How to Wash Area Rugs: A Comprehensive Guide

Dr. Harry Noland
19 Min Read

Area rugs are a great way to add warmth and texture to your home, but they can also collect dirt and dust over time. While professional cleaning services are available, washing your area rugs at home is a cost-effective and simple solution. In this guide, we will provide you with everything you need to know about washing your area rugs to keep them looking clean and refreshed.

Key Takeaways

  • Washing your area rugs at home can save you money and extend their lifespan
  • Proper preparation is crucial for effective rug cleaning
  • There are different methods for washing your area rug, including handwashing and machine washing
  • Ensure your rug dries completely to prevent mold or mildew growth
  • Regular maintenance and refreshing can extend the lifespan of your area rug

Gathering the Necessary Supplies

Before you begin washing your area rugs, it’s important to gather the proper cleaning tools and rug cleaning supplies. With the right equipment and products, you’ll be able to effectively clean and refresh your rugs.

What You’ll Need:

    • Vacuum cleaner:

A vacuum cleaner is essential to remove loose dirt and debris from your rug before washing.

    • Mild detergent:

Choose a mild detergent that’s suitable for your rug’s material. Avoid using harsh chemicals or bleach, which can damage your rug fibers.

    • Bucket:

You’ll need a bucket to mix your cleaning solution and apply it to your rug.

    • Soft-bristled brush:

A soft-bristled brush can be used to help agitate dirt and stains during the washing process.

    • Sponge:

A sponge can help to apply the cleaning solution to your rug and remove any excess detergent during the rinsing process.

    • Towels:

You’ll need towels to blot your rug to remove excess moisture after washing and during the drying process.

By gathering the above cleaning tools and rug cleaning supplies, you’ll be well-prepared to start washing your area rugs.

Preparing Your Rug for Washing

Before you start washing your area rug, it’s essential to prepare it properly to avoid causing any damage. The following steps will guide you through the preparatory process.

Inspect Your Rug for Stains

Before washing your rug, carefully inspect it for any visible stains or spills. Note the location and type of stains, as this information will help determine the best approach for removing them later on. You may want to take photos of the stains for later reference.

Remove Loose Dirt and Debris

The next step is to remove any loose dirt and debris from your rug. Use a vacuum cleaner on a low setting to suction up any dirt, crumbs, or pet hair from the surface of the rug. Be sure to vacuum both sides of the rug.

Address Specific Stains or Spills

If you noticed any specific stains during your inspection, it’s time to address them before washing your rug. There are several DIY solutions you can use to tackle different types of stains:

For coffee or tea stains: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water, then blot the stain with a clean cloth until it disappears.
For pet urine stains: Blot up as much of the urine as possible using a clean cloth, then mix equal parts water and white vinegar and soak the affected area. Blot with a clean cloth until the stain disappears.
For wine stains: Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and dish soap, then apply the solution to the stain and let it sit for a few minutes. Blot the area with a clean cloth until the stain disappears.

Make sure to test any DIY solutions on a small, inconspicuous area of your rug before applying them to the stains directly. This will help ensure that the solution does not cause any discoloration or damage to your rug.

Washing Your Area Rug

Now that your rug is properly prepared, it’s time to start washing it. There are two primary methods for washing area rugs: handwashing and machine washing. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on the rug’s size, material, and level of soiling.

Handwashing Rugs

If you have a small or delicate rug, handwashing is often the best choice. It gives you more control over the cleaning process and allows you to be gentler on the fibers. Here are the steps to follow when handwashing an area rug:

  1. Fill a large tub or basin with cool water and add a mild detergent recommended for your rug’s material.
  2. Gently agitate the soapy water to create suds.
  3. Place the rug into the water and use a soft-bristled brush or sponge to gently scrub the surface.
  4. Rinse the rug thoroughly with cool water until all the soap is removed.
  5. Press out as much water as possible, or roll the rug in a clean towel to remove excess moisture.
  6. Hang the rug to air dry, or lay it flat on a clean surface with good ventilation.

Take extra care when rinsing and drying the rug to avoid any stretching or distortion. Be patient and let the rug dry completely before walking on or placing furniture on it.

