How to Clean an Area Rug: A Step by Step Guide

Gladys K. Connelly
As a HouseKeeping Technical Writer, Gladys actively enjoys writing guides and tips about housekeeping for Thehousewire's audience. She's a professional housekeeping specialist with just shy of 9 years' experience to boast. That, combined with seven years prior experience in teaching, helps her create content that is both captivating and insightful.
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Updated May 21, 2023

Is your area “scary-a”? Clean your rug and give yourself a hug!

Is your area “scary-a”? Clean your rug and give yourself a hug!

How to Clean an Area Rug
Do you have messes or spots on your rug? Are you scared of rug cleaning?

Don’t worry! With a few simple tips and tricks, you can easily get smells and stains out of your area rugs.

In this article, we’ll show you how to vacuum your carpet, remove stains, and shampoo the fibers. With a bit of regular maintenance, your rug will look as good as new!

How Often To Clean My Area Rugs

If you have wall-to-wall carpeting, you need to regularly vacuum. But if you only have area rugs, they don’t need regular cleaning as often.

For full carpeting, you should vacuum about once a week. However, if you have pets, you’ll want to vacuum more often.

On the other hand, area rugs don’t need regular vacuuming – you can beat them instead! Simply take your rug outside every 6 months and beat it with a broom handle or wooden stick.

But area rugs will need a deep cleaning once a year. And we’ll show you how to do that below!

As well, make sure to check your rug’s warranty. Some manufacturers require professional cleaning every so often to continue coverage.

It’s also a good idea to get your rugs professionally cleaned once in a while because it will keep the fibers healthier and maintain your warranty. But make sure the cleaner is using an approved method!

Before You Begin

Before cleaning your area rug, make sure that it’s safe to use water on your particular rug. And that will depend on the rug’s material and weave.

Area Rug Materials and Make

Some fabrics are very delicate, and you can damage them if you pour water or other liquids on them.

In general, wool and cotton rugs, or synthetic rug materials such as nylon or polyester have sturdy fibers. Therefore, you can clean them by following most cleaning procedures.

However, you can damage natural fiber rugs such as silk, jute, and cashmere with water. As well, water isn’t good for synthetic fiber area rugs containing viscose.

Therefore, if you have rugs with any of these fibers, you’ll need to use a dry cleaning method.

Also, if you have delicate rugs or are unsure about the materials, it’s a good idea to phone a professional.


And keep in mind that linen can be washed with plain water, but you’ll damage the fibers if you use cleaning solutions or soap.

For an oriental rug or antique rugs, your cleaning procedure will depend on how the carpet is made. So, make sure you know how to clean your particular area rug properly so that you don’t accidentally cause a mold or mildew issue.

General Tips

Most importantly, if you have a care tag or information on the manufacturer’s website, make sure you read that carefully before cleaning your area rug. And if you have any questions, contact a professional.

Keep In Mind

Another thing to keep in mind is where you will clean your rug. Usually, you want to wash your rug outside because you’ll probably create a bit of a mess while you clean.

As area rug cleaning uses a lot of water, you won’t damage your floors if you wash the rug outdoors. But if you have to clean it indoors, make sure you do it in a bathroom, garage, or basement in case you splash water.

Finally, try to wash your rug during hot and sunny weather. This will help your rug dry faster and will prevent mildew or mold from growing.

What You’ll Need

There are just a couple of items you’ll need to clean your rug.


1. Beat Your Area Rug

The first step to carpet cleaning is beating your rug.

If you can pick up the entire rug, take it outside. By shaking rugs outdoors, you can remove a lot of the excess dirt.

Next, hang the area rug over a clothesline. And if you can, hang it inside out so that you can beat the underside of the carpet.

Then, beat the carpet to remove dirt and debris. To do this, you can use a rug beater, a broom handle, or even your hand!

Now you can take your rug back inside for the next step.

2. Vacuum Thoroughly

For this next step, get out your vacuum cleaner. And keep in mind that the best vacuums will either have strong suction, a carpet brush, or both.

But don’t use the beater bar! If your vacuum has a carpet attachment, make sure that it is a soft bristle brush.

