The holiday season brings many new things to your home – including increased foot traffic. Make sure your rugs are looking their best by giving them a good cleaning. From everyday maintenance to deep cleaning stubborn spots, find out how to give your space a winter refresh and ready for holiday guests with these simple how to clean an area rug steps.

Identify the Make of Your Rug

The first step is to determine what materials make up your rug. Is it wool, acrylic, silk, or another manufactured fiber? While all rugs will show improvement form some type of cleaning, typically rugs created from natural materials respond better than those made from synthetics. Since each material requires a different technique it’s important to find out what you are working with.

General Rug Care

Overall, most rugs benefit from daily or weekly maintenance. Large area rugs can be treated much like wall-to-wall carpeting while smaller rugs can be tossed in the wash or rinsed off outside, depending of course on materials. In general, the following routine works well for most homes:

  • Vacuum and pick up any loose dirt regularly. The longer dirt sits on a rug, the deeper it will be embedded in the fibers. Make sure to use the beater bar to sweep out dust and grime but turn it off when vacuuming over fringe. It can damage and prematurely wear on the carpet edges.
  • Rotate rugs annually. UV exposure, furniture and walking patterns can create uneven or discolored areas on your rugs. Make sure to turn them at least once yearly to minimize tracks and allow for even usage.
  • Brush out pet hair. Use a rubber brush to capture pet hair and pull it from the fibers.
  • Shake out small area rugs. Smaller rugs can be taken outside and shook to remove loose dirt and dander.

Material Guide

When it comes to specialty rugs, take care to read the manufacturers instructions. File tags for easy reference down the line and utilize a rug shampooer or cleaning machine when necessary.

Braided or Woven Rugs

If the rug is small enough and made of washable material, it can usually be laundered in a residential washing machine. Larger rugs can be taken to the cleaners to be washed in a commercial sized appliance. Place them in a laundry bag before the cycle starts and use a cool water cycle. Tumble dry or hang outside. For braided rugs, place on a concrete floor and sponge with carpet cleaning foam. Rinse or wet vacuum then hang to dry.

Antique or Hand Knotted Rugs

Care should be taken when attempting to clean an antique product. Vacuum carefully and if needed, place a piece of nylon screen down over the rug before running the appliance over it. Or cover the end of the vacuum with nylon mesh. Spot clean by blotting and rotate a needed to keep wear even.

Hides, Sheepskin or Fur

To freshen a hide rug, use talcum powder first to remove odors and attract dirt. Brush through and then vacuum thoroughly. Follow up by gently spot cleaning with a cotton rag and hot soapy water. Take care not to fully saturate the rug, since this will extend drying time.

Natural Rugs – Coir, Rush, Sisal or Grass

Unfortunately these rugs can’t be laundered, but they do allow for dirt to slip through the open weave. Take outdoors and shake or brush off. Vacuum regularly and reverse annually if needed. Because these rugs allow dirt through their backing a rug mat is recommended. This can also keep the fibers from scratching delicate floors and trapping moisture when wet.

Quick Guide on Stain Removal

Daily maintenance and quick stain removal will do a better job at keeping your rugs looking new than allowing them to build up dirt over time. When a stain happens, deal with it as soon as possible. Here are some of the most common and their recommended remedies.

  • Fat or Great Stain: Utilize a dry-solvent spot cleaner, like an oil absorbing powder.
  • Gum: Freeze the gum with a bag filled with ice, scrape and use a dry-solvent powder to finish
  • Paint: Recommendation is to clean while still wet. For latex paint, spot clean with a detergent solution and finish with rubbing alcohol. For oil-based paint, use mineral spirits – but carefully. Don’t allow the solvent to sit or soak through the rug, and always spot test.
  • Coffee or Tea: Blot the stain and use a mixture of warm water, dish detergent and white vinegar to lift it from the material.
  • Wax: Use the same technique as gum with rubbing alcohol to finish
  • Urine or Pet messes: Use a detergent solution and follow with an enzymatic cleaner to kill smells and lingering bacteria.