial cleaner for a deep clean.

Do a Spot Test

Before you scrub, find an inconspicuous spot on your rug to test out your carpet cleaner, especially if you are using a store-bought version. A small corner is a good place to spray and ensure that your rug's colors won't run and the cleaner won't leave behind any discoloration.

Scrub Visible Spots

With either a soft sponge or bristled brush, loosen up any caked-on stains. Then, create a lather with your cleaner. Once you start to see suds, let the cleaner sit on the carpet for a few minutes, depending on the severity of your stain. You may need to scrub a few times for old or deep stains.

If you're attacking a pet stain, you may want to keep your enzyme-based cleaner on for up to 30 minutes to eliminate any stubborn smells.

Rinse the Rug

If you decided to take your rugs outdoors to clean, this step is key. Using a garden hose or a large bucket of water, hose down the entire rug until all of the runoff is entirely clear. This not only gets rid of excess chemicals on your rug but also has the added benefit of cleaning the rest of the piece at the same time.

For simple indoor spot cleaning jobs, blot the carpet cleaner up with a rag and warm water once you've removed the stain. This will prevent crusting or discoloration from a carpet cleaner that's been left on too long.

Allow the Rug to Dry

If your rug was cleaned outdoors, find a banister or a drying rack to raise the rug off the ground for drying. Once one side is dry, flip it over to allow the underside to fully dry. Never bring a wet rug back into your home.

If you spot cleaned indoors, leave the rug untouched until it's entirely dry.

A squeegee or a wet vac can help eliminate excess water if your rug is fully soaked, just be sure to only work in the direction of your rug's nap.

Vacuum the Rug Once More

Once your rug is fully dry, it's time for a final vacuum. This can help get up soft fibers or hairs that may have loosened during the cleaning and drying process and bring your rug back to its original shape.

Up next: This is the simple rule to choosing the right rug size every time.

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