How to Wash Rugs: A Comprehensive Rug Washing Guide

Dr. Harry Noland
18 Min Read

If you have beautiful rugs adorning your home, you’ll want to take good care of them to ensure they remain clean and last for years to come. Regular vacuuming can help, but sometimes rugs need a more thorough cleaning to remove dirt, stains, and grime. Washing your rugs can seem like a daunting task, but with our step-by-step guide, you’ll feel confident in tackling this important chore.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about washing rugs, from gathering supplies and choosing the right washing method to drying and maintaining your rugs. Whether you have area rugs, Persian rugs, or shag rugs, we’ve got you covered.

Key Takeaways

  • Learn step-by-step instructions on how to effectively wash your rugs
  • Thoroughly vacuum your rugs before washing to remove loose dirt and debris
  • Spot clean any visible stains or spills before washing the entire rug
  • Choose the right washing method depending on your rug material
  • Test for colorfastness to prevent color bleeding or fading
  • Dry your rug properly to prevent mold, mildew, and damage to the fibers
  • Maintain your rugs regularly to keep them clean and in top condition

Gather Supplies and Prepare

Before you begin washing your rugs, it’s important to gather all the necessary rug washing supplies. Here are some essential items you’ll need:

  • Rug cleaner or detergent
  • Bucket or basin
  • Brush or sponge
  • Water hose or faucet with spray nozzle
  • Large plastic tarp or drop cloth
  • Vacuum cleaner with attachments

Once you have all your supplies, it’s important to prepare the area where you’ll be washing your rug. It’s best to choose an outdoor spot with a flat, clean surface that can handle water and soap. Lay down a large plastic tarp or drop cloth to protect the ground from any stains or damage. If you’re washing your rug indoors, make sure to choose a location with good ventilation and adequate space to work.

Vacuum Thoroughly

Before washing your rugs, it’s essential to vacuum them thoroughly. This step removes loose dirt, dust, and other debris that can be trapped within the fibers.

To ensure you’re vacuuming your rugs correctly, you’ll need to follow a few steps:

  1. Start by removing any loose particles from the rug’s surface by hand. This includes pet hair, dirt, and debris.
  2. Next, turn on your vacuum cleaner and set it to the appropriate height for your rug. If you’re unsure, check the manufacturer’s instructions or start with the highest setting and work your way down until you find the right height.
  3. Slowly move the vacuum cleaner over the rug, making sure to cover all areas. Use back-and-forth, overlapping strokes for the best results.
  4. For high-pile or shag rugs, use a vacuum cleaner with a beater brush attachment. This type of attachment helps loosen dirt and debris from the fibers.
  5. For delicate rugs, use a handheld vacuum cleaner or a vacuum cleaner with a suction-only setting to avoid damaging the fibers.

By following these steps, you’ll effectively remove dirt and debris from your rugs, preparing them for the washing process.

Check for Stains and Spot Clean

Before washing your entire rug, it’s important to check for any stains or spills and address them first. This will ensure that the affected areas of the rug are thoroughly cleaned and prevent any potential spreading of the stain during washing.

If you have a wool rug and are unsure of how to treat a specific stain, it’s best to consult with a professional rug cleaner to avoid any damage to the fibers.

To spot clean a stain:

  1. Blot the stain with a clean cloth to remove any excess liquid or debris.
  2. Mix a cleaning solution using warm water and a mild detergent.
  3. Using a clean cloth or sponge, gently apply the cleaning solution to the stain.
  4. Blot the area with a clean, damp cloth to remove any remaining cleaning solution.
  5. Repeat until the stain is no longer visible.

For tougher stains, such as pet urine or wine, you may need to use a specialized rug cleaner or seek professional help.

Remember, it’s important to act quickly when treating a stain to prevent it from setting in and becoming more difficult to remove.

Once all stains have been spot treated, you’re ready to move on to the next step in washing your rug.

