How to Clean a Rug: the Ultimate Guide | Floorspace (2023)

Finding the perfect rug can be exciting. When you’ve found the rug that checks all your boxes, you need to know how to properly care for it. If you make a spill or your precious pup has an accident, there’s no need to pay exorbitant fees to have your rugs professionally cleaned or even replaced. There are steps you can take to not only clean your rugs, but also prevent staining from happening in the first place. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about how to clean a rug at home.

Regular maintenance and upkeep

Of course, the best way to deal with stains is to keep themfrom happening in the first place. Regular maintenance of your carpets and rugsgoes a long way toward keeping them looking great and your home feeling cozy.

Vacuum rugs often

At a minimum, rugs and carpets should be vacuumed once aweek or every two weeks. For high traffic areas, consider vacuuming morefrequently, up to twice a day. To keep your rug smelling fresh, try sprinklinga bit of baking soda on the surface before vacuuming to neutralize odors.Finally, make sure not to use the beater bar (this is especially important whencleaning shag rugs!) and lower the airflow setting to avoid damaging the fibersof the rug and prolong its life.

Rotate rugs to even out wear

Rugs don’t always wear evenly. It’s likely that there are parts of your rug that get more traffic than others, especially if it partially extends under furniture. It could also be that your window layout means sunlight beats down on one section more than another, leading to unsightly faded spots. To avoid these potential problems, simply get in the habit of rotating your rug 180 degrees about every 6 months or so to even wear.

Have a rug cleaner on hand

Since most stains are easiest to clean when you act quickly, having a good rug cleaner on hand pays off in a big way. While some people will want to have a whole collection of different formulas for every type of spill imaginable, most people will only need a reliable all-purpose cleaner. We recommend keeping a bottle of Uni-Cleaner on hand to deal with the majority of common spills and stains.

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Cleaning different kinds of rug stains

For most small spills, you can save a lot of money by acting quickly and having the right tools on hand. Your first step should be to consult the care label on your rug, but if it isn’t detailed enough, these tips can help.

How to clean basic rug stains

With most basic stains, the key is to act quickly. The first step is to remove any physical debris from the area. Avoid using a paper towel or a rag at this point so you don’t push the debris further into the pile. It’s best to use a tool like a fork or a spoon to gently lift the dirt up and away. Next, dab the area gently with a damp paper towel and treat with a stain-removal solution. Finally, rinse the area with cool water and dab dry. Never use warm water. Repeat this process as necessary for stubborn spills.

How to clean pet stains

Pet stains are among the most common and most dreaded stainspeople will have to deal with. Left untreated, urine stains will start tosmell. That means these stains not only look bad but can pose potential healthrisks too. The most important thing to know with pet stains is to never use asteam cleaner. The high heat involved will only amplify the smell and help setthe stain. Instead, treat them like any other stain, but use a cleaner designedto deal with pet stains. These are specially formulated to counteract thefoul-smelling and potentially dangerous chemicals found in urine. Act quickly,avoid heat, and remember to lightly dab rather than scrub, and pet stains willbe no problem.

Cleaning different types of rugs

The above information will get you far with most rugs, but there are some additional considerations you should take depending on the style and material of your rug. Read on to learn how to clean a rug made of any material or construction.

How to clean wool and cotton rugs

Wool is a wonder material. It’s soft, durable, largely waterproof, and holds color better than most other materials. Unfortunately, the shape of the fibers also makes them very good at holding dirt. As a natural fiber, cotton shares most of these pros and cons.

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Luckily, these rugs do not require too much additionalmaintenance beyond what you would expect. Be extra vigilant about vacuuming, especiallyduring the first few months. Wool rugs tend to shed when they are brand new.Don’t be alarmed! Your rug will not end up bare—once all the loose fibers haveshaken out, your rug should look great for years to come!

How to clean jute rugs

Jute is an extremely tough material with hard fibers thatare very hard for dirt to cling to. This makes them generally easy toclean—occasional vacuuming should be all you need.

Water and jute don’t mix. Jute absorbs moisture easily andtends to hold on to it for a long time which can lead to mold, mildew orharmful bacteria forming. Make sure to dry any spills quickly with paper towelsand a hair dryer, limit yourself to spot cleanings, and test any cleaners on aninconspicuous spot first.

