April 5

Cleaning Rugs: A DIY Approach


Keeping your rugs clean is crucial for several reasons. For one, dirty rugs harbor dust, dirt, and allergens that can irritate those with sensitivities. Cleaning rugs regularly gets rid of these particles and promotes better indoor air quality. Clean rugs also have a fresher appearance that adds to the aesthetic of a room. Putting in the effort to clean rugs often preserves their condition, extends their lifespan, and contributes to a healthier, more visually pleasing home environment.

We’ve compiled a few ways you can quickly and easily clean your rugs at home. 

Cleaning Small Rugs

Begin the cleaning process by vacuuming both sides of the rug. Use a mixture of cold water and mild dish washing liquid and scrub the rug with a sponge or soft brush. Brush in a linear motion in the same direction as the nap. Most rugs have a certain direction in which the fibers or threads most naturally lie, kind of like the grain on a piece of wood. This is the ‘nap’ of the rug. When you have scrubbed the entire rug, rinse thoroughly with cool running water. If the rug is small enough, rinse it inside your bathtub or rinse outside with a garden hose. Be sure to squeeze as much of the water out of the rug as possible. Drape your rug over the side of the tub and start wringing the water from the top. Gravity will help you remove the water as you squeeze it little by little. Then, allow the rug to air dry by laying it completely flat. Check the rug for dryness periodically. When the rug feels dry, flip it over and allow the other side to dry.

Cleaning Large Area Rugs

Larger rugs–such as oriental and area rugs–will have to be cleaned outside. To start, vacuum the rug thoroughly and roll it up to make carrying easier. You can clean it outside in your yard or take it to a local car wash. If you take it to a car wash, make sure the car wash bay is clean before laying out your rug. You can use your own carpet and rug cleaner to scrub the rug with, or you can use the car wash cleaning solution. Make sure to test the car wash cleaning solution on a small hidden area of the rug. If there is not discoloration to the rug than the car wash cleaning solution will work fine. Scrub the rug in the direction of the nap with a soft brush. Rinse the rug thoroughly and allow to air dry by either laying the rug out flat or hanging it.

Cleaning Rugs Spills

cleaning spills

Water that is spilled on rugs should immediately be dried. You can accomplish this by using a hairdryer set to warm and moving it back and forth across the spill until dry. If colored liquid–such as soft drinks, wine, juice, tea, kool-aid, or alcohol–is spilled on the rug, liberally sprinkle baking soda or salt onto the spot. Allow the baking soda or salt to sit for a few minutes. This will give it time to absorb the color of the liquid. After three to five minutes, vacuum the baking soda or salt up. Wet a clean white towel with either tap water or carbonated water and wipe the area in the same direction as the nap. Wipe the area gently and do not scrub.

Another great article for clean floors How to Clean Unsealed Hardwood Floors.

Cleaning Rugs Frequently Asked Questions:

  • What supplies do I need to clean my rug at home?

    The basic supplies you’ll need for DIY rug cleaning include a vacuum cleaner, cleaning solutions, scrub brushes, towels for blotting, and fans or dehumidifiers to dry the rug.

    Start with a good vacuum cleaner. Look for one designed for use on carpets and rugs, with adjustable height and a motorized brush roll. The brush roll loosens embedded dirt and debris as you vacuum. Crevice tools and hose attachments allow you to thoroughly vacuum all areas of the rug. Vacuuming prior to washing prepares the rug surface and removes dry soil.

    Next, have an effective cleaning solution on hand. Options like wool-safe detergents, carpet shampoos and spot removers are made specifically for rugs and woven fabrics. Check that the solution is safe for your particular rug material. Mix the solution according to package directions. Some cleaners may require mixing with warm water first.

    Scrub brushes with soft, short bristles allow you to work the cleaning solution into the rug fibers. Scrub stubborn, heavily trafficked areas to loosen deep, ground-in dirt. Using a brush prepares the rug for proper cleaning.

    Absorbent, lint-free white towels blot up excess moisture after scrubbing and rinsing the rug. Press firmly to soak up as much water as possible. You may need quite a few fresh towels to effectively remove moisture from a large area rug.

    Fans and dehumidifiers speed drying time after washing a rug. Place fans nearby to circulate air above and below the rug’s surface. Carpet drying machines also work well. Or move the rug outdoors on sunny days. Dehumidifiers prevent mildew and musty odors.

