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How To Clean An Area Rug

Area rugs are a great way to tie a room together, but they’re not going to do your décor any favors when they start looking grungy.

Use these tips to learn how to clean your area rugs so they look nice and last longer.

How to Clean an Area Rug: Basic Maintenance

Rugs can be expensive, so you want to check the care instruction tag before you get started. If there are specific recommendations for cleaning, stick to those. Otherwise, you can use the following directions, whether you’re trying to determine how to clean a large area rug or a smaller size.

You’ll need:
  • A two-speed vacuum with an upholstery attachment
  • Baking soda
How often to clean: At least every week or two, unless your rug is in a high-traffic location.
  1. First, take smaller rugs outdoors and shake them off as much as you can.
  2. Check the settings on your vacuum cleaner. Many have a reduced speed of airflow setting for use on area rugs. This can prolong your rug’s life and can keep it from getting stuck in the vacuum.
  3. Sprinkle baking soda on your rug before vacuuming. This will help neutralize any odors.
  4. Vacuum the rug.
  5. Roll up each side of your rug to clean under the edges. Vacuum any dirt or debris that has gotten caught beneath the sides of the rug. If you have a mat under your rug, make sure you don’t suck it up in the vacuum as you work.
  6. Vacuum around the edges of the rug’s surface to remove any dust or dirt that may have been dislodged as you rolled it.

How to Deep Clean Rugs by Material

Once or twice a year, your area rugs will need a detailed cleaning. The method you’ll use for area rug cleaning will depend on what the rug is made of.


Many people opt for wool rugs because they’re durable and tend to hold their color longer than other materials. They also tend to hold dirt due to the way they’re woven and the makeup of the wool fibers themselves.

You’ll need:
  • A two-speed vacuum with an upholstery attachment
  • A bucket of cold water
  • Gentle laundry detergent
  • Microfiber cloths
  • White or lightly colored towels
  1. If possible, take the rug outside and shake it. Alternatively, you can hang it over a clothesline or railing and whack the dust out with a rug beater.
  2. Vacuum the rug before cleaning it to remove excess soil.
  3. Mix a capful of gentle laundry detergent — the same you’d use when washing sheets — with a bucket of cold water.
  4. Dampen a microfiber cloth with soapy water and lightly dab it on the surface of the rug, working in the direction of the nap and re-moistening your cloth as needed. Go easy on the water though; you should never saturate a wool area rug.
  5. Rinse out your bucket and refill it with plain cold water.
  6. Moisten a fresh microfiber cloth and blot this over the rug.
  7. Now blot the rug with several dry microfiber towels or regular bath towels.
  8. Let the rug dry completely before walking over it. You can set up box fans to help expedite the drying process, or, if the rug is smaller, you can hang it over a clothesline.


This material is popular because it tends to be a bit more lightweight than wool. And like wool, the natural fibers of cotton tend to attract dirt.

Smaller cotton rugs can often be shaken out and cleaned in the washing machine. Simply set the washer on the delicate cycle and use gentle laundry detergent and cold water. Take care not to overload your washing machine, and hang your smaller cotton rugs to dry.

If you’re trying to figure out how to clean a large area rug made of cotton, you can use the above instructions for wool rugs. Alternatively, you can roll the rug up and take it to a local laundromat. Many laundromats clean larger cotton rugs, and you may be surprised at how little it costs.


These rugs have grown in popularity because they’re lightweight and add an earthy touch to a room. However, moisture is a jute area rug’s number one enemy. Because of this, you’ll need to purchase a special dry-cleaning kit at a carpet store or order one online.

You’ll need:
  • A dry-cleaning kit for jute rugs
  • A two-speed vacuum cleaner with an upholstery attachment
  1. If possible, take your rug outdoors and shake any loose debris from it.
  2. Sprinkle the dry-cleaning powder from your kit onto the rug.
  3. Using the brush from the cleaning kit or a stiff-bristled brush, gently clean the rug’s fibers. Don’t scrub heavily or you’ll tear the material.
  4. Vacuum up any remaining cleaning powder.

Synthetic fibers

There are numerous synthetic fibers used to make area rugs, including olefin, nylon, polypropylene and rayon. Check your care tag so you know which materials you’re working with and what products to avoid.

You’ll need:
  • A two-speed vacuum cleaner with an upholstery attachment
  • A water hose
  • A bristled brush
  • Dishwashing liquid
  1. Vacuum your rug before taking it outdoors and shaking it out.
  2. Hang the rug over a clothesline or set it on a sloped driveway.
  3. Spray the rug with your water hose until it’s entirely wet.
  4. Apply dishwashing liquid directly to the surface of the rug.
  5. Use a bristled brush to gently work the soap into your area rug, following the nap of the material. Don’t scrub vigorously.
  6. Rinse the rug clean with your hose until the water runs clear and is no longer soapy.
  7. Let the rug dry completely before bringing it indoors. If possible, rotate the rug frequently so that it dries evenly.
Note: Regardless of the material, you should always follow manufacturer cleaning instructions when they are available. Additionally, when cleaning an area rug with any product, you should spot test a small inconspicuous portion to ensure there isn’t any discoloration. Let the spot tested area dry completely before applying cleaner to the rest of the rug.

While detailed area rug cleaning is important to the rug’s longevity, there can be too much of a good thing. Over cleaning your area rug can dull the colors and wear out the fibers, so be certain you’re not overdoing it. However, regular vacuuming can help prolong the life of your rugs and carpets. If you need help with this routine housekeeping chore, contact your local Merry Maids.