Keep your area rugs looking their best by following these simple tips for basic care, deep cleaning, and stain removal. Plus, learn how to properly treat specific types of area rugs.
Area rugs warm up floors, inject color and pattern into a space, and create zones in your home's living quarters. But along with area rugs comes stains and debris, so it's important to know how to clean an area rug. First, identify your rug's material. This is an important step in prolonging its life, as different materials require unique cleaning methods and materials. Our handy area rug cleaning guide will introduce you to the many types of rugs, and offer tips and instructions for rug cleaning and stain removal.
Size, construction, and material determines the rug cleaning and care routine you'll need to follow. Care for large area rugs as you would wall-to-wall carpet. That means most rugs will benefit from the following care routine:
Vacuum large area rugs to remove dirt: As with carpet, regular vacuuming is the the most important area rug cleaning step you can take. If a rug is reversible, vacuum both sides. This removes grit and grime that can wear out your rug prematurely. Take care to not vacuum any fringe. (Turn off the beater bar when vacuuming a shag rug to prevent tangling the long fibers.)
Brush out pet hair: A vacuum will sometimes leave pet hair behind. Use a stiff brush to remove the hair, brushing in the direction of the nap of the rug.
Turn rugs every year: Foot traffic and sun can put extra stress on area rugs. Turn them once or twice a year to even out the wear.
Shake small area rugs: If the rug is small enough, you can take it outside and shake it or beat it vigorously to remove dirt and grit. Some areas have ordinances about shaking rugs outdoors, so check your local codes.
Special types of rugs require special cleaning care. File away care tags on the rug for easy reference. Pay close attention to recommendations for deep cleaning and using a rug shampooer or a cleaning machine. Follow these tips for taking care of specialty rugs.
Check rugs for stitching breaks before and after cleaning. Check labels to determine whether small braided rugs are washable. If they are, place them in a zippered pillowcase or mesh laundry bag. Wash in cool water on a gentle cycle, rinsing thoroughly. Tumble dry on a low setting.
Place large braided rugs on a vinyl or concrete floor or place an old blanket beneath them. Sponge commercial carpet-cleaning foam over the surface and rub it in according to the product directions. Finish by rinsing or vacuuming. Dry thoroughly before replacing the rug on the floor.
Vacuum a new Oriental rug as you would carpet and wool area rugs. Use special care with delicate vintage or antique rugs. Protect them from the vacuum by placing a piece of nylon screen over the rug and weighting it down with books or bricks. Vacuum over the screen. Or, tie a piece of nylon mesh over the vacuum attachment and change the mesh frequently as dirt accumulates. Have these rugs professionally cleaned once a year. Rotate rugs to ensure even wear; direct exposure to sun will cause fading.
Time is of the essence when your rug becomes stained. Remember to blot—not rub—the stain and remove moisture from spills as quickly as possible.
Alcohol and soft drinks: Use a solution of 1 teaspoon liquid dish detergent, 1 quart of warm water, and 1/4 teaspoon of white vinegar. Apply to the stain, rinse, then blot dry.
Coffee or tea: Using the detergent mix above, apply to stain, rinse, and blot. If a stain remains, use a commercial spot carpet cleaner.
Fat-based stains: For foods such as butter, margarine, or gravy, use a dry-solvent spot carpet cleaner.
Gum: Peel off what you can, then put ice cubes in a plastic bag and place on top of the remaining gum to harden it. Scrape the gum off with a spoon or dull knife. Vacuum and use a dry-solvent spot cleaner if needed.
Paint: For acrylic and latex paint, while the stain is still wet, spot-clean with the detergent solution. If color remains, dab with rubbing alcohol. For oil-base paint, sponge with odorless mineral spirits, being careful not to soak through to the backing.
Tomato sauce: Sponge with cool water, dab with detergent solution or a citrus-oxygen cleaner. Rinse with a solution of 1 cup white vinegar and 2 cups of water and blot until dry.
Urine, feces, and vomit: Apply detergent solution or a citrus-oxygen cleaner, rinse, and blot until dry.
Melted wax: Use the same treatment as gum, hardening it with ice cubes in a plastic bag and scraping. Dampen a clean white cloth or cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and blot to remove any remaining wax.