    Optional supplies include white vinegar or ammonia for pretreatment of heavy stains. Baking soda adds extra scrubbing power and deodorizes as you clean. Furniture sliders or glides make moving heavy furniture off of rugs easier before washing. Mesh laundry bags help wash small or delicate rugs.

    With proper vacuuming beforehand and completely removing all moisture afterward, these simple supplies allow you to safely deep clean and refresh rugs in the convenience of your own home. Always check rug tags for care instructions and test cleaning products in an inconspicuous spot first. With the right tools and technique, DIY is an effective way to clean all types of rugs and carpets.

  • What’s the best way to vacuum my rug?

    The key to thoroughly vacuuming rugs is taking a slow, methodical approach across the entire surface using the proper attachments.

    First, choose a vacuum designed for use on rugs and carpets. The rotating brush roll is important – it agitates and loosens the embedded dirt and debris as you vacuum so it can be removed. Adjust the height as needed so the brush roll makes contact with the rug pile but doesn’t pull or damage thick fibers.

    As you vacuum, go over each area of the rug several times from different directions. Make overlapping passes across the entire surface. This ensures you cover every spot adequately, not just doing a quick once-over. Work slowly and carefully around the edges and any fringes. Use crevice tools to vacuum bindings, corners and baseboards.

    Periodically stop and check the brush roll for tangled strings, fibers or debris – clean it out as needed so it can keep spinning and working properly. Also check that the vacuum head is making consistent contact with the rug pile.

    Attach hose accessories like a dusting brush, upholstery tool or wand to vacuum under furniture and clean intricate rug patterns. Use a soft horsehair attachment for delicate Persian or Oriental rugs. For high shags and plush rugs, a rubber squeegee tool lifts flattened pile while vacuuming.

    On floors with multiple area rugs, move and vacuum under each one. Vacuum the floor’s flat surfaces around and between rugs as well. Roll up rugs periodically to access backing and edges for thorough vacuuming.

    For wool rugs, use low suction to avoid damage to fibers. Frequent light vacuuming removes more surface dirt than heavy vacuuming done less often. Make sure any vacuum for wool is certified safe for its delicacy.

    Patient, comprehensive vacuuming covers all areas, pulls embedded grit to the surface and extends the time between deep cleanings. Proper use of vacuum attachments prevents buildup in corners and crevices. Following these best practices keeps rugs looking their best.

  • How often should I vacuum my rugs?

    The frequency of vacuuming your rugs depends on the amount of foot traffic and activity they receive. As a general guideline:

    – High traffic area rugs should be vacuumed at least 1-2 times per week. High traffic areas include rugs in entryways, hallways, living rooms, family rooms, dens, and underneath dining tables. Since these rugs are walked on constantly, they show dirt quickly. Frequent vacuuming keeps them looking clean.

    – Rugs in low traffic areas only need vacuuming every 2-4 weeks. Bedrooms, formal living rooms and studies housing rugs usually have less activity. Vacuum these rugs when you start to notice some surface dirt building up.

    – During peak seasons like summer and holidays when more guests are visiting, step up vacuuming to 2-3 times per week for ALL rugs to keep up with heavier activity.

    – Kitchen/utility rugs by the sink or appliances should be vacuumed at least weekly since they are prone to spills, grease and grime.

    – Rotate rugs between high and low traffic areas every few months to distribute wear. The ones moved to lesser used rooms won’t need as frequent vacuuming.

    – Wool pile rugs should be vacuumed weekly with very low suction to gently remove dust and prevent matting.

    – Shaggy or plush rugs need weekly vacuuming to lift the pile and prevent flattening.

    – Rugs in very dusty climates or homes with pets may need vacuuming every 3-4 days to keep dander, hair and grit under control.

    Check all your rugs occasionally for visible dirt buildup even if they aren’t due for vacuuming. If they look dirty, go ahead and spot vacuum them right away to remove surface debris. Following a routine vacuuming schedule while also keeping an eye on rug traffic levels and appearance means your rugs always stay at their cleanest.

  • When should I deep clean my rug?

    Deep cleaning rugs involves more than just regular vacuuming – it requires special solutions to thoroughly clean down into the fibers. Know when it’s time for a deeper scrub.

    Ideally, deep clean rugs at least once or twice annually. Seasonal rugs can be done when switching them out. All rugs should be deep cleaned before laying down for extended periods.

    Look for signs it’s time for a deeper cleaning:

    – Dull, matted appearance – Regular dirt dulls the colors and flattens plush piles over time. Deep cleaning restores vibrancy.

    – Constant dirt even after vacuuming – If particles remain visible on the surface after vacuuming, they’re trapped deeper in the fibers.

