How to clean your area rugs

Cleaning area rugs at home is something you can do with a few simple cleaning supplies and a garden hose. It’s ideal to clean rugs outdoors where you can easily hose down the rug and lay it flat to dry. The sun is the quickest and easiest way to dry your rug after cleaning, so pick a sunny day for this chore. If you don’t have access to an outside space and hose, it’s best to roll your rugs up and take them to a professional rug cleaner.

brown muddy boots walking and leaving a stain on a beige rug

Table of contents

Different fibers require different cleaning techniquesTest for colorfastnessHow to clean an area rug in 8 easy steps

Different fibers require different cleaning techniques

Different fibers require different types of cleaning solutions, For the most part, you can clean cotton, synthetic, wool, and natural fiber rugs yourself, but always check the rug’s tag for cleaning instructions before you begin.

  • Wool: Use a cleaning solution specific to wool when you are cleaning a wool rug. 

  • Cotton and synthetic: These can be cleaned with dish soap and water or rug shampoo. 

  • Jute and sisal: You should only spot clean rugs made from natural fibers, but they’ll clean up easily—think of them as a wipeable surface rather than a washable fabric.

  • Antique, oriental, persian, or other delicate rug types: Take them to a professional, or hire a professional to do a home cleaning. Professional cleaners will have more gentle cleaning and drying tools that will help preserve your rug.

Test for colorfastness

Before you clean an area rug, always test the rug for colorfastness. Colorfast materials are made in a way that prevents the colors from bleeding or changing when they are treated with cleaning products or detergents. Test a small corner of the rug just in case your cleaning method causes any noticeable damage. If it passes the test, follow the step by step guide to learn how to clean the area rug effectively.

How to test for colorfastness:

  1. Apply your cleaner to a clean cloth or paper towel and place over the rug corner.

  2. Let sit for at least one hour.

  3. Remove the cloth and blot the area with a clean white cloth or paper towel. If the cloth does not pick up any color from the rug, that means that it is colorfast with the cleaning product you chose, and it is safe to deep clean the entire rug.

  4. If it does pick up color, test with a different cleaning product or method until you find one that works without lifting any color.

multi colored rug with a hand using a scrubbing sponge

How to clean an area rug in 8 easy steps

What you’ll need:

  • Space to work outdoors (driveway or yard)

  • Tarp

  • Vacuum

  • Bucket

  • Liquid dish soap and warm water, or rug shampoo

  • Garden hose

  • Squeegee

  • Sponge or soft bristled brush

How to clean:

  1. Setup a tarp outside, near your garden hose. 

  2. Roll up the rug and carry outside. Lay the rug out flat on the tarp.

  3. Thoroughly vacuum both sides.

  4. Apply a cleaning solution to the top side of the rug. Use a sponge or soft brush to work the cleaning solution until sudsy.

  5. Rinse the rug with the hose until the water runs clear—it shouldn’t show any dirt or suds.

  6. Run a squeegee over the rug to push out excess water.

  7. Let dry completely. If the top side dries but the backing is still damp, flip the rug to dry the other side. Rugs made from synthetic fibers generally dry the quickest; rugs with a higher pile will take longer to dry.

  8. Vacuum both sides again before bringing the rug inside.

Tip: To check if the rug is completely dry, press a paper towel to each side. If it picks up any moisture, leave the rug out to continue drying.

Tip: For cleaning shag rugs or other high pile rugs where vacuuming isn’t enough, hang the rug over a fence and use a broom or rug beater to whack the dirt away.

Just like carpet, rugs benefit from regular spot cleaning and vacuuming. Always vacuum both sides to keep the backing in good condition—you don’t need to pull up and flip the entire rug, just fold half onto itself, vacuum the backing, then repeat with the other half. Aim to clean your rugs once a year during your summer deep clean (for that sunny day), or more often as needed if you notice a rug looking dingy.

Regular cleaning makes deep cleaning your rugs easier. With Bungalow, monthly cleaning is always on the books. 

Bungalow offers private rooms in shared homes that are more affordable than solo housing options in the same neighborhoods. Wifi, utilities, and monthly cleaning are set up before you move in, so that coliving is seamless. Find

multi colored rug with person standing with a cleaning mop and soap

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