Choose the Right Washing Method

When it comes to washing your rugs, there are two main methods to consider: hand washing and machine washing. Each method has its pros and cons, so it’s important to choose the one that’s best for your rug.

Hand Washing Rugs

If you have a delicate or valuable rug, hand washing may be the best option. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Vacuum the rug thoroughly to remove loose dirt and debris.
  2. Fill a large container with cool water and add a small amount of mild detergent.
  3. Use a soft-bristled brush or sponge to gently scrub the rug in a circular motion, being careful not to damage the fibers.
  4. Rinse the rug with cool water until all the soap is removed.
  5. Squeeze out as much water as possible, then roll the rug in a clean towel to absorb any excess moisture.
  6. Allow the rug to air dry completely before placing it back on the floor.

Hand washing can be time-consuming, but it allows you to be gentle with delicate or valuable rugs and ensures that you have complete control over the washing process.

Machine Washing Rugs

For larger rugs or rugs that can withstand machine washing, using a washing machine can be a more efficient option. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Vacuum the rug thoroughly to remove loose dirt and debris.
  2. Check the label on the rug to make sure it’s machine washable.
  3. Place the rug in the washing machine with a small amount of mild detergent.
  4. Use the gentle cycle and cool water, avoiding hot water that can shrink or damage the rug.
  5. When the cycle is complete, remove the rug from the machine and hang it over a railing or drying rack to air dry.

Machine washing can be quicker and more convenient, but it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and avoid using hot water or harsh detergents that can damage the rug.

Test for Colorfastness

Before you begin washing your rug, it’s essential to test the colors for colorfastness to avoid any potential color bleeding or fading. Here’s how you can test your rug for colorfastness:

  1. Identify a hidden section of the rug: Choose an inconspicuous area on your rug, such as the corner or underneath a piece of furniture.
  2. Dampen a white cloth: Moisten a white cloth with water.
  3. Blot the area: Gently blot the dampened cloth onto the hidden area of the rug. Keep blotting until the cloth touches the rug more than once.
  4. Inspect the cloth: Check the cloth for any color transfer from the rug. If there is no color on the cloth, then your rug is colorfast.

If there is color transfer, then you should take extra precautions when washing your rug. Consider using a color-safe detergent and lowering the water temperature to prevent any further bleeding of colors.

Wash Your Rug

Now that you have gathered your supplies and prepped your area, it’s time to wash your rug. Follow these steps for a clean and fresh rug:

  1. Fill a large container or your washing machine with cool water.
  2. Add the appropriate amount of gentle detergent to the water. Refer to the detergent instructions for proper measurement.
  3. Submerge the rug in the water and gently agitate it to distribute the detergent.
  4. Use a soft-bristled brush or sponge to scrub any tough stains or soiled areas.
  5. Let the rug soak in the detergent solution for at least 15 minutes.
  6. Drain the detergent solution and refill the container or machine with clean, cool water.
  7. Rinse the rug in the clean water, gently squeezing out excess water as you go. Repeat this step until all detergent is removed.
  8. Once the rug is thoroughly rinsed, gently squeeze out as much water as possible.

Remember, always check your rug’s care label for specific washing instructions, especially if it’s a delicate or antique rug. For stubborn stains or odors, consider professional rug cleaning services.

Rinse and Squeeze Out Excess Water

After washing your rug, it’s essential to rinse it thoroughly to remove any soap residue. Fill a clean bucket with cold water and use a sponge or clean cloth to gently apply the water to the rug. Repeat this process until the water runs clear.

Once the rug is rinsed, it’s time to remove the excess water. Begin by rolling the rug tightly, starting at one end and working your way to the other. As you roll, apply gentle pressure to squeeze out the excess water.

After the excess water is removed, unroll the rug and reroll it in the opposite direction. Repeat the squeezing process to remove any remaining water.

If your rug is small enough, you can wrap it in a towel and step on it to absorb additional moisture. For larger rugs, use a wet-dry vacuum to extract the excess water.

