How to Clean a Rug: A Step-by-Step Guide

Olivia Elsher

Apr 10, 2021


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Rugs beautify your home’s décor while increasing you and your family’s comfort. The right pattern can pull together a room’s look. Plus, they keep your feet from freezing on tile and hardwood floors during the cold winter months. However, your carpets also serve to catch the dirt from your feet, making them filthy, dingy, and germy over time. Here’s your step-by-step guide for how to clean a rug to keep your family safer and your home fresher.

1. Gather Your Supplies

You’ll need supplies to complete your task depending on the age and size of your rug and the amount of deep-down grit you’ll need to remove. Gather the following items before you begin:

  • Baking soda: This substance helps to absorb odors.
  • Carpet cleaning solution: If you don’t mind commercial chemicals, feel free to use detergents that have worked for you in the past.
  • White vinegar: You can make a DIY carpet cleaner using this stuff plus dish soap and water.
  • Dawn dish soap (clear is best): The other half of your DIY cleaning solution.
  • Club soda: For red wine and set-in stains.
  • Salt: For red wine and set-in stains.
  • White wine: For red wine and set-in stains.
  • A clean white towel: For testing colorfastness.
  • A scrub brush: You’ll need this item for spot cleaning.
  • A clean, stiff broom: To fluff your rug after you clean it.
  • A vacuum cleaner: For removing surface debris before you shampoo.

2. Get out the Vacuum

Your first step in how to clean a rug is to remove any surface dirt. All you need to do is give your rug a thorough vacuuming.

Bear in mind that quickly pushing your vac over your rug’s surface won’t do the trick. Even the best vacuums require several passes to remove ground-in dust and debris.

Also, take a look at your carpet fibers. Notice all those twisting loops? Going over your rug in one direction won’t cut it — you have to go in multiple directions to remove the most dirt.

3. Ensure Your Colors Don’t Run

Your next step is to ensure your detergent or DIY cleaner won’t fade your rug or cause your colors to run. You could destroy a pricey Oriental — please don’t skip this step.

To test for colorfastness, fold your rug so that you can see the weft and apply a small amount of hot water. Take your clean white towel and press the area for approximately 10 seconds to see any color migration. If there is some, you will need to use a stabilizing agent before you shampoo your rug. If no dye transfers to the towel, you’re good to go.

Some people do a longer dye test involving placing a heavy object on the towel for 24 hours to check for migration. You might want to do this process for expensive Oriental rugs, but most carpeting responds well in seconds.

4. Wash Your Rug

If you have a shampooer, all you need to do is follow the owner’s manual to get your job done. However, you can do an effective job without a machine. This method works well for smaller area rugs.

First, take your smaller scrub brush to attack any visible stains. You might need to try various methods to remove tough spots such as red wine — salt, club soda, and white wine all have their proponents for this chore.

Then, take your clean, stiff broom to apply your shampoo evenly over your carpet’s surface and work it deep into the nap. You’ll need to use patience with thick piles, as dirt can become embedded deep in the fibers. If your tool has long bristles, you can wrap them with a rubber band to make them stiffer.

5. Rinse and Squeegee

Leaving your rug to lie on a hard surface while wet can inspire mold growth. You want to remove as much soap and water as possible.

If the weather cooperates, take your rug outside to hang over a clothesline and rinse it with a garden hose. Otherwise, use buckets of hot water to remove every last bubble from your carpeting.

Finally, take a squeegee to remove as much excess water as possible and leave your rug to dry. You can use fans to expedite this process.

7. Vacuum and Fluff

Your last step is to give your rug one final vacuum — or brush with a clean broom — to fluff up the fibers once it completely dries. Voilà! You now have a sparkling clean carpet that you’ll feel good rolling around upon with your baby.

Your Step-by-Step Guide to How to Clean a Rug

Rugs add incomparable beauty and comfort to hardwood or tile floors, but they do take a beating from all that foot traffic. Follow this step-by-step guide for a clean carpet you’ll feel good about having in your home.

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