How to Clean a Rug

Nothing looks as good or feels as great as a clean rug does. But for every kind of mess, there’s a different way to clean your rug. 

Today, we’ll narrow it down and show you how to clean a rug with this ultimate guide. 

From cleaning your favorite rug at home to keeping a luxury rug looking fresh, we’ll help you navigate rug cleaning like a professional. 

What this article covers:

How To Clean A Rug At Home

how to clean rug

This method is the easiest and should do the trick for most commercial home rugs. If you have a wool rug or a polyester rug, which requires extra finesse, learn how to clean wool rugs or clean polyester rugs

Step 1: Vacuum The Rug

The first step of any rug cleaning is to remove any debris or dirt from the rug. To do this, vacuum as much of the loose dirt from the rug as you can manage. If you have a rug with a high pile, separate the fibers to get to the dirt on the rug pad. 

It’s important to be thorough with this step. If there is any loose dirt left behind, it could stain the rug pad when water is added during the cleaning process. 

Step 2: Choose The Right Rug Cleaner 

Next, it’s time to mix your rug cleaner. There are three main options available. 

DIY Rug Cleaning Mixture

You can make your rug cleaning solution with the supplies you have at home. Some of the most common options include: 

  • Water, Vinegar & Salt: Mix two parts of water with one part of vinegar in a spray bottle. Then add one tablespoon of salt to the mixture. 
  • Water, Vinegar, & Baking Soda: Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet. Mix warm water and vinegar in equal parts in a spray bottle and spray on the baking soda. 
  • Water, Dishsoap, & Fabric Softener: Mix warm water, dish soap, and fabric softener. Apply to the rug as a cleaner. 

Store Rug Shampoo

how to clean area rugs

If DIY isn’t your thing, then buy a store rug shampoo. Most stores carry a wide range of affordable rug cleaners. While they might not get your rug spotless, they’re a cheap mid-point option. 

Just be sure to choose the rug cleaner that works with your rug. For example, you can’t use the same cleaning solution for cleaning a Jute rug as you would for cleaning a faux fur rug

Professional Rug Cleaner

Professional rug cleaners are considered to be expensive but we’re here to tell you otherwise. There are powerful and affordable commercial carpet cleaning chemicals available for home use. 

These rug cleaners and carpet pre-sprays will have your rug looking as good as new without costing an arm and a leg. 

how to clean a rug at home

Step 3: Patch Test The Cleaning Solution

After mixing your solution and diluting your cleaning chemicals, it’s time to do a patch test. Choose a small part of the rug - corners work the best - and apply the cleaning solution to the rug. 

Leave on the chemical for an hour. Then go back and rinse the cleaning solution. 

If the color didn’t fade or run, move on to the next step. If the color did run, try a gentler rug shampoo or dilute the solution further. Give it another go until you find the ratio that is safe for your rug. 

Step 4: Wash The Rug

Now that you have your chosen solution, you can apply the cleaning solution to the rug. Apply it and add some water from a spray bottle or a water jug. Use a soft bristle brush to slowly and gently work the soap into a lather. 

Be prepared: the scrubbing and water will create a bit of a mess. Dress appropriately and make sure you have nothing fragile or valuable lying nearby. 

If your rug is made of tougher material, use more force. But you shouldn’t wash a silk rug with a bristle brush and hard strokes.  

After scrubbing the rug, you can let the solution sit on the rug for a bit but make sure to follow the timing instructions on the bottle. 

Step 5: Rinse & Dry The Rug

how to clean rugs at home

Next, it’s time to rinse the rug. Take the rug outside, hose it off with a hose pipe, squeeze out as much water as possible, and let it dry in the sun. Make sure to hang it away from pets and pin it down so it doesn’t drop and restain on the ground.

Step 6: Vacuum & Brush The Rug

Finally, your rug is clean and dry! Pass over the rug with a vacuum cleaner one more time. It will remove any dried soap or other loosened debris. It will also help get all the wayward rug piles to lay in the same direction. 

If you want to clean a shag rug or your rug has a higher pile, you can take a brush and gently brush it out. 

How To Deep Clean A Rug

This method works best for rugs that are tougher or ones that have more trapped dirt. We also recommend this method for any rugs that haven’t had a clean in more than a year. 