Machine Washing Rugs

For larger or heavily soiled area rugs, machine washing can be an effective way to clean them thoroughly. However, not all rugs are suitable for machine washing, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions before attempting this method. Here are the basic steps for machine washing an area rug:

  1. Remove any loose dirt and debris from the rug using a vacuum cleaner or shaking it outside.
  2. Place the rug in a large washing machine, with enough room for it to move freely.
  3. Add a mild detergent recommended for your rug’s material and set the machine to a gentle cycle with cool water.
  4. Run the cycle until it is complete, and then run an additional rinse cycle to remove any remaining soap.
  5. Remove the rug from the machine and gently press out excess water, or roll it in a towel to absorb moisture.
  6. Hang the rug to air dry, or lay it flat on a clean surface with good ventilation.

It’s important not to overload the washing machine or use hot water, which can damage the rug fibers. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions before machine washing your area rug, and consider seeking professional help for delicate or valuable rugs.

Drying Your Rug Properly

After washing your rug, it’s crucial to dry it properly to prevent mold or mildew growth. There are different rug drying methods, including air drying, fan drying, and sun drying. Here’s how to effectively dry your rug:

Air Drying Your Rug

One of the simplest and most efficient ways to dry your rug is through air drying. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Hang your rug over a sturdy clothesline or railing, making sure it’s evenly distributed.
  2. Avoid placing the rug directly under the sun or in a damp or humid place. Instead, hang it in a well-ventilated area with good air circulation.
  3. Flip the rug every few hours to ensure it dries evenly on both sides.
  4. Be patient and let the rug dry completely before bringing it back inside your home.

Using Fans to Dry Your Rug

If you’re dealing with a larger rug or need it to dry faster, using fans can speed up the process. Here’s how to use fans to dry your rug:

  1. Make sure your rug is as dry as possible before using fans to prevent water damage.
  2. Place a fan at either end of the rug, making sure they’re facing each other.
  3. Turn the fans on high and let them run for a few hours until the rug is completely dry.
  4. Flip the rug halfway through the drying process to ensure it dries evenly on both sides.

Keep in mind that using high heat or placing the rug too close to a heat source can damage the fibers, so avoid using hair dryers or heaters to dry your rug.

Dealing with Stubborn Stains

Despite your best efforts, some rug stains can be tough to remove. But don’t worry, with the right techniques and products, you can still effectively tackle stubborn stains on your area rug.

Tackling Specific Stains

For oil-based stains, such as grease or makeup, sprinkle cornstarch or baking soda over the stain and let it sit for 15-20 minutes to absorb the oil. Vacuum the powder and repeat as necessary. For red wine stains, blot the area with a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water. Rinse with water and blot dry.

If you’re dealing with pet urine stains, first blot up as much of the liquid as possible with paper towels. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water and apply to the stain. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes, then blot up with paper towels and rinse with water. Repeat as necessary. Avoid using ammonia-based cleaners, as they can make the odor worse.

DIY Solutions

For a DIY stain remover, mix dish soap and water and apply to the stain with a sponge or cloth. Blot with a clean, damp cloth until the stain is removed. Another solution is mixing equal parts water and hydrogen peroxide and applying it to the stain. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then blot with a clean, damp cloth.

Professional Stain Removal

If you’re still struggling to remove a stubborn stain, it may be time to call in the professionals. Look for a reputable rug cleaning service that specializes in stain removal. They will have the proper equipment and products to effectively tackle even the toughest of stains.

By following these tips and techniques, you can effectively remove even the toughest rug stains and restore the beauty of your area rugs.

Maintaining and Refreshing Your Rug

Regular maintenance and refreshing can help extend the lifespan of your area rug, keeping it looking and feeling new for longer. Here are some useful rug maintenance and refresh tips to keep in mind:

  1. Vacuum your rug regularly to prevent dirt and dust buildup. Use a vacuum cleaner with a rotating brush or beater bar for best results.
  2. Rotate your rug periodically to ensure even wear and tear. You can rotate it 180 degrees or switch it with another rug if you have multiple ones.
  3. Use a rug pad underneath your rug to prevent sliding and protect your floors. Rug pads also add extra cushioning and insulation.
  4. Address spills and stains immediately to prevent them from setting in. Blot them with a clean cloth and use a mild detergent or stain remover if necessary.
  5. Have your rug professionally cleaned every 1-2 years or as needed, especially if it experiences heavy foot traffic or is exposed to pets or children.