How to clean synthetic fiber rugs

Most rugs on the market today are made from synthetic materials like polypropylene, polyester and acrylic. These rugs do a good job of mimicking wool and cotton rugs for a fraction of their price and require no special care considerations. However, it is important to manage expectations with synthetic rugs. Unlike wool, cotton, and other porous natural fibers, synthetic fibers are very smooth. This means they will show dirt more readily, will not hold dye as well, and will tend to fade over time. Luckily, with regular maintenance, these issues can be mitigated.

You should also know that many synthetic rugs have a jute backing and share all the challenges that come with an entirely jute rug. If this is the case for your rug, avoid using water to clean your rug and dry any spills as quickly as possible.

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How to clean shag rugs

Regardless of the material, shag rugs will require some special care to keep them clean. The long fibers of shag rugs are great at attracting dirt and keeping it buried deep in the pile. That high pile also creates challenges for vacuuming. Powerful suction can damage the fibers and the beater bar can even rip them out. If you must vacuum a shag rug, NEVER use the beater bar. If the rug is small enough, flip it upside down and vacuum the back of the rug instead. This will loosen any dirt buried underneath. You can then easily sweep up the floor below the rug, cleaning up anything that was shaken loose.

How to deep clean a rug

For set-in stains, the best thing to do is give the whole ruga thorough deep cleaning. Keep reading before you run out to rent a machine orcall an expensive professional service, though. While these options certainlycan make things easier or more convenient, it’s surprisingly easy to deep cleana rug yourself with household cleaners.

Check the label

If your rug has a care label, consult it before attempting any deep cleaning and follow any instructions it offers. This label will let you know if there are any special considerations you should take or even if you should avoid cleaning entirely. If your rug has a jute backing, for example, you should not attempt this kind of deep cleaning, as it will be very hard to dry the rug. It may end up developing foul-smelling mold or mildew.

Prepare your workstation and tools

Before you start, set up a space to work outside. Ideally,this will be somewhere sunny where you can let the rug dry for a while whenyou’re done. This also means the best time to do a deep cleaning is in thespring or summer when you can take advantage of the sunlight. Good candidatesare a sloped driveway or a deck with a railing you can drape the rug over.Avoid setting up on your lawn, as you don’t want cleaners soaking into thegrass. You’ll also need the following materials:

  • Rug shampoo or mild dish detergent
  • Bucket
  • Soft-bristle brush or sponge
  • Water

Vacuum the rug

Your first step should be to give the rug a thoroughvacuuming on both sides of the rug to loosen debris. If it still appears to bedusty, don’t be afraid to whack it with a broom a few times to knock out anyadditional trapped debris.

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Clean with rug shampoo or mild detergent

When using a rug shampoo, follow the mixing instructionsprovided. If you use dish detergent instead, a few capfuls in a bucket of warmwater should be enough. Test on a small, inconspicuous area first to check forcolorfastness. If all goes well, rinse the whole rug with a garden hose, thengently start working your cleaning solution into the rug with the soft brush.You shouldn’t need to work too hard, just let the cleaner do its work. Let therug sit for a few minutes or as directed by your shampoo, then rinse it againwith the hose.

Dry fully

This might be the most important step: make sure your rug iscompletely dry before you bring it inside. Depending on the material andconstruction of your rug, this can take time—don’t rush it! Failure tocompletely dry your rug before bringing it inside can lead to mold, mildew,bacteria, bad smells, and permanent damage to the rug or floor it ends upcovering. You can help this process along by having the rug laid out on asloped driveway or draped over a deck railing or clothesline. If you haveaccess to one, you might consider setting up a box fan to speed things up. Flipthe rug periodically to help it dry evenly on both sides.

Vacuum again

Finally, give the rug one more vacuum to remove any dirtloosened up by the deep cleaning that was not already rinsed away. You rugshould be looking good as new!

Got any rug cleaning tips?

There’s a lot to consider when cleaning a rug,and more than one way to do the job. If you have any secret techniques, tips,or tricks, share them with us! We would love to be able to share great advicefrom experienced rug owners as we update this page to include even moreinformation about the care and keeping of every type of rug imaginable.

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What is the best thing to clean a rug with? ›

The cleaning tips will be similar. First, apply rug shampoo or a solution of mild dish detergent to the rug (sparingly). To remove the sudsy solutions, apply damp towels to absorb the soaps. Because you will not be hosing the soap off indoors, make sure you have a shop vac on hand to absorb the excess water.