Step 1: Vacuum The Rug

Suck up as much loose dirt from the rug as you can with your vacuum. If the rug is deep or has a high pile, separate the piles and vacuum every nook and cranny. 

Take your time with the deep clean, and get as much loose dirt out as possible. Any dirt that stays behind will be re-activated with the water and could stain the rug pad. 

Step 2: Choose The Right Rug Cleaner 

After vacuuming all the debris, it’s time to create your cleaning solution. You can use DIY or store-bought carpet shampoo to clean your rug. 

Mix a DIY solution: 

  • Water, Vinegar & Salt: Mix two parts of water with one part of vinegar in a spray bottle. Then add one tablespoon of salt to the mixture. 
  • Water, Vinegar, & Baking Soda: Sprinkle baking soda on the rug. Mix warm water and vinegar in equal parts in a spray bottle and spray on the baking soda. 
  • Water, Dishsoap, & Fabric Softener: Mix Warm water, dish soap, and fabric softener. Apply to the rug as a cleaner. 

Or dilute your store cleaner. Make sure to follow the instructions on the bottle. 

But if you want to deep clean your rug effectively, we’d suggest getting affordable professional cleaning chemicals. These powerful rug cleaners will remove years of dirt in one wash and do it better than any cleaner you could make or buy in-store. 

 how to clean rugs

Step 3: Patch Test The Cleaning Solution

Before applying the cleaner to your entire rug, do a patch test on one of the rug’s corners. Apply the cleaner according to the bottle’s instructions and let the cleaner sit for at least an hour. 

Rinse the cleaner. If the color is faded or the rug piles are frazzled, dilute the cleaner or use a gentler one. 

Step 4: Wash The Rug

Finally, the time has come to wash your rug. Dilute your cleaning solution per the bottle's instructions and apply it. Add water with a spray bottle or a water jug, and gently scrub the rug with a soft bristle brush. 

Because you’re doing a deep clean, you might be tempted to scrub harder. But unless you’re cleaning a sisal rug (which can take a little more scrubbing than the average rug) you’d be better off just washing longer instead of harder.

Step 5: Rinse & Dry The Rug

Next, rinse and dry the rug. Take it outside, spray it with a hose pipe, and let it dry in the sun. Hang it somewhere away from any pets. We also suggest you pin it down. If the rug falls, all your hard work will go to waste. 

Step 6: Spot Clean Rug Stains

how to deep clean a rug

The secret to the perfect deep clean is spot-cleaning. After you’ve cleaned your rug, you might notice some ugly stains or spots of mismatched color. To remove these stains, all you need is a strong spot and stain remover

Lucky for you, we’ve got a bunch of super-effective and affordable spot cleaners, and we’ve got one for every type of rug problem.

how to clean an area rug at home

Three of our most effective spot cleaners are Pig Out, which is perfect for paint, grease, and ink; Super Gel, our commercial spot remover that can even remove tar and wax; and Red Action, our go-to for any pigment stain problems. 

best way to clean rug

Apply these to your rug stains, wait until the allotted time, and rinse the rug to reveal spot and stain-free fibers. 

For an added deep clean, use a deodorizer to remove any smells. These cleaners break down the odor at a molecular level and allow you to be permanently rid of pet or accident stains. 

 how to deep clean rug

Step 7: Repeat If Necessary

If you did opt for store cleaners and the rug isn’t as clean as you’d hoped, you can repeat the cleaning process until you are satisfied with the results. 

Step 8: Vacuum & Brush The Rug

Finally, vacuum your rug to remove the last bit of debris and lay the rug piles in the same direction. You can also brush it to spruce the rug up even more. 

How To Clean A Throw Rug

Throw rugs are relatively light and small, which makes them easier to clean than area rugs. But they tend to have a lot of vibrant colors that run when washed. We’ll show you how to avoid this. 

