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How to make your drab area rug look new again (and save on replacement costs)

Area rugs are stunning. They’re the perfect way to add a big, eye-catching decorative element, and you can have fun with the colors, patterns, and shapes too. Unfortunately, daily living takes its toll on your area rugs, particularly if you have small kids or pets in the house. Before long, your rug may start to look dirty, dingy, or even matted. The right method for cleaning your rug depends largely on the type of material it is, like whether it’s a synthetic material or a natural fiber rug. If yours is looking a little worse for wear, don’t worry. We’re going to discuss how to clean your area rug the right way so it will look brand new again.

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What’s the best way to clean a small area rug?

For most small rugs, you can simply throw them in the washing machine. Just be sure to air-dry the rug since the heat from the dryer can damage the carpet fibers. If you aren’t sure about using the washing machine for your smaller rug, follow the below instructions and deep clean it by hand.

What is the best way to clean a large area rug?

For a DIY clean of those larger pieces, you’ll need to do it by hand. Move the rug to an open area where you can use water and soap freely. This can be a driveway, outdoor deck, or garage. You’ll also need a space to dry the rug once you’ve finished cleaning it. It’ll be too heavy for a simple clothesline, so drape it over a fence, bench, or porch railing instead.

Follow the manufacturer’s advice

Some rugs are antique or brittle, while others are made with delicate materials like natural fibers or fur, making their care routine very specific. When cleaning an area rug, first check the care instructions. The methods below are general cleaning techniques, but be sure to double-check that the method you choose won’t cause any damage.

Can you use a carpet cleaner on an area rug?

If the manufacturer’s care instructions allow, a carpet cleaner is a great option. Carpet shampoos are designed to deep clean between carpet fibers and they can even get out stubborn odors. Be sure to use a carpet cleaner that’s meant for your rug’s material to avoid damaging it. Spot test the shampoo on a small portion of the rug first to be sure it won’t stain or discolor the material.

Can you power wash an area rug?

Power washing your rug is by far the easiest and most effective method, but it doesn’t work for all types of rugs. While it works just fine on synthetic fibers, other materials, like natural fiber rugs, are sensitive to moisture so the saturation can damage them. Other rugs have delicate weavings that may unravel or fringe when subject to the intensity of a power washer.

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How to deep clean an area rug

If it’s time for a deep clean, taking it to a professional cleaner is always the safest bet. Understandably, you may not want to spend the cash. In that case, head outside on a sunny day and get scrubbing.

What you’ll need

  • Vacuum
  • Broom or paddle
  • Carpet shampoo
  • Scrubbing brush
  • Garden hose
  • A cleaning/drying structure (fence, porch, railing, etc.)


  1. While the rug is still in its place in your home, vacuum it to remove any large pieces of dirt and debris.
  2. Pick up the rug and vacuum the floor underneath to clear away any dust and debris. Then, flip the rug over and vacuum the underside of the rug thoroughly.
  3. Bring the rug outside and hang it across your cleaning/drying station.
  4. Use your broom or paddle to beat the carpet a few times. If clouds of dust come out of the rug, continue beating it until it stops producing dust clouds.
  5. Spray the rug thoroughly with your garden hose.
  6. Use the scrubbing brush to work the shampoo into the rug deeply until it’s foaming.
  7. Following the shampoo’s instructions, let the cleaner sit for as long as necessary.
  8. Use the hose to thoroughly rinse the rug and rid it of all shampoo residue.
  9. Wring out the rug as much as possible to rid it of excess water before leaving it to hang dry.
  10. Be sure the rug is completely dry before replacing it in your home.

Your area rug is a beautiful piece in your indoor space and it deserves to remain pristine for years to come. All you need is a few handy tools and just a bit of elbow grease.

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Veronica Sparks
Veronica Sparks is a writer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who loves writing about gardening, home décor, and DIY life. She’s…
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