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How to Clean a Rug—The Right Way

how to clean a rug

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If you have a busy household, then you know how easily a rug can get grimy. Whether from a sloshy glass of red wine, a dog with dirty paws, or an overly zealous young finger painter (Drew probably knows a thing or two about that with his son, Parker!), there’s seemingly no end to the number of ways your rug can go from pristine to in need of a serious clean. Even if your rug doesn’t appear all that soiled, you’d be surprised how much dust and dirt can build up over time. A good rule of thumb: Give your rug a deep clean at least once a year. Not only will you notice a difference, but you’ll keep your beloved decor looking luxe for longer. Not sure where to begin? Below, we’ve provided step-by-step instructions on how to clean a rug—the right way.

One tip: You may need to be outside, so you’ll want to check the weather first. You wouldn’t want to wash your rug if rain is in the forecast! Extra moisture in the air will increase drying time, and can lead to yucks like mold and mildew. You should also assess the type of rug you have. Specialty varieties like Oriental rugs, Persian rugs, and vintage rugs are best left to cleaning professionals. No matter what, be sure to check the underside of the rug for a label with washing instructions. If it calls for specific care, strictly follow those directions. Otherwise, the cleaning instructions below will work on most everyday synthetic and natural-fiber rugs. (We mention this again later, but always test any cleaner on a small corner of your rug first to ensure it won’t cause damage!)

Step 1: Decide On a Spot

Move all of your furniture aside and take your rug to a room that won’t get damaged by excess water, like the garage, backyard, or driveway. Ideally, you’ll want the rug to be located somewhere where there’s plenty of space for the dirty rug water to drain. Then, lay down a tarp or drop cloth, and place your rug on top of it.

Step 2: Vacuum and Shake

Vacuum your rug thoroughly, front and back, to remove crumbs and surface debris. Alternatively, if you’re working al fresco, you can shake it out by hand. 

Step 3: Grab Your Supplies and Get Cleaning

The main attraction: the actual cleaning! You’ll need a bucket, at least one sponge or soft-bristled scrub brush, a pair of dishwashing gloves, and a bottle of rug cleaner. Mix the rug shampoo with water according to the package directions, slip on your gloves, and dip your sponge. Before you dive into work, test the solution on one small corner of the rug. If the colors don’t run and the material doesn’t look damaged, it’s time to get scrubbing!

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Step 4: Let It Rest

Once the rug is covered with suds, let it sit for at least five minutes so that the cleaner can do its magic. If you don’t have a garden hose at your disposal, take this time to wash out the sponge and fill your bucket with clean, plain water. 

Step 5: Rinse and Repeat

Rinse your rug with a hose or the clean water you just filled your bucket with. Make sure you’re spraying the rug down until all of the runoff is clear and lather-free. It might take some time to get the runoff water totally clear, but remember to be patient. You’re almost finished!

Step 6: Remove Excess Water

Remove as much excess water as possible using towels or a squeegee. Then, let the rug dry. You can crack open a window, use a fan, or hang the rug on the fence to speed up the drying process.

Step 7: The Final Touches

Once your rug is dry, put it back in its rightful place, and vacuum it once more. Then stand back and admire how fabulous the room looks, thanks to you!

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