Rug Drying Methods: Air Drying Your Clean Rugs

After washing your rug, it’s crucial to dry it thoroughly to prevent mold, mildew, and damage to the fibers. Air drying is the most common and safest method to use. Here are the steps to follow when air drying your clean rugs:

  1. Remove excess water: Before air drying your rug, gently squeeze out excess water using a towel or rug wringer. Avoid twisting or wringing your rug as it can damage the fibers.
  2. Select the right location: Choose a well-ventilated area with a low humidity level to air dry your rug. Avoid direct sunlight or heat sources like radiators or heaters.
  3. Hang your rug: Using a sturdy clothesline or a rug hanger, hang your rug evenly to prevent it from stretching or losing its shape. You can use clips or clothespins to secure the corners and edges of your rug.
  4. Fluff and rotate: While your rug is drying, fluff the fibers occasionally with a soft-bristle brush to prevent them from clumping together. Also, rotate your rug every few hours to ensure even drying.
  5. Wait patiently: Depending on the size and thickness of your rug, air drying can take several hours or even a few days. Be patient and avoid walking or stepping on your rug until it’s completely dry.

Air drying your rug is a simple and effective method that ensures your rug stays in top condition.

If you need your rug to dry faster, you can use a fan or dehumidifier to speed up the process. However, make sure to avoid placing your rug in a high-traffic or damp area until it’s fully dry.

Brush and Re-Fluff

Once your rug is fully dry, it’s time to bring it back to life with some brushing and re-fluffing. This step is crucial in maintaining the texture and appearance of your rug, keeping it looking fresh for longer.

Start by using a soft-bristled brush to gently remove any remaining dirt or debris from the rug’s fibers. Brush in the direction of the rug’s nap, or the natural direction of the fibers, to prevent damage or matting.

Next, use your hands to gently massage and fluff the fibers. This will help to restore the rug’s texture and give it a fuller appearance. For low-pile rugs, you can also use a vacuum with a beater bar attachment to fluff the fibers.

For shag or high-pile rugs, you may need to use a wire pet brush or a rug rake to fluff the fibers. Be gentle to avoid pulling or damaging the rug’s fibers.

By brushing and re-fluffing your rug, you can bring it back to its original beauty and prolong its lifespan. With regular maintenance, your rug will continue to enhance the look and feel of your home for years to come.

Take Preventive Measures to Maintain the Cleanliness of Your Rug

Now that you’ve mastered rug washing, it’s important to know how to maintain the cleanliness of your rug for the long term. Here are some preventive measures you can take:

  • Vacuum regularly: Dirt and debris can accumulate quickly on rugs, so it’s important to vacuum them at least once a week. Use a vacuum with adjustable settings to avoid damaging the fibers and to remove dirt and dust from the rug’s surface.
  • Place doormats: Placing doormats at all entryways to your home can help prevent dirt and debris from getting onto your rugs in the first place.
  • Use rug pads: Rug pads can help protect your rugs from wear and tear, prevent slipping, and provide extra cushioning. Choose a rug pad suitable for your specific rug type and size.
  • Address spills quickly: Promptly address any spills or stains that occur on your rug to prevent them from setting in. Blot the stain with a clean cloth or paper towel and treat it with the appropriate solution.
  • Avoid direct sunlight: Direct sunlight can cause fading and damage to rug fibers over time. Position your rug away from direct sunlight or use curtains and blinds to control exposure.

By following these preventive measures, you can help keep your rugs looking clean and vibrant for years to come.


Now that you’ve learned how to effectively wash your rugs, you can enjoy a clean and fresh home. Remember to gather all the necessary supplies, vacuum thoroughly, spot clean any stains, choose the right washing method and test for colorfastness before washing. Rinse and squeeze out excess water, choose the right drying method, brush and re-fluff your rug, and take preventive measures to keep it clean.

With these simple steps, you can maintain your rugs’ longevity and ensure they enhance the beauty of your home for years to come. Happy rug washing!

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