Area rugs are used in high traffic areas of a home to protect hardwood floors from scratches and stains.
They also create warmth and comfort in a room due to their softness, beautiful colors, and patterns.
With time, however, area rugs become dirty and may start giving your home a foul smell. The rug may change in appearance and can even stain the wooden floor underneath.
Rugs should be cleaned on a regular basis so that they can remain beautiful, smell good, and last longer.
While there are various methods of cleaning rugs, using water-based or liquid cleaners without protecting the wood underneath can cause serious damage to the wood.
So, we're left with an important question: How do you clean an area rug? Large area rugs or those not made to be machine washed can be cleaned off-site by a professional cleaner, although doing so can be pricey.
However, you may clean an area rug inside or outside by yourself as discussed in this guide.
What you need
- Vacuum cleaner
- Baking soda
- Mild liquid dish soap
- Soft bristled scrub brush
- Garden hose
- Bucket and sponge
Steps to Cleaning an Area Rug
Step 1: Vacuuming
Remove any items such as furniture from the rug. Thoroughly vacuum the rug on both sides to remove loose dirt.
The back side always accumulates dust and dirt therefore should not be neglected.
To deodorize your rug, sprinkle baking soda all over and leave it for several hours.
Baking soda naturally neutralizes and absorbs odor without causing any damage to the rug or carpet. Vacuum all the baking soda and unpleasant odors will vanish.
Step 2: Stain removal
Spills and accumulated dirt can stain your rug. Stain removal involves the use of water or a liquid cleaner that may affect the hardwood floor underneath.
We therefore recommend you protect the floor by placing another rug below the stain or placing a waterproof barrier like a plastic sheet under the entire rug.
Stain on rugs can be removed by any of the following:
- Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
- Rug cleaner
- Steam cleaning
- Pressure washer/hose
Before using any cleaner or product on your rug, test it on a small area on the edge to see the effect on the color.
Best Way to Clean an Area Rug
1. Cleaning with Baking soda
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a common cleaning ingredient for many homes. It is tough on odor and stains.
The compound can be used in crystal form or mixed with water to form a paste before being applied to the stain on your area rug.
Leave the sprinkled crystals or paste for several hours to act on the stain or odor and vacuum to remove it.
2. Cleaning with a Rug Cleaner
While there are many types of rug cleaner solutions, many rug owners opt for carpet shampoo or mild dishwashing soap to remove built up dirt.
They are known to be gentle on rugs but tough on stains, dirt, and grime. Before using your cleaner, read the manufacturer’s instructions as each product is different.
To use a liquid dishwashing soap, mix a few teaspoons of the soap with warm water. Do not use hot water, which can affect the color or fiber of a rug.
Use a sponge to work the solution into the rug and allow it several minutes to act on the stain. After those several minutes, rinse the area with a damp towel to remove the cleaner.
Allow the rug to completely dry before removing the protective barrier underneath — the aforementioned plastic sheet, for example.
Any dampness in the rug may cause your hardwood floor to warp and buckle. It could also cause foul smells and mold growth.
3. Steam cleaning a rug
Steam cleaning an area rug is usually the last resort for removing stains and tough dirt when other methods have failed.
Besides that, steam cleaning helps disinfect a surface by killing germs and other microorganisms.
Steam cleaning should be used with a lot of caution, especially when dealing with a rug installed on a hardwood floor.
The hot moisture can penetrate through tiny openings in the finish to reach the wood.
The hardwood floor in question need to be properly sealed and protected by a waterproof barrier. If you're still keen on steam cleaning an area rug on hardwood floors, follow the steps below.
How to steam clean an area rug on hardwood floors
After removing all the furniture, vacuum the area rug to get rid of dust and other loose debris.
Protect the hardwood floor by placing a waterproof plastic sheet under the rug. Ensure the walls are also protected by securing the sheet with masking tape.
Read the instructions for your purchased or rented steamer. Place water and a recommended cleaner in the canister and turn it on to begin heating.
As you concentrate on stains and dirty spots, move the machine swiftly as steam is blasted on the rug.
For the entire area rug, clean from the furthest side as you move in a pattern to ensure that no any spot is missed.
After steaming the rug, allow about 48 hours to dry out before removing the plastic sheet and placing the rug back on the floor.
4. Cleaning with a Pressure Washer/ Hose
For thorough cleaning, you may need to roll the rug and take it to an outdoor area for cleaning.
- Add 1 or 2 cups of mild detergent or shampoo into a bucket of warm water.
- Use a soft brush to scrub the cleaner solution into the rug and allow the lather to sit for few minutes.
- Rinse the lather and cleaning solution from the rug using clean water from a hose or with a pressure washer.
- Use a squeegee to squeeze out excess water and let it dry completely before taking it back in.
- Vacuum or brush the rug to loosen compacted fibers once you have fitted it back on the floor.
The Bottom Line
Cleaning an area rug without cleaning your hardwood floors is pointless.
Dust and dirt that accumulates on a hardwood floor is likely to settle under the rug and will start affecting how it looks.
Dust your wooden floors daily and schedule a thorough cleaning on a weekly or monthly basis. Doing so will keep both your floor and your rug clean — and will give both longer life as well.