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How to clean a rug at home

Man showing how to clean a rug at home using a vacuum cleaner.
(Image credit: Getty)

Rugs are a great way to spruce up a room, as they can inject a huge amount of personality and style. They can also be a source of dirt, so knowing how to clean a rug at home will save you time and money. Not only will this keep a space tidy and hygienic, but it will also mean your investments stand the test of time. Whether you have a shag, wool, jute, or antique rug in your living area, we have put together the easiest cleaning methods that will streamline chores and your rugs spotless. 

The impact of daily life can quickly show up on a rug, whether this is from increased footfall around commonly used areas, or a pet who enjoys taking a nap on the soft fibers. All it takes is a few household products to rejuvenate a rug, and this will have a huge impact on the overall appearance of an interior. Simply vacuuming filth away will quickly transform a carpet or area rug too, so picking the best vacuum cleaner (opens in new tab) for your lifestyle will make light of daily tasks. 

Sometimes, the rest of your carpet will need a refresh too. Learn how to clean a carpet (opens in new tab) to tackle everyday dirt and stains, to make sure your rug is right at home in a spotless space.  

How often you should clean a rug 

While rugs offer practical solutions for adding warmth, comfort, and grip to floor areas, they are often picked for their stylish appearance. Rugs tend to be partially covered by furniture, so there is less surface area left for heavy footfall. 

This does, however, mean that they can be the optimum spot for coffee and wine spillages, and of course plenty of crumbs. You should always clean rugs when you notice they are getting dirty, or a spill occurs. However, don’t wait for dirt to mount, instead vacuum weekly or biweekly (depending on the size of your household), and focus on deep cleans once every few months. 

What you should use to clean a rug

What the expert says...

Derin Dundar, Chief Merchant of Merak Rugs, says, "Over time, dirt and debris settle into the fibers of the rug and can get trapped between the rug and the floor. If left there, it can do permanent damage to the rug. To prevent this, vacuum both sides of the rug thoroughly once every month, and vacuum the floor space below the rug, as well. It may take several passes of the vacuum to reach all of the dirt and dust, depending on how much traffic the carpet is subject to. If you have pets in your home, you may want to increase this vacuuming process to once a week."

The material of your rug will directly impact what you should use to clean it, so it is important to check the manufacturer's guides and care instructions before getting started. Wool, jute, shaggy, and other rug materials all pick up dirt at different rates –and some will store it more deeply than others. 

Before using any chemicals on a rug, you should always start off by vacuuming. This will remove any loose debris and provide a general refresh. Exploring the best deep clean vacuum cleaners (opens in new tab) will help you find the right option for you, as higher piles will require specific attachments to avoid damage. 

According to Derin Dundar, ‘an often overlooked element of rug care is the bottom side of the rug.’ 

So, instead of focusing on what your rug looks like, consider the invisible dirt that may be trapped beneath the surface. 

Man using vacuum cleaner to clean living room

(Image credit: Getty Images)

After you’ve shaken out, or vacuumed, any crumbs you can begin to deep clean the rug using a mild method like the one below.  

  1. Shake out or vacuum dirt and debris. 
  2. Mix a cleaning solution using either a dedicated rug shampoo or a mild dish soap. Use warm water, as hot water can cause shrinkage.
  3. Test the solution on the corner of the rug to ensure that the colors don’t run.
  4. Using a sponge or soft brush, work the soap solution into the rug in circular motions. Let the soap sit for around 10 minutes.
  5. Rinse the soap out of the rug using a hose or buckets of clean water. This is best to do outside so wait for a pleasant day. Rinse until the water runs clear.
  6. Use a squeegee or wet-dry vacuum to remove as much water as possible. 
  7. Air out to dry - lay it flat and then flip over to allow the bottom to dry.
  8. Brush over the rug to separate the fibers and fluff it back up. 

How to remove a stain from a rug 

You can clean a rug at home, and by hand, using baking soda. This is a natural deodorizer, so as well as targeting stains it will remove any foul smells. It also packs a punch when used in tandem with white vinegar. 

Stains should always be targeted as quickly as possible, as this will give you the best chance of getting a rug looking brand new again. But don’t fear if you miss that pet accident or dinner-party wine spill. 

Prior to attacking marks, you should give a rug a general clean using a vacuum cleaner. By removing any large bits of dirt, you won’t run the risk of embedding anymore grime when partaking in a thorough scrub.

As with removing most stains from carpets, the process is quite simple. So here are our step-by-step tips on tackling any types of blemish on a rug. 

  1. Mix a solution of 2 parts baking soda to 1 part white vinegar.
  2. Blot the stain, don’t rub, with a damp cloth.
  3. Apply the paste to the stain, using a soft brush. 
  4. Vacuum the baking soda. 
  5. Repeat if necessary.

Top tips to keep a rug clean for longer

Although cleaning a rug is simple, it is always better to avoid bringing in as much dirt as possible. Some spillages can’t be avoided, but there are a handful of tips and tricks that will set your rug in good stead for standing up against stains. 

  1. Use protective sprays and treatments. 
  2. Place door mats at entrances to reduce dirt tracked into your house. 
  3. Avoid wearing shoes anywhere inside.
  4. Vacuum regularly to prevent permanent damage. 
  5. Always blot, never rub stains. 
  6. Shake and rotate rugs - this will even out fade and wear patterns. 

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Holly is the Features Editor at Top Ten Reviews where she focuses on creating informative, how-to advice. She has a degree in English Literature and previously worked as a copywriter at Howdens, specializing in kitchens and trend-led interiors. When she’s not reading or writing, you can find her exploring the best London bars and brunch spots, or planning the next budget-friendly city break. 

With contributions from