Area rugs certainly do a lot to visually unite a space, but they also take on a lot of wear and tear and accumulate plenty of dirt and dust. Being at the center of common living spaces means more foot traffic, not to mention paw prints and muddy sneakers. With all this activity, it’s inevitable that stains, grime, and musty odors will leave your rug looking dingy and smelling old.

Routine vacuuming is ideal for basic area rug cleaning, but you’ll want to know how to deep clean a rug to keep it looking its best. With the exception of delicate, antique, and Persian rugs, most can be cleaned without hiring a professional rug cleaner. Before you jump in to learn how to wash a rug, check the label for cleaning instructions and treat rug stains first.

How to Clean a Rug Stain

Getting stains out of carpets and rugs can be more challenging than simply washing away dirt and grime. If you want to get the best results with your area rug cleaning process, take care of stains before cleaning your rug. Here are proven tips for removing some of the most common rug stains:

Coffee and Other Dark Liquid Stains
Wet the stain with a solution of one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar, two cups of water, and a drop of dish soap. Use a clean white cloth to dab the stain gently until no more color transfers.

Grease or Oils
Old greasy stains on your rug take a bit more work. Use the same stain removal formula from above, but use a stiff nylon brush to work the soapy solution into the fibers. Use a clean, damp cloth to wipe away the remaining residue.

Chewing Gum
Fill a plastic bag with ice and lay it across the gum to harden it. Use a butter knife to scrape away as much gum as possible, then saturate the area with a solution of a half cup of vinegar and a couple of drops of dish liquid. Wait 15 minutes, then blot up the remaining gum with a clean, damp cloth.

Vinegar, water, and dish liquid do a remarkable job on many rug stains, and the combination is safe and natural stain solution. Now that you’ve removed the stains, the best way to clean a rug will depend on the type of materials and whether it’s machine washable. Again, check the care label to determine the type of rug in your home.

How to Wash a Rug

Washable rugs are easy to clean since you can just throw them in the washer. Check the label to be sure, but many natural and synthetic materials used in rugs are washing machine safe. Note: Make sure you check all the materials used, including the backing material. Rugs labeled as machine washable can have a backing that can’t hold up to repeated washes in your machine, especially when you use hot water.

Learning how to clean a rug that isn’t machine-washable is more involved, but for most rugs, you can follow these steps:

  1. For a smaller-sized rug, either shake it outside or give it a good, old-fashioned beating, then vacuum both sides. If your vacuum settings allow for different speeds, use the softer suction.
  2. In a tub or outside, dampen the entire rug on both sides with cool water.
  3. Choose a rug cleaner that is specifically designed for its material or mild dish soap mixed with water.
  4. Test the carpet cleaner on an inconspicuous part of the rug to make sure the colors won’t be damaged.
  5. Use a soft-bristled nylon brush dipped in your rug cleaner to gently scrub the entire rug.
  6. Rinse the rug with cool water until the dirt and cleaning residue is gone.
  7. Use a wet-dry vacuum or a squeegee to remove excess water. Let the rug dry outdoors in the sun if possible or on a flat surface. Flip the rug every hour or two for even drying.

Use the tips in this guide for how to clean a rug whenever yours starts looking dull and dingy. Remember to exercise caution using your washing machine, even for area rugs labeled accordingly.

Whether you do it yourself with our field-tested housekeeping guides or call in The Maids, we want to help you spend less time cleaning your house. From carpet cleaning to a full range of home cleaning services that deliver a cleaner, healthier home, we’ve got you covered. If you want a clean home more often, get your custom cleaning estimate today and learn what we can do for you and your home.


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