How To: Clean an Area Rug

How to Clean a Rug


For many of us, area rugs are a significant investment in decor. They warm up and add color to our rooms. They provide soft places for game playing, movie watching, and slumber partying. But in order for rugs to last for years, they need to be maintained. And a big part of that maintenance is regular cleaning. Sure, you can send out a rug to be cleaned off-site by professionals—but it ain’t cheap. If you’re willing to put in some time and energy, however, it’s eminently possible to do a good job of cleaning a rug on your own, at home. As an added benefit, you’ll have peace of mind knowing exactly what types of cleaners are being used on your rugs—knowledge that’s increasingly important to many, especially those with young children or chemical sensitivities.

Just note that it’s important not to clean a rug unless it’s dirty. If the rug isn’t visibly dingy (or noticeably foul-smelling) and you’d like to test whether or not your rug needs to be cleaned, simply pick up a corner of the rug and let it flop down onto the floor. If a little cloud of dust floats up, a cleaning is in order.


  1. Thoroughly vacuum the rug on both sides to remove loose dirt.
  2. Test your cleaner (store-bought or homemade) on an inconspicuous part of the rug.
  3. Work the cleaner into the rug and let it sit for several minutes.
  4. Rinse out the rug with a garden hose.
  5. Use a squeegee to remove excess water.
  6. Allow both sides of the rug to dry out completely.
  7. Vacuum or brush the rug to loosen compacted fibers.

Read on for a full tutorial on how to clean a rug the DIY way.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Rubber gloves (optional)
Rug shampoo
Softbristled brush
Water—lots and lots of water (i.e., get your hose out!)

STEP 1: Prepare the Rug

First, thoroughly vacuum the rug on both sides to remove any loose dirt.

STEP 2: Test for Colorfastness

You have two options. You can follow the mixing instructions on a store-bought rug cleaner/ shampoo (Bissell makes a good one, available on Amazon), or you can add a couple of capfuls of mild dish detergent to a bucket of warm water. Do not use hot water, as it may shrink fibers or fade color. Now, test your solution on a small corner of the rug to make sure that it doesn’t make the colors run. If it doesn’t, proceed to the next step.

How to Clean a Rug - Soapy Water


STEP 3: Wash

Using a sponge or brush, work a lather of shampoo or detergent deep into the rug. Allow the solution to sit on the rug and work for several minutes before rinsing.

STEP 4: Rinse

Thoroughly rinse the rug with a garden hose, making sure the water is clear of soap suds before you finish.

STEP 5: Remove Excess Water

Get as much water out of the rug as you can with your squeegee, being careful to work only in the direction of the rug’s nap.

STEP 6: Dry

Lay the rug flat to dry. Once the top side is dry, flip it over so the bottom can dry as well.

STEP 7: Loosen Fibers

Use a vacuum or soft-bristled brush to loosen up the fibers of the rug, as they may have compacted during the washing/drying process. Return your rug to the room and enjoy!

With regular maintenance and cleaning, your rugs will serve your family and home for many years, playing host to scores of game tourneys, TV marathons, and fireside snuggles.