Area rugs are used in high traffic areas of a home to protect hardwood floors, vinyl or concrete floor from scratches and stains.
They also create warmth and comfort in a room due to their softness, beautiful colors, and patterns as well help with the foot traffic in areas of your home.
With time, however, area rugs become dirty and may start giving your home a foul smell and they’ll need to go for a deep cleaning session. The rug may change in appearance and can even stain the wooden floor underneath as the natural fibers become flat and dirty.
Rugs should be cleaned on a regular basis so that they can remain beautiful, smell good, and help the rug’s surface 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. It’s always best to check the manufacturer cleaning instructions to check but you should be fine to use gentle laundry detergent on a delicate cycle when you need to deep clean rugs.
So, we’re left with an important question: How to clean an area rug inside / outside and remove dirt? Large area rugs or those not made to be placed in a washing machine can be cleaned off-site by a professional cleaning company, although doing so can be pricey.
However, you may clean and sanitize your area rug inside or outside by yourself as discussed in this guide. We can help you with exactly what to do step by step for most rugs and what you need in your cleaning kit for area rug cleaning.
What you need in your cleaning kit
- 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. Regular vacuuming is also important when getting the most life from your rug, especially in a high traffic location.
The back side always accumulates dust and dirt therefore should not be neglected so ensure you clean the entire surface with the brush attachment too. Make sure it’s throughly vacuumed before deep cleaning as dirt will stick in natural fiber rugs.
To deodorize your rug, sprinkle baking soda all over and leave it for several hours, allowing it to gently work into the rug’s fibers – even for smaller rugs.
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 and remove odors.
We therefore recommend you protect the floor by placing another rug pad below the stain or placing a waterproof barrier like a plastic sheet under the entire rug.
You can clean stains on rugs can be removed by any of the following:
- Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
- Rug cleaner
- Steam cleaning
- Pressure washer/hose
- Dishwashing liquid (soapy water)
- Dry cleaning powder
- Gentle laundry detergent
Before using any cleaner or product on your rug, test it on a small area (spot cleaning) on the edge to see the effect on the color and allow it to air dry as you’ll want air circulation to fully dry it.
Be sure to follow manufacturer cleaning instructions if you have wool rugs as you don’t want to cause any damage . Also as an example, an oriental rug might be very delicate and will need professionals or a gentle cycle to still give it a deep clean.
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 with a clean cloth.
Leave the sprinkled crystals or paste for several hours to act on the stain or odor and vacuum to remove it and absorb odors.
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. We are about to cover the basics of how to shampoo an area rug.
They are known to be gentle on rugs but tough on stains, dirt, and grime. Before using your cleaner, read the manufacturer’s instructions on the rug’s label 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 or cold water, which can affect the color or synthetic fibers of a rug.
Use a sponge to work the solution into the rug and allow it several minutes to act on the stain. Do this in a circular motion either by hand or with a soft bristled brush. Make sure to clean this in the rinse water so you’re not rubbing dirt around in the rug.
After those several minutes, rinse the area with a damp towel to remove the cleaner or blot dry.
Allow the rug to completely dry before removing the protective barrier underneath — the aforementioned plastic sheet, for example and rotate the rug occasionally. If it’s easier, you can also pop the rug to dry outside against a fence or porch railing.
Any dampness in the rug may cause your hardwood floor to warp and buckle. It could also cause foul smells, more dirt and mold growth so let the rug dry fully.
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. You will still want to use a vacuum cleaner to ensure all dirt is picked up from the rug’s fibers.
Besides that, steam cleaning helps disinfect a surface by killing germs and other microorganisms on the surface of the rug.
Steam cleaning should be used with a lot of caution, especially when dealing with rugs 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, check the care instructions and follow the steps below to rinse the rug.
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 you can see on the surface of the rug. This should be your first step on how to clean a rug.
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, even on small rugs.
After steaming the rug, allow about 48 hours to dry out before removing the plastic sheet and placing the rug back on the floor. You want it to dry completely to avoid any bad smells or mould appearing.
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. We cover the steps for how to clean an area rug with a pressure washer below:
- 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 area rugs 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, so always ensure you vacuum properly before staring any cleaning process on your rugs.
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.
You could even purchase a rug beater and lay it over a washing line and whack the rest of the dust and dirt out too. When deep cleaning rugs, there’s so many options and products to use when you want to thoroughly spruce them up.