How to Clean Your Rug

There is a common misconception with rugs which says that if cleaned too often, the life of a rug is shortened. The reality is that rugs need to be cleaned. Carpets and rugs act like a filter in the indoor environment by trapping soils, gases, human and pet dander, all of which can be damaging to your health. And let’s face it, no matter how hard you try your rug is bound to be the subject of a few spills and stains. If left too long, stains require harsh chemicals and it is these that can be damaging.

Simple and regular cleaning should have little or no effect on the appearance of your rug, other than to keep it looking great.


To keep your rug looking pristine, basic cleaning is required. Basic cleaning includes:

  • Vacuuming - Your rug should be vacuumed once or twice a week to remove excess dirt and dust. This prevents dirt from getting too deep into the pile (wool) or embedded into the fibres.
  • Removing pet hair - Rugs make a lovely place for pets to curl up on but are especially prone to collecting excess hair. The best way to remove pet hair is to use a stiff brush and brush in the direction of the nap. If you prefer a little less elbow grease, look for a specialised vacuum cleaner that caters especially for pet hair.
  • Quickly ridding stains – Most liquid stains, whether red wine or urine, can be treated using a four step process.
    • Step 1 – Mop up excess liquid. Using a clean cloth or paper towel, soak up any excess liquid and scrape off and solids using a knife or spoon. In the event of a large stain, place a towel over the spill and stand on it firmly to remove as much liquid as possible.
    • Step 2 – Blot and dilute. Using water, blot the stain to weaken the substance. If it is an ink or paint spill, switch the water to alcohol.
    • Step 3 – Apply a cleaning agent. Manufactured stain remover or carpet shampoo can work wonders on stains, but regular home products such as salt and baking soda can be just as effective.
    • Step 4 – Drying time. Ensure your rug has fully dried before walking on it.

When cleaning your rug, it’s important to make exceptions for the type of material. The chemicals and tools you use when cleaning stains will be determined by the type of rug you own.

Natural fibres (jute, coir, water hyacinth)

Lightly moisten or mist the affected area with wool wash or mild detergent mixed with water and blot using a clean cloth. For stubborn stains, add vinegar to the solution and blot again. For dirt and mud, wait until the stain dries and then vacuum or scrape off.


A wool rug should never be rubbed when wet, however a gentle brushing with a toothbrush and a solution of one teaspoon of wool detergent and one teaspoon of white vinegar can help lift stains.


Hemp rugs are one of the easiest rugs to clean as they can be taken outside and hosed down. If water alone doesn’t remove the stain, try mixing one cup of vinegar with 4 litres of water and try again. Just be sure to rinse thoroughly both sides as any solution left behind will attract dirt and dust. Once washed, a hemp rug can be hung out and air dried, but be careful when placing naturally dyed products in the sun.


Fragile and ancient rugs should be given to professional cleaners to handle. When cleaning yourself, start by taking a handful of paper towel and wetting a small area that contains all the colours. (The size of your palm should be sufficient.) Hold the paper towel for a few minutes over the wet spot and apply pressure. Lift your paper towel up and check for stains. If the colour has come through to the paper towel, the colours in your rug are susceptible to running so be overly careful when cleaning.

Note: If planning to store your rug away, always clean well first and then gently spray both sides with a non-staining household insecticide. This will help prevent moth infestation and will protect against damage from insects.

May 20, 2014 by Joanne Macs
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