How do you clean a non washable rug? ›

If possible, take your rug outdoors and shake any loose debris from it. Sprinkle the dry-cleaning powder from your kit onto the rug. Using the brush from the cleaning kit or a stiff-bristled brush, gently clean the rug's fibers. Don't scrub heavily or you'll tear the material.

Can I put an 8x10 rug in the washing machine? ›

Yes, mostly all rugs are perfectly fit to undergo cleaning in the washing machine considering they are made of synthetic or cotton fibers. However, checking is mandatory for leather or rubber back ones before chucking them into the machine.

How do you clean a large area rug on a hardwood floor? ›

Deep-Cleaning an Area Rug on Hardwood Floor

Use a soft brush and a gentle rug shampoo or mild detergent mixed with warm water to scrub the rug, taking care not to soak it thoroughly. After scrubbing, rinse the area rug with warm water and remove excess water using a wet-dry vacuum or by blotting with clean towels.

How do you deep clean a large shaggy rug? ›

Steam-clean a shaggy rug once or twice a year, as it becomes soiled or when it is stained, using a steam-cleaning machine, hot tap water and a non-foaming carpet detergent after vacuuming the rug. Dry the rug by using a fan to blow air across it for a couple of hours.

Can I use Dawn soap to clean my rug? ›

Mild dish soap, diluted with water: Dish soap (ideally dye-free) will gently remove stains without damaging rug fibers. Avoid using too much soap, especially on wool.

Can you use Dawn to clean area rug? ›

Mixing one tablespoon of Dawn dish soap with a quarter cup of white vinegar creates an effective solution for cleaning carpets. This combination works wonders in removing stubborn stains, cutting through tough grime, and eliminating unpleasant odors.

Can I use Dawn dish soap to clean a rug? ›

You can try a mixture of white vinegar, Dawn dish soap, and water in a spray bottle. Use 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1 tbsp. of Dawn dish soap, and fill with water. Spray area liberally and let soak for 5-10 minutes and then proceed with blotting with a clean, dry towel until stain is removed.

How do you deep clean a rug without water? ›

Clean carpets without water using dry carpet cleaning methods like vacuuming, carpet sweepers, and dry cleaning powder. Use a dry foam carpet cleaner or a mix of baking soda and vinegar for spot cleaning. Opt for dry carpet cleaning machines or encapsulation cleaning for a deep clean.

How do you clean a rug that Cannot be vacuumed? ›

How Do You Clean a Large Rug Without a Vacuum? The surest way of cleaning a large rug is to move it outside and hit it with a carpet beater. If it's too large or cumbersome to move, sweep it with a stiff bristle broom, starting in the center of the rug and working toward the edge.

Which rugs are not machine washable? ›

Olefin or Polypropylene Rugs

A word of caution: many polypropylene rugs, especially those meant for indoor use, have a jute backing (as mentioned before). If this is the case with your rug, it is NOT machine washable.

What size washing machine do I need to wash a rug? ›

Step 2: Choosing Your Rug Size
Rug SizeMaterialMinimum Washer Capacity Requirement (cu ft)
9' x 6'Cotton7 cu ft or professional laundromat
3' RoundCotton4 cu ft
4' RoundCotton4.5 cu ft
5' RoundCotton4.5 cu ft
23 more rows

Can you wash a rug with rubber backing? ›

You should have no issue using a washing machine to wash your rubber-backed rug, but please remember to check the labels on your rug as some are not suitable for use in a washing machine. We would recommend, if your rug allows it, for you to wash your rubber-backed rug in a washing machine at least every three months.

What is the best way to clean a thick rug? ›

Steps involved:
  1. Begin with a freshly vacuumed rug.
  2. Fill warm water into the tub.
  3. Add a scoop of detergent. You can add another scoop if the rug is large.
  4. Put the rug inside the water. ...
  5. Gently wash the stains out of the fibres with your hands and the brush.
  6. Try to extract as much water as possible.
  7. Leave the rug to dry.

Can you steam clean a large area rug? ›

If you can't put your rug into your washing machine (most are just too big) it's totally ok, steam cleaning your rug will deep clean and sanitize it!


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