How to Clean an Outdoor Rug

Your outdoor rug should be cleaned just like an indoor rug or carpet. Here’s how to do it.

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As The Dude famously declared of his prized rug in the film The Big Lebowski, “It really brings the room together.” The same can be said of your outdoor rug and your outdoor space. But you’re likely not cleaning your outdoor rug as often as you clean your indoor ones.

Outdoor rugs are often the catch basins for backyard get-togethers, absorbing dollops of ketchup, iced tea spills, burger juice and anything else we eat or drink outside. And that’s in addition to the caked-on mixture of dust, dirt, mud and anything else Mother Nature decides to throw at it.

Fortunately, outdoor rugs are made to withstand these harsh treatments. But they should still be cleaned. Here’s how to do it. Oh, and if you’re in the market for a new one, we recommend checking out these Amazon outdoor rugs that will bring your space to life.

Get the Debris Off

Grab your rug and give it a good shake. You’ll be surprised at how much stuff flies off your area rug. This is often easier with a partner. One person stands on each side of the rug and shakes it until it’s debris-free. Here are a few tips for cleaning an area rug.

If your rug is too large to manage alone, drape it over a railing, banister or even a step ladder. Now, hit the rug with a stick, tennis racket or something else.

Vacuum the Outdoor Rug

All that shaking and beating will leave a fine layer of dust on the rug. Grab a vacuum and clean off both sides. Ideally, you should do this every couple of weeks. When dirt and debris get on your rug, it will take awhile before you notice it. The rug traps it until rain or moisture brings the grime to the surface.

Rinse it Off

Grab your garden hose and get to work. Hose down the rug until the water comes off clean. It’s easiest to do this on an inclined surface like a driveway or side yard. That way the water can easily drain off.

Soap it Up

Put a small amount of soap or special rug cleaner in a bucket of water. Check your rug’s manufacturer recommendations for warm or cold water. Mild dish soap makes an easy solution. For tougher stains, mix baking soda and hydrogen peroxide into a paste.

Use a soft bristled brush to dip into the soap mixture and begin scrubbing. Lather the rug completely, working from one end to the other. Outdoor rugs are meant to withstand a lot, but don’t overdo it. Excessive rubbing in the same spot can wear down the fibers.

Rinse it Again

Once you lather the rug, rinse it again. Make sure all the soap is completely gone; the runoff water should be clear. Depending on how much soap you used, this may take several rinses.

Can I Use a Pressure Washer?

The short answer is yes. Just make sure you set the water to the lowest pounds per square inch (PSI). Power washers can be employed for either rinsing step and can make shorter work of the process. Set the nozzle to the fan setting and gently sweep the rug from one side to the other.

Dry Your Outdoor Rug

Once you’ve cleaned your outdoor rug, lay it flat to dry. Don’t drape the rug over a railing because it could lose its shape. Best to lay it in a nice, sunny spot. Once the top feels dry to the touch, flip it over and dry the back side. After it dries, the rug may feel stiff and uncomfortable. Give it some time. It will soften up. Don’t forget to check out our collection of the best irregular rug shapes.

Store It for Next Season

You’ll need to store your rug before the harsher conditions of winter take their toll. The easiest way is to simply roll it up so the carpet side faces outward. That way when you unroll it, it will curl downward. If you roll it the other way, it will curl upward and create a tripping hazard. After a while, the rug will lay flat again. Next, learn how to clean a Persian rug.

Shay Tilander
Shay Tilander is a senior editor at Family Handyman. When he's not enjoying family time with his wife and three boys, he loves tinkering with projects and geeking out on electronics.