The Best Way to Clean an Area Rug

Step by step tutorial on effective DIY rug cleaning process!

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I want to show the most effective way I have found to clean area rugs and the good news is

  1. It is FREE!
  2. It will last at least a year, even with heavy traffic.

Step by step tutorial on effective DIY rug cleaning process!

Step by step tutorial on effective DIY rug cleaning process!

If you have ever pulled up carpet, you know what I am talking about when I say, it can be horrifying! All the years of dirt and debris get trapped underneath and even if you professionally clean them every six months as suggested, there is just no way to truly get them clean.

Now area rugs are another story because you can get to the underside!

When we first looked at our farmhouse one of our fellow old-home lover friends came to admire the place. The carpet was DISGUSTING, yes, I just yelled that.

There were so many pet stains that I wouldn’t let them kids take their shoes off.  But, once I turned my back they started rolling across the floor. I think I might have flipped out on them at that point.

But, once our friend took out his knife and pulled up the corner of that nasty carpet to reveal original hard wood floors, I caught the vision.

We spent that first fourth of July tearing out that horrible carpet and pulling staples till our hands blistered.

Once the hardwoods were restored, the house was strangely echoey and we set out to find a few area rugs.

This worked well to quiet our house and cleaning hardwoods was much easier than carpets, but I still needed to find a good way to clean the area rugs every so often.

Finally, I settled on the below method. . .

The Best Way to Clean an Area Rug

Step by step tutorial on effective DIY rug cleaning process!

*This post contains affiliate links to products I know &/or love.

  1. Check your weather forecast and make sure you have at least 3 days of sunshine.
  2. Start by giving the rug a good vacuum.
  3. Spot treat any stains.
  4. Roll the rug up and carry outside.
  5. Place on a plastic (preferably) table and unroll it.
  6. Soak the fibers with a garden hose.
  7. Then, using some dish soap and hot water, begin to scrub the rug in sections.
  8. Rinse with the hose water until the water runs clear.
  9. Flip the rug over and repeat.
  10. Let the rug dry for 3 days and place on a clothes line or dry rack on the last day if the rug is small enough.
  11. For maintenance throughout the year, I recommend Kids and Pets for spot treament. It’s been my favorite for the last 16 years and it smells divine.

Watch this video to see how easy it is!


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Step by step tutorial on effective DIY rug cleaning process!

If you are focusing on cleaning and decluttering right now, be sure to grab a copy of my simple decluttering method below.  Just click on the printable!

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Step by step tutorial on effective DIY rug cleaning process!

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  1. Chris Ambuehl
    June 10, 2018 / 8:17 AM

    This is terrible advice! Dish soap, laundry detergent has NO PLACE near carpets or rugs. It’s a surefire way to ruin things! I’m a professional carpet cleaner and I deal with this on a daily basis, people ruin their carpets and then say “well I found it on the internet”. Leave the cleaning to the professionals. Your comment about not cleaning the entire rug is a complete lie. Professional cleaners will get your rugs far cleaner than your “garden hose & dish soap method”. The other fact of the matter is that rugs need to be dried immediately to avoid dye bleeding. The way you suggest to sun dry over 3 days is just plain stupid and a definite way to ruin rugs. Slow drying is the direct cause of dye bleeding, not to mention the sun fading the colors. Again, leave the cleaning to the professionals, and if you can’t afford it then you should rethink your rug purchase.

    For goodness sake please stop posting this garbage on the web. You simply don’t know what you’re talking about!

    • Linda
      June 10, 2018 / 1:14 PM

      Chris: would using a wet-dry vac to take up excess water after you rinse an indoor-outdoor rug work?

      • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
        June 10, 2018 / 4:05 PM

        Linda, if you feel more comfortable using your wet-dry vac then I would use it. Although, I would be surprised if you have much water left on a indoor-outdoor rug.

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      June 10, 2018 / 4:03 PM

      Hi Chris,

      While I can surely appreciate your passion for your profession and agree with your point on the possibility of colors bleeding, I think you are forgetting few things here.