By following these simple rug maintenance and refresh tips, you can keep your rug in top condition and enjoy its comfort and beauty for years to come.

Choosing Professional Rug Cleaning Services

If you have a valuable or delicate rug or simply prefer not to clean it yourself, hiring professional rug cleaners may be the best option for you. It’s important to choose a reputable service provider to ensure the safety and preservation of your rug. Here are some tips to help you find the right experts for the job:

  1. Research: Look for credible sources online and read reviews from previous customers. Check the company’s website for information about their services, pricing, and experience.
  2. Ask for referrals: Reach out to friends, family, or acquaintances who have had their rugs cleaned professionally. They may be able to recommend a trustworthy cleaner.
  3. Check for certifications: Professional rug cleaners should have certifications in rug cleaning, such as those from the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC).
  4. Get a quote: Contact several companies and ask for a price estimate. Be wary of drastically low prices, as they may indicate subpar service or hidden charges.
  5. Ask about cleaning methods: Inquire about the cleaning techniques and products used by the company. Choose a cleaner that uses gentle and effective methods suitable for your rug’s material and condition.
  6. Discuss insurance: Check whether the company has insurance coverage for any damages that may occur during the cleaning process. This can give you peace of mind and protection in case of accidents.

By following these guidelines, you can choose a professional rug cleaning service that meets your needs and expectations. Remember to ask any questions you may have before hiring a cleaner and communicate any concerns or special requirements for your rug. With expert care, your rug can continue to enhance the beauty and comfort of your home for years to come!

Special Care for Antique or Delicate Rugs

If you have antique or delicate rugs, it’s essential to take extra care when cleaning them to avoid damage. These rugs are often made with unique materials and construction techniques that require specialized cleaning methods. Here are some guidelines to help you clean and care for your antique or delicate rugs:

  • Before cleaning antique or delicate rugs, it’s essential to inspect them carefully for any signs of damage, such as loose threads, holes, or tears. If you notice any damage, it’s best to consult a professional rug cleaner for repairs.
  • Never use harsh detergents or chemicals when washing antique or delicate rugs, as they can cause irreparable damage to the fibers. Instead, use a gentle, pH-neutral cleaning solution specifically designed for delicate rugs.
  • Avoid soaking antique or delicate rugs in water, as this can cause the fibers to shrink or become misshapen. Instead, use a damp cloth to spot clean any stains or spots.
  • When drying antique or delicate rugs, it’s important to avoid direct sunlight or heat sources, as this can cause the fibers to fade or become brittle. Instead, lay the rug flat on a clean, dry surface and allow it to air dry naturally.
  • If your antique or delicate rug requires a deep cleaning, it’s best to consult a professional rug cleaner with experience in handling these types of rugs. They have specialized equipment and cleaning solutions that can safely and effectively remove dirt and stains without damaging the rug.

By following these guidelines, you can help ensure that your antique or delicate rugs remain in excellent condition for years to come. With a little extra care and attention, you can preserve the unique beauty and history of these valuable pieces.


By following the step-by-step instructions provided in this guide, you can confidently wash and maintain your area rugs at home, saving time and money on professional cleaning services. Remember to gather the necessary supplies, prepare your rug for washing, and choose the appropriate washing and drying methods for your specific rug type. In addition, be sure to address any stubborn stains and regularly maintain and refresh your rugs to extend their lifespan and preserve their beauty.

If you have a valuable or delicate rug, consider hiring professional rug cleaning services to ensure proper care. However, with the right tools and techniques, even antique or delicate rugs can be safely and effectively cleaned at home.

Thank you for reading this comprehensive guide on how to wash area rugs. We hope it has been helpful and informative in empowering you to maintain the cleanliness and beauty of your home’s rugs for years to come.

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