Eventually, the time comes when your area rug or removable carpet needs more than just another vacuuming. If stains are piling up or there are deep-rooted problems with dust (or worse, dust mites), it’s time for a full cleaning. Fortunately, you don’t need to hire a professional to fully clean your rug! You just need the right tools, cleaner and approach. Here’s how to clean area rugs:
Note: A true area rug will be far too large for one person to successfully handle. Spare your muscles by getting a couple of other people to help you with this task. It will only take a couple of hours if everything is properly prepared!
Set Up an Outdoor Station
Summer is an excellent time to clean your rug because you’ll need to do it outdoors. Pick a day when the forecast is clear and sunny (preferably for the next few days), and set up a station to clean your rugs. It shouldn’t be on the lawn, if possible (you don’t want any cleaners soaking into the grass), and the support system you choose needs to be a lot stronger than a clothesline, as rugs are usually quite heavy. If you have two trees, you can stretch bungee cords or thick rope between them. Benches and any sort of sturdy wall can also work.
Vacuum Thoroughly On Both Sides
Start with a thorough vacuuming. First vacuum the fibers, then flip the rug over and vacuum the other side to remove any lingering dust. When it’s clean, it’s time to roll it up carefully and take the rug outside to your cleaning station. Prop it up at the station with the right side facing you.
If your rug is still dusty at this stage, you can take a page out of the old frontier book and beat it with a broom handle or similar tool to knock even more dust out. Don’t whack too hard, but give the rug a few firm knocks to see if clouds of dust come out. If they do, keep whacking.
Test Out Carpet Shampoos
As a general rule, when finding out how to clean area rugs, always test out the carpet shampoo before you apply it to the whole rug. Apply a little to a small corner or patch, mix in some water, and let it settle for a few hours. Go back and rinse that spot off. Check carefully to see if there is any color damage or fiber damage. It’s a good idea to look for carpet shampoos designed for the materials that your rug is made with. Don’t try to make your own or use other cleaners not intended for rugs and carpet!
Wash the Rug and Apply Shampoo
With a safe shampoo chosen, it’s time to pull out the garden hose and give your rug a good rinse. Don’t worry about getting it too wet, you need to prepare it well for the shampoo application. A sturdy brush with a stout handle is usually the best way to work the shampoo deep into the carpet fiber, but make no mistake, this step will require a lot of scrubbing and foam. Dress accordingly, and focus on any stains.
Rinse the Rug
Read the directions and leave the shampoo on your rug for as long as indicated. When the time comes, hose down the rug again. It’s important to rinse all the shampoo out, so you aren’t left with any residue.
Help the Rug Dry
This step requires patience. Try to wring the rug as much as possible to get rid of all the excess water. A squeegee can help with this step. After that, your rug will still be very wet and you’ll need to wait for it to dry completely before moving it back inside your house. This may take longer than a day—or even the weekend. Consider moving the rug to the laundry room or garage for more protected drying. When the rug is fully dry you won’t be able to feel any water even when you squeeze hard, and it will probably be a bit stiff.
Vacuum One Last Time
Alfred Gruener/ShutterstockAlfred Gruener/Shutterstock
Put the area rug back in its place, and then give it one last vacuuming. The carpet fibers will probably be flattened and odd-looking after a washing. A thorough vacuuming is like combing your rug to restore its proper appearance.