    – Foot traffic patterns visible – If the most walked areas look darker and compressed, a deeper clean is needed.

    – Stains have set in – Food, grease, mud and more can leave stains. Light spot cleaning won’t remove set-in stains.

    – Pet smells – Pet dander and urine odors in carpets indicates a deeper clean is required to sanitize.

    – Mold or mildew – Humid climates can cause mold if moisture isn’t removed. Deep cleaning kills and removes it.

    – Wrinkles won’t come out – Wrinkled areas that won’t smooth out no matter how much you vacuum need a wash.

    – Last deep clean was over a year ago – Most rugs need a deep refresh annually.

    In addition to these signs, do a deeper wash any time rugs get accidentally soaked or fonts slosh over. Don’t wait for permanent water damage.

    Schedule seasonal deep cleanings for rugs so they start each period fresh and rejuvenated. Preventative deep cleaning makes daily vacuuming easier and more effective.

  • What’s the process for deep cleaning rugs?

    Deep cleaning rugs involves more than just vacuuming the surface – it requires scrubbing deep into the fibers to fully sanitize and revitalize the rug. Follow these steps:

    1. Thoroughly vacuum the entire rug paying close attention to high traffic areas. Vacuuming first removes loose dirt and debris to prepare the rug for washing.

    2. Mix up your cleaning solution according to the product instructions. Popular options are wool-safe detergents, powdered carpet cleaners and liquid soap mixtures.

    3. Apply the cleaning solution liberally across the surface of the rug. Use a scrub brush or cleaning machine to work it down into the fibers and foundations of the rug. Let it soak for 5-10 minutes.

    4. Focus scrubbing efforts on stained or heavily trafficked areas where grime builds up the most. Scrub these areas vigorously to get them cleaner. A toothbrush can help scrub tight corners and edges.

    5. For stubborn stains, apply a small amount of concentrated cleaner directly on the spot and let it soak in for a few minutes before scrubbing. This pretreating helps lift set-in stains.

    6. Rinse the rug thoroughly with clean, cool water to remove all suds and residue. Extract the water with absorbent towels pressed firmly on the rug or use a wet-vacuum rinse feature if using a rug cleaning machine.

    7. Make sure to remove ALL moisture from the rug after washing. Remaining water can breed mold and mildew if left sitting. Fans and dehumidifiers help speed drying.

    8. Allow the rug to completely dry before walking on it again. This make take up to 24 hours. Flip it over periodically while drying.

    9. Vacuum again once fully dry to restore pile and appearance.

    Deep cleaning rugs takes time and labor but restores their look, extends their life and removes embedded allergens. Always check rug tags for fiber-specific washing instructions first.

  • How can I dry my rug quickly after cleaning?

    It’s important to fully dry rugs after washing them before putting them back into use. Leftover moisture can mold, mildew and damage rug fibers. Here are tips for fast drying:

    – Immediately after cleaning, blot all excess water with dry towels. Press them firmly onto the rug’s surface to absorb as much moisture as possible. Using a wet/dry vacuum to extract water is even more effective.

    – Bring the rug outdoors on a warm, sunny, low-humidity day. The sunlight and fresh air will help evaporate the water faster than indoors. Lay it flat on a waterproof surface. Flip it over periodically.

    – Place fans directly above and beneath the rug, blowing air across the surface. Turn on ceiling fans above and position floor fans below to circulate air around all sides.

    – Position the rug near heating vents or portable space heaters. The warm, moving air provides ideal drying conditions. Just don’t let the fibers get too hot.

    – Invest in a carpet drying fan designed specifically for rugs and carpets. The powerful fans speed evaporation. Self-contained units include all necessary drying equipment.

    – Use a dehumidifier to actively draw moisture out of the rug’s fibers and the surrounding air. The lower the indoor humidity, the faster the rug dries.

    – Lay down several layers of towels beneath the rug. As moisture releases, the towels will draw it out of the dense fibers. Replace damp towels with dry ones.

    – Move furniture back onto newly cleaned rugs only after they are 100% dry. The furniture legs will compress and trap moisture otherwise.

    Thorough drying takes patience but is a necessary step after deep cleaning rugs. Allow 24-48 hours for complete drying before using the rug. Following these air circulation and dehumidifying tips will return your freshly cleaned rug to use sooner.

  • What homemade rug cleaning solutions work best?

    Homemade rug cleaners allow you to deep clean carpets safely using common household ingredients. They are inexpensive, non-toxic alternatives to harsh chemical cleaners.