Also, check the height settings on your vacuum (if it has them). Then choose the carpet setting that will get you the best suction for your rug.

Now, practice your vacuuming technique! Make each stroke about 3-4 feet long, and keep moving sideways to cover the whole rug.

In addition, make sure you work slowly and overlap each stroke so that you don’t miss any dirt or dust.

And importantly, always vacuum in the direction of the pile, and only work in that direction. Don’t move back and forth.

When you finish, turn the rug over so that you can vacuum the other side. Follow the same procedure.

And if you need more help with your vacuuming technique, check out our handy how-to guide here.

3. Spot Treat the Stains

Next, it’s time to get rid of some stains. And it’s important to do this before you shampoo the carpet, or you can make the stains worse, particularly if you don’t know what caused them.

In general, try to clean your stains as soon as possible. If you can, treat them within 24 hours for the best results.

As well, don’t use heat or hot water on the stains. If the stains have protein in them, the heat can make the protein coagulate.

This, in turn, makes the stain set so that it’s harder to remove. So if your stains come from blood, milk, egg, or any other protein, avoid hot water.

The first step to removing a stain is to absorb as much excess water as possible. To do this, use a clean white cloth and dab the stain.

Then, use an appropriate stain remover. Always follow the instructions on the label, and test the product on a hidden section of carpet to make sure it won’t affect the dye.

4. Flush and Clean with Detergent or Carpet Shampoo

Now it’s time to add the water. Rinse off your rug with a sprayer, garden hose, or even a bucket.

Next, use your favorite rug shampoo. And if you want the best ones, check this list for products that The Carpet and Rug Institute has certified.

When using a cleaning solution, always follow the instructions on the label.

If you don’t like commercial products, you can also make your own area rug cleaning solution! Simply mix a cup of warm water with ¼ teaspoon mild dish soap.

When you’re ready, spray your solution onto the carpet. As you do this, work in small areas or follow a pattern so that you can keep track of your cleaning process.

Then, let the solution sit on the carpet for a few minutes to deep clean the fibers.

Finally, use a grooming tool or brush to agitate the carpet fibers.

5. Rinse & Let Dry

Once you finish the shampoo part of area rug cleaning, it’s time to rinse the area rug.

So, take out your sprayer, garden hose, or bucket and flush out the solution or carpet cleaning foam.

Then, let the carpet dry completely. Don’t rush this step!

If the rug stays damp, it can grow mold, especially if you have rolled it up and put it in storage.

To speed up this process, you can wring out your carpet if it’s small enough. Or, if you have a wet-dry vacuum, you can use that to remove excess water.

And remember, your carpet will almost certainly take more than a day to dry. So, be patient!

If you can, hang the rug outside in the sun where it can dry more quickly. And turn the rug over from time to time so that all parts of it dry out.

On the other hand, if you keep the rug inside, make sure to dry the rug flat so that it doesn’t warp.

Tips to Help an Area Rug Last Longer

  • First, always rotate rugs once every 3 months. This prevents wear or fading in specific areas.
  • Also, keep your rugs out of direct sun because the light can bleach the color.
  • If you have large stains or ones that penetrate deep into the carpet fibers, take the rug to a professional.
  • And to make your rug last longer, always put a rug pad underneath.
  • When the rug is wet, don’t rub the fibers back and forth. If you do this, you can hurt the pile or spread a stain deeper in the carpet.
  • If you have loose threads coming out from the weave, don’t pull them! Instead, use a pair of scissors to trim off the excess.
  • As well, never use bleach or other strong chemicals because they can weaken the natural or synthetic fibers or change the color.
  • If you have sheepskin rugs, wool rugs, or a different kind of shag rug with long fibers, you can brush the carpet from time to time. So, just use a soft brush for pets with wire bristles to gently stroke the shag rugs.
  • And if it’s an outdoor rug, take it inside during the winter or during bad weather. To do this, roll up the rug with the front facing out, and put it away in a dry area.
  • Finally, when drying your carpet, try to do it as fast as possible.
  • If your rug is made of natural fibers from plants, the water from deep cleaning can damage it. Therefore, if you need to dry the carpet more quickly, you can use a hair dryer.

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