Step 1: Vacuum The Rug

The first step is to vacuum your throw rug. Make sure to get both sides of the rug. We’d also suggest giving the rug a good shake outside. Smack it lightly until most of the dust and debris is gone. 

how to deep clean rugs

Step 2: Choose The Right Rug Cleaner 

After vacuuming all the dust and debris from your throw rug, it’s time to mix your cleaning solution. Because throw rugs have more vibrant colors that run easily, we’d suggest buying a gentle cleaner 

If you decide to make your cleaner by hand, cold water and gentle dish soap are your best bet. But if you’re going to wash your throw rug in the washing machine, you can use your normal washing detergent. 

Just avoid all heat and bleaching agents. 

Step 3: Patch Test The Cleaning Solution

If you are washing the rug with a store-bought or DIY cleaner, do a patch test on the corner of the throw rug. Apply the cleaner with cold water and let it sit for at least an hour. Rinse it with cold water and check if the throw rug lost color. 

If it did, test the solution again but dilute it more first. 

Step 4: Wash The Rug In Cold Water

It’s time to wash your rug. You can either wash it by hand or in a washing machine. 

Wash The Throw Rug By Hand

If you are washing the throw rug by hand, apply the cleaning solution and cold water to the solution. Take a gentle brush, lather the soap mixture, and work it into the rug. Be gentle and try to avoid any intense scrubbing on the throw rug. 

Wash The Throw Rug In The Washing Machine

best way to clean a rug

If you wash your throw rug in the washing machine, choose a gentle cycle that uses cold water. Cold water is essential because warm water will loosen the rug colors and could damage the rug pad. Add your usual detergent and start the cycle. 

Most throw rug backings can handle a machine wash, but if the rug backing is cracked or fragile from age, we’d suggest rather washing the rug by hand. 

Step 5: Dry The Rug

Next, dry the rug. You can hang it to dry in the sun or throw the rug in your dryer. If you do choose to throw the rug in the dryer, use a low heat setting or no heat if possible. 

How To Clean The Bottom Of An Area Rug

The bottoms of area rugs are often forgotten during cleaning sprees. And it’s a big problem. Because we rarely see the bottom of our area rugs, we forget all the dust and dirt that can accumulate. The stains and gunk can get even more intense if you have pets or children. 

Fortunately, we’ll help you clean the bottom of your area rug to give you peace of mind. 

Step 1: Vacuum The Top Of The Rug

how to clean area rugs at home

First, vacuum the top of the rug. Get into all the nooks and crannies of the rug pile, and take your time. It’s important to be thorough with this step. If you don’t clear out all the loose dirt, it could make a huge muddy mess later on. 

Step 2: Vacuum The Bottom Of The Rug 

After removing as much of the top dirt as possible, flip your rug. Take your vacuum cleaner and vacuum the backing as thoroughly as possible. 

If you have the outside space, we’d suggest hanging the rug and vacuuming it from the top down. You can also shake the rug to dislodge any loose dirt and dust. 

Step 3: Remove Trapped Hair

Next, remove the trapped hair under the rug. This step is especially important if you have pets or are cleaning a sheepskin rug or cleaning a cowhide rug. There are many small spaces for hair to nestle and remain unnoticed. 

To remove the hair, use a stiff bristle brush or a pet hair remover brush. Work in small sections from one corner of the rug, and scrape away the hair. Be gentle on the rug and try not to damage any of the rug piles. 

If the hair refuses to budge, add a teaspoon of fabric softener to cold water. Spray a light layer onto the rug, and it should help the hair dislodge the hair for easier removal. 

Step 4: Wash Both Sides Of The Rug

After removing as much hair as possible, hang the rug up somewhere that will allow you to access both sides. Once it’s hung up, use a DIY, store-bought, or professional cleaning solution to clean both sides of the rug. 

Apply the cleaning solution, add cold water, and scrub gently with a soft bristle brush. If the bottom of your rug is extra dirty, we’d suggest using the Orbital carpet cleaner

how to clean a large area rug

If there are persistent pet odors, use a powerful pet odor remover

deep clean rug

Step 5: Rinse & Dry The Rug

After washing the rug, get a hose pipe and thoroughly soak and rinse it from the top down. It’s important to rinse the front and back of the rug a few times, as the hose water can push trapped dirt to the other side of the material. 

Step 6: Vacuum Both Sides Of The Rug

When the rug is dry, you can run both sides under the vacuum cleaner again. The bottom of your area rug should now be as good as new. 

