How to Clean Your Area Rug (No Matter the Material!)

Area Rug Cleaning Tips for Every Material


Vacuuming or shaking out an area rug is probably a pretty easy chore on your cleaning list. It feels pretty good to see all the dust float off or get sucked up in the vacuum. However, that’s not necessarily enough to get your rug really clean. Area rugs experience some of the most wear and tear of any piece in a home between pets, kids, foot traffic, dirt, snow and even sunshine. For basic maintenance, you should vacuum your rug at least once a week (especially if you have pets). But a deep clean is necessary at minimum every six months for spring and fall cleanings but even more frequently if the dog or baby likes to use the rug as a second bathroom.

It’s important to note that you do not want to clean an area rug the same way you would a carpet. Steaming and deep-cleaning an area rug with shampoo and a machine meant for a carpet is too abrasive and could potentially damage it.

We’ve mapped out the best ways to scrub down your rug based on its material. Before you do any kind of cleaning, check the rug’s care instructions and your warranty information.

If you have questions about rug care, call our Customer Service at (515) 727-1371 or call toll free (888) 818-7283. You can also email at

Cleaning Based on Rug Material

Synthetic Rugs

How to clean synthetic rugs
  • Vacuuming: You’ll see this tip often in this article because this is the easiest maintenance you can do every week. Take full advantage of vacuum attachments to really get down into the weave of the rug to pull out dirt, pet hair and everything else that accumulates. This is especially important to do before a deep clean. If necessary, take it outside and beat it. You’ll be amazed at how much dirt comes out!
  • Handwashing: Before cleaning, check the rug for breakage in the stitches. Use a sponge and carpet cleaning foam. Lay it flat on a concrete floor or on a large sheet and scrub with the sponge. Then rinse off the soap and vacuum to dry. Never put a rug back on the floor if it’s still wet. Many people use too much water to rinse rugs and don’t dry them completely. Water sitting in your rug leads to mold or mildew!

If your rug is made of wool, check the cleaning instructions that came with it. Cleaning wool is more difficult than synthetic because it absorbs more water making it more difficult to dry while alkaline cleaners can be too harsh and damage it. If the rug does not have cleaning instructions or you are uncertain about the material, have it professionally cleaned.

Handmade, Antique and Oriental Rugs

How to clean hand-made rugs
  • Vacuuming: You can still do a basic clean with a delicate rug, you just have to be careful! Better Homes and Gardens recommends placing a nylon screen either over the rug or over the vacuum attachment and then vacuuming through it in order to protect the rug.
  • Cleaning: Deep cleaning a delicate rug should be done by a professional, especially if you don’t know much about the rug’s material or construction. Be sure to rotate these rugs frequently so one end isn’t exposed to more wear or sunlight than the other.

Plant-Based Rugs

  • Frequent cleaning: A vacuum is your best friend with daily or weekly cleanings. A beater brush should be useful with removing dirt. Make sure you move the rug to vacuum under it. This may seem like a no-brainer but plant-based rugs tend to have a more open weave which allows dirt to fall through. If the spill is liquid, you should blot immediately and clean it based on the type of stain (which we will outline below). Water will weaken the rug material, so use a small fan or hair dryer to dry the damp area.
  • Deep scrub: Just like with antique rugs, we recommend going to a professional for deep cleaning a plant material.

Fur and Hide Rugs

How to clean animal hide rugs
  • Basic clean: Talcum powder is your secret weapon for rugs made of fur, sheepskin or another type of hide. Shake unscented talcum onto the rug and let it sit for a couple of hours. Brush it through the rug then shake it out. You can do this as many times as necessary depending on the length. Some fur rugs have leather backs which require special treatment. Guardsman makes care products for leather to protect it from stains and other damage.
  • Deep clean: This is a little tricky because every fur or hide rug is a little different. Some sheepskin rugs can be cleaned at home with an alkaline-free detergent and a tub of lukewarm water. If your rug is dyed, take it to a dry cleaners. Washing it at home may remove some of the dye. Drying is especially chancy because using sunlight, a dryer on high heat or fan can cause leather to fall apart. While you can wash a fur rug at home, you might have more peace of mind taking it to a professional.

If your previously white fur rug has become discolored, it’s most likely from sun damage and can’t be washed out. Unfortunately, sun damage is permanent. Don’t forget most rugs fade or discolor when constantly exposed to direct sunlight, so rotate them!

Area Rug Protection Plans

We’ve all watched in horror as a glass of red wine slips out of someone’s hand to fall in slow motion to the carpet. Or screamed in frustration when we come upon a gift from the dog on the antique rug passed down to you from several generations of forebears.

If this happens to you more frequently than you’d like to admit, it might be a good idea to look into protection options. Homemakers offers a five-year protection plan through Guardsman which covers stains from food, drinks, human and pet bodily fluids as well as border tears up to six inches in length caused by a specific accident. Next time you’re shopping for a new area rug, talk to your salesperson about warranty plans and what action you should take in the event of an accident.

Keeping an area rug clean can feel like a full-time job, especially if you have children, pets or a lot of foot traffic. Do you have any rug cleaning tips for us? Let us know in the comments!

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