    Baking soda is one of the most versatile DIY carpet cleaners. Its mild abrasive properties help scrub away dirt and stains. Mix 1 cup baking soda with 1/4 cup water to form a paste. Apply and let sit before scrubbing and rinsing.

    Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and deodorizer for rugs. Mix 1 cup white vinegar with 1 cup water and spray onto the rug. Rinse thoroughly. Straight vinegar also removes stubborn odors – saturate the area and allow to dry fully.

    Dish soap like Dawn cuts through stuck-on grease and grime. Use 1-2 teaspoons of dish soap per 1 cup of warm water. Lightly sponge over the rug surface and rinse clean. Avoid heavy sudsing detergents.

    Hydrogen peroxide is a mild bleach alternative for lightening stains. Mix equal parts 3% peroxide and water. Test for color-fastness first. Spray, allow to sit 5-10 minutes then rinse.

    For an all-purpose cleaner, combine 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon dish soap and 2 cups hot water. Scrub into carpet fibers and rinse thoroughly. This lifts most dirt for a deeper clean.

    Clean with plain hot water first whenever possible. If using a cleaner, test on an inconspicuous area to check for potential damage or discoloration. Mix only as much solution as needed for each use.

    Spot test and adequately rinse any homemade cleaner to prevent residue left behind. With the right combination of non-toxic ingredients on hand, you can deep clean carpets effectively and affordably.

  • How do I get rid of rug odors naturally?

    Rugs can develop musty, unpleasant odors from spills, pets, smoke, and just normal use over time. Safe, natural ingredients can remove these odors without harsh chemicals.

    Baking soda is one of the most effective and inexpensive odor removers. Generously sprinkle baking soda over the entire rug’s surface. Let sit for at least 15 minutes, or up to 24 hours for severe odors. The baking soda will absorb smells from deep in the fibers. Vacuum thoroughly afterward.

    White vinegar is a natural deodorizer. Fill a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water. Lightly mist over odorous areas of the rug. The vinegar smell will dissipate as it dries. For stronger odors, wipe with straight vinegar first.

    Create a fresh citrus scent by squeezing lemon or orange juice onto a damp rag. Wipe this over smelly areas of the rug and let sit briefly before rinsing with clean water. The citric acid neutralizes odors. Essential oils also add natural fragrance.

    Borax removes odors and brightens rugs. Make a paste with 3 parts borax to 1 part water. Rub it into the rug, allow to dry completely, then vacuum up the powder. Rinse afterward if needed. Always spot test borax first.

    Steam cleaning with plain water helps lift away odors from deep within fibers. Rent a steam cleaner or use a handheld garment steamer to penetrate the rug backing with hot steam. The heat kills bacteria causing smells.

    Find the odor source. For pet urine, treat the exact spots with an enzyme cleaner to fully remove the smell, not just mask it. You may need to rinse the rug backing if liquid leaked through.

    Proper rug care and frequent vacuuming prevents odors from building up in the first place. But when smells do develop, these natural deodorizing methods safely tackle the problem without hazardous or irritating chemicals.

  • What’s the best way to clean fringed area rugs?

    Fringed rugs require gentle care to avoid damaging the delicate decorative edges during cleaning. Follow these best practices:

    – Vacuum fringe carefully using a soft brush attachment and low suction. Avoid aggressive beater bars that could pull and unravel fringe threads.

    – When washing, choose a mild detergent or wool-safe cleaner to avoid excessive sudsing. Harsh cleaners can bleach or discolor the fringe.

    – Before wet washing, comb the fringe with your fingers to untangle and straighten any knots. Use fabric softener if needed to reduce matting.

    – Apply cleaning solutions conservatively around the fringed edges. Limit scrubbing motions which can stress fibers. Gently blot moisture instead.

    – Rinse with cool, clear water to remove all detergent residue which degrades fibers over time.

    – Blot damp fringe with colorfast towels. Avoid vigorous rubbing which can pull fringe threads loose.

    – Let fringe fully air dry before walking on the rug. Direct fans to circulate air around fringed edges.

    – For stubborn stains on fringe, spot treat carefully with a delicate solution. Avoid oversaturating the area.

    – Shake and fluff fringe with fingers while drying to restore fullness and prevent matting as it dries.

    – Fringe guards during cleaning can help protect delicate edges from getting soaked and damaged.

    – Comb through dry fringe gently using a wide-toothed pick to bring back fluffiness.

