How to clean a rug

Rugs need slightly different cleaning methods to carpets, so make sure you understand the differences before you begin! Discover our rug cleaning tips here.

Updated 30 May 2022


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time5 minutes

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A mistake many homeowners make is to treat their rugs in the same way they treat their carpets. That is, they vacuum them all over, and treat stains and long-term dirt and grime with store-bought carpet cleaner. The truth is that rugs are often much more delicate than carpets. Whereas carpets are specifically designed to handle high volumes of foot traffic, and are more hard-wearing, rugs are designed for much less use, so they are typically much more susceptible to damage. Understanding how to clean a rug is important for to keep them looking clean and fresh.

You don’t have to rush to the shops to buy a carpet cleaner when you get a stain on your rug. Instead, quickly whip up a homemade remedy of warm water, a dash of white vinegar, and a drop of laundry detergent such as Persil small & mighty Bio to tackle the stain as soon as possible. Just remember to test this in a small area first.

Is a rug cleaner really necessary?

For everyday rug cleaning and maintenance, a rug cleaner really isn’t a necessity – but for removing stains and dirt you might consider purchasing a dedicated rug cleaner, or a carpet cleaner that is suitable for delicate materials. Alternatively, opt for a homemade remedy to tackle stains. A mixture of warm water, a dash of white vinegar, and just a drop of laundry detergent is ideal, but ensure you use the bare minimum – you don’t want to saturate the rug or wet the rug backing.

For everyday rug cleaning, all you really need is a good quality vacuum cleaner and a medium bristled brush. Here’s how to clean a rug:

  1. 1

    Firstly, turn the rug upside down. Vacuum the rug backing, loosening any ground in dirt.

  2. 2

    Turn the rug right-side up, and vacuum, being careful to avoid any tassels.

  3. 3

    Fluff out the tassels using your hands, as they can become damaged in the vacuum’s suction pipe.

  4. 4

    After vacuuming, use a brush to remove any leftover hair and dust – this is usually more of a problem in households that have cats and dogs.

Can you clean a rug in the washing machine?

You should always check the label on your rug before putting it through the washing machine, as some materials can be washed and others cannot. As a general rule, woven and braided rugs are often robust enough to withstand a thorough wash, whereas other materials are usually too delicate. Even with woven rugs, it’s best to try to provide it with some protection – put it in a pillowcase or washable cotton bag first. This will mean the material is not in direct contact with the drum, reducing the risk of damage.

Watch this video for instructions on how to free your rugs from even the toughest stains:

How do I tackle delicate and oriental rug cleaning?

When it comes to oriental rug cleaning, and buying a rug cleaner for other delicate materials, you’ll want to take a bit more time and care to ensure you don’t damage your rug’s fabric and fibres. Here’s how to clean a rug that is a bit more vulnerable than your everyday doormat:

  • For everyday maintenance and upkeep, place an airy fabric, such as a light cotton pillowcase or piece of nylon, over the top of the rug.

  • Vacuum the rug with the protective material over the top. Dirt should be filtered and extracted through the material, and the fibres of the rug should be fluffed up, without them being damaged from direct suction.

  • For obvious dirty marks and stains, wherever possible use a gentle homemade rug cleaner containing natural ingredients. The detergent, vinegar, and warm water concoction mentioned above is excellent for oriental rug cleaning.

  • For treating smells – especially pet smells and lingering tobacco odours – sprinkle the rug with a gentle talcum powder or baby powder. Leave the powder overnight to absorb all the smells, and simply vacuum off in the morning.

How often should rugs be cleaned?

Rug cleaning should be added to your weekly cleaning schedule if possible, especially for rugs that get a lot of use, and for homes with pets. Vacuuming should be done on a weekly basis, although rugs that see very little use could be done every two weeks. Spot-cleaning should ideally be undertaken as soon as the stain occurs. Stains are always easier to clean up when they are fresh, rather than when they’ve had time to dry and cake into fibres. You should also consider a thorough clean and rotation of your rugs every 6 months to a year to keep your rugs looking fresh and new.

Key Steps:

  1. 1

    You should vacuum rugs on a weekly basis.

  2. 2

    Certain types of rugs can be placed in the washing machine. Check the care label on your rug.

  3. 3

    For stains on delicate or oriental rugs use a gentle homemade solution made from natural ingredients.

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