How To Clean A Rug Inside

If you can’t clean your rug outside because you live in an apartment or because of bad weather, you can still clean it with the below steps. 

Step 1: Vacuum The Rug

As always, start your rug clean by vacuuming it. Get the dirt between all the carpet piles. Avoid shaking the rug unless you want the inside of your home to be a mess. 

Step 2: Choose Your Cleaning Method

There are two main methods you can choose from to wash your rug inside.

Washing Machine

If your rug is small enough to fit into your washing machine and the rug doesn’t expressly forbid machine washing, then you can wash it in your washing machine. 

Lay Down A Ground Cover

If it is too big for your washing machine or the tag forbids machine washing, you can lay down a tarp or a shower curtain when completing the next step.

Step 3: Wash The Rug

how to clean a rug by hand

If you are using your washing machine, use your usual detergent and wash it on a gentle cycle with cold water. It’s important not to use a warm cycle as it can severely damage your rug and ruin its color. 

If you are washing the rug on a tarp, apply a bit of your rug shampoo, DIY solution, or professional cleaning supplies to the rug. Add a small amount of cold water and a soft bristle brush to create a lather. 

Work in small sections across your rug and use as little water as possible. 

Step 7: Rinse & Dry The Rug

After cleaning the rug, take it to your bathroom and rinse it in your shower or bathtub. As you finish rinsing a section, squeeze out the excess water and rest it on a clean towel outside the tub. 

When drying the rug, you’ll have to hang it on a sturdy shower rod or indoor airer.

We’d recommend using water extraction equipment or a wet-dry vacuum to remove the water and hasten the drying process. You can rent one from professional cleaners if you can’t buy one. 

how to clean area rug at home

How To Clean Expensive Rugs

The next method will work on expensive rugs that need extra care and gentle cleaning. 

Step 1: Vacuum The Rug

As with any rug cleaning, vacuum the rug first and keep an eye on the rug pile. Make sure you get all the loose dirt without causing damage to it. 

Step 2: Choose Your Cleaning Solution 

Next, choose a gentle rug cleaner. If you buy a store cleaner or a professional cleaner, ensure it is safe for your rug type and doesn’t contain bleach or harsh stripping agents. 

If you want to make a DIY cleaning solution, mix dye-free mild dish soap with lukewarm water. 

Step 3: Patch Test The Cleaning Solution

Test the cleaning solution on a corner of your rug. Leave it for at least an hour before rinsing it. If there was any staining or color fading, try a different cleaning solution or dilute it until it is gentler. 

Step 5: Wash The Rug

Next, add the cleaning solution to the rug and wet it with lukewarm water. Gently clean the rug with a soft sponge. Try not to scrub the rug, and rather pat areas or use small, gentle circular motions.

If you want the rug even cleaner, soak the rug in water and the diluted cleaning solution for an hour. If there was any reaction when you tested your cleaning solution in step 2, skip the soak to avoid any rug damage. 

Step 6: Rinse & Dry The Rug

After, you can rinse it with cold water. Gently squeeze out the excess water and hang the rug to air dry. 

Step 7: Vacuum & Brush The Rug

If the rug has a high pile, you can vacuum it to lay them all in the same direction. It’s also okay to gently brush the rug when it’s dry.

Conclusion

Rug cleaning doesn’t need to be difficult. Household items and store-bought shampoos can lift most basic stains. Professional cleaning chemicals can remove all stains and spot cleaning can get rid of the rest. 

how to clean area rug

All you need to do is combine this ultimate rug cleaning guide with regular vacuuming, and we guarantee you’ll never have to deal with a dirty rug again. Spruce up your home, get rid of pet odors and accidental stains, and enjoy a clean and fresh rug that feels good as new. 

How To Clean Rugs (FAQs)

What is the best way to clean a rug?

The best way to clean a rug is with the use of a carpet pre-spray. Pre-sprays are powerful and safe and don’t leave any sticky residues like most store-bought rug cleaners. 

best way to clean area rugs

Where can I clean my rug?

You can clean your rug anywhere you don’t mind getting wet. But we’d recommend doing the cleaning outside. Cleaning a rug uses a lot of water, which will splash, and cleaning supplies, which create suds.

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