    Special care of fringed edges preserves the details that make area rugs unique. Patient cleaning and proper drying keeps them looking their best for years.

  • Can I use my carpet cleaner on area rugs?

    Many carpet cleaning machines can be used safely on area rugs, but take precautions to avoid potential damage.

    First, check the rug’s label or tag to see if machine washing is recommended. Some delicate, handmade rugs must be washed by hand only. Look up the fiber content if uncertain – wool, silk and plant-based fibers are often too fragile for carpet cleaners.

    Select a carpet cleaner with adjustable water flow and suction power. Standard machines may be too harsh on thinner area rug fibers versus wall-to-wall carpet. Adjust to the lowest effective setting first.

    Test an inconspicuous corner or edge. Use a small amount of cleaner solution while monitoring for shrinkage, color bleeding or fraying after drying. This evaluates if the rug can withstand a full machine wash.

    Move furniture off the rug so the cleaner has full access. Clear the surrounding floor area which will also get wet during the process. Protect floors with waterproof coverings.

    Add rug-safe cleaning solutions to the machine like mild detergents – no bleach, optical brighteners or spot removers which may damage dyes. Use a lower concentration of cleaner for rugs versus carpets.

    Wash with the pile, not against it to avoid excessive friction. Take care when extracting not to damage delicate fringe. Allow longer drying time for rugs laid over carpet.

    With adjustments to pressure and detergents, most modern carpet cleaning machines can be adapted to safely clean and extract area rugs while providing deeper cleaning than just vacuuming.

  • How do I get rug stains out?

    Rugs frequently get stained from spills, pets, foods and daily use. Properly treating and removing stains preserves the rug’s appearance.

    First, immediately blot liquid spills with a clean, absorbent white towel. Avoid scrubbing or rubbing the area, which can spread the stain deeper into fibers.

    Scrape up any solid debris gently with a spoon or dull knife. Blot up remaining liquid with the towel, pressing firmly to draw out as much as possible.

    Determine the stain type – oil-based, dye-based, food, grease, etc. Choose a stain remover formulated for that particular stain to treat it most effectively.

    Apply a small amount of liquid stain remover directly onto the stained spot. Let it soak for 2-3 minutes to penetrate the fibers.

    Gently blot the area with clean sections of the towel to lift the stain. Avoid excessive scrubbing or friction. Flip the rug over and blot through the back also to draw out the stain.

    For older, stubborn stains, make a paste with equal parts baking soda and water. Lightly spread over the stain and let sit briefly before rinsing. The baking soda will help lift set-in stains.

    Rinse the area thoroughly with cool, clean water to remove all residue. A wet/dry vacuum can help fully extract rinse water so the stain doesn’t spread or re-settle.

    Allow the spot to air dry fully. Point a fan directly on it to speed drying. Do not place furniture or walk on the rug until completely dry.

    For challenging stains, repeat treatments may be needed. Try pretreating with vinegar or hydrogen peroxide before stain remover. With prompt attention and proper techniques, you can lift even stubborn rug stains.

  • How often should I rotate or flip when cleaning rugs?

    Rotating and flipping rugs helps them wear evenly and extend their lifespan. Make it part of your regular rug care routine.

    For heavy traffic area rugs, rotate them between high and low use rooms every 2-3 months. Rotation spreads out concentrated wear patterns that develop in main walkways and entry points. Rugs rotated into lesser used spaces aren’t subjected to as much daily wear and tear.

    Flipping rugs over occasionally also helps them wear evenly. Every 3-6 months, turn the rug over to expose the opposite side to feet and furniture. This prevents fiber damage and matting in heavy traffic lanes.

    In bedrooms or dining rooms where furniture stays put, slide area rugs a few feet over in different directions under the legs. Otherwise, indentations can become permanently embedded where chair and table legs sit.

    Seasonally rotated rugs should be flipped when taking them out of storage and putting away. Summer rugs placed into storage can be turned over first so they start the next season fresher.

    Wool area rugs should be rotated more frequently – about every month – since wool shows wear and impressions most visibly. Fluffing the piles with fingers or a garment steamer disguises nap inconsistencies.

    Heavily stained or soiled sections should face downward when flipping. This gives the top side a break from visible stains. Deep clean rugs before rotating to even out wear and stains.

    Make notes on the rug’s backing with tape indicating the date and which direction it is facing. This helps track the rotation schedule.

    Following a consistent rotation routine extends the life of rugs and keeps them looking better longer. Periodic flipping and rotation maintain even wear across the surface.



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