      1) This is the method I have used for the last ten years on all my rugs with great results.
      2) The decade before that I spent over $2,000 on professional rug cleaners and had less than satisfactory results.
      3) There is no such thing as immediately drying a rug.
      4) The sun is a natural stain remover.
      5) Anytime you can get to both sides of a rug it is going to do a better job than just focusing on one side.
      6) You and I clearly have different audiences, I work with the DIY crowd who has no problem buying used, cleaning things ourselves, switching decor out every few years and doing things like painting rugs. Yes, we take a risk with all these things, but people take risks hiring professionals, as well. It’s all about which risk you are willing to take.

    • Sarah
      June 11, 2018 / 10:03 PM


      You used some harsh words in your comment: “terrible”, “lie”, “stupid” and “garbage”. Really? If you don’t like what is written then don’t read it… you write with passion as though someone is discussing something terribly important… it is a RUG for goodness sake! Not a precious child. The way this world treats children and the unborn… now that is a topic where such comments would be more appropriate. You need to re-evaluate your priorities.
      As far as carpets are concerned… I would much rather have my rugs “bleed” then have my family BREATHING in toxic fumes left from the chemicals used by most “professionals”. These chemicals adhere to carpet fibers and “off-gas” (leach into the air) over time. And no, I did not read that online… I was educated in the university system (Biology) and studied enough chemistry and physiology to understand how damaging these things are to the body and environment. Thankfully, there are some “professionals” who use a totally green cleaning process… unfortunately, they are not in the majority!

  2. Vicki Williams
    June 10, 2018 / 4:31 PM

    I have done the same thing only just put it on my cement patio, ( I have never had a big enough table, which would be great but…got on my hands and knees with a good scrub brush and scrubbed away). Have also use a good stiff broom at times. Rinse, and repeat. Obviously clean the cement first. I live in Arizona so the sun dries pretty fast. Depending on size of rug, a good straight fence is sometimes a good drying rack. It’s good if you can rinse both sides.
    For that matter, back in the day, (I’m 78 now) when my husband and I bought some apartments and found a good 2nd hand wall to wall carpet that is how I cleaned it before we installed it. It was great! A bit of work but I was young then!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      June 15, 2018 / 11:33 AM

      This is awesome, Vicki, thanks for waying in! xoxo

  3. Heidi Johnson
    June 13, 2018 / 8:03 PM

    Hi Sarah,
    Are you recommending this method for an all-wool rug as well as cotton and synthetics?
    Thanks for the great information,

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      June 15, 2018 / 11:42 AM

      So, Heidi, I have used this method on synthetic, wool and jute. Cold water will not hurt wool, but you might want to spot test this method first, if you are nervous. xoxo

  4. August 19, 2018 / 12:03 AM

    For years I’ve cleaned my rugs by using a water hose and liquid detergent! Never had a problem!!! Living in Ga. we have very hot sunny days, my my big, heavy rugs usually dry in one day!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      August 23, 2018 / 11:46 AM

      Good for you! I love industrious girls!

    • HALEY
      June 21, 2021 / 1:20 PM

      I’m from GA !!! I just hang it over the fence & get to work 🌻. Never a problem . More people should try to do things on there own . It builds character, just saying

      • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
        August 23, 2021 / 11:13 PM

        Glad that works well for you!

  5. January 13, 2019 / 4:32 AM

    Hmmm it appears lik your website ate my first commsnt (it was super long) so
    I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and
    say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the
    whole thing. Do you have any tips for newbie blog writers?

    I’d certaonly appreciate it.

  6. Kathy
    February 11, 2019 / 6:22 AM

    I have used your method for cleaning area rugs for years and have always been happy with the results. I always enjoy reading your posts. Thank you for sharing your talents with us.

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      February 26, 2019 / 11:26 PM

      You are such a sweetheart! Thank you for taking the time to leave me such a meaningful comment.

  7. Ann C
    February 28, 2019 / 6:54 PM

    I am so glad you responded to Chris and addressed his rudeness. You did it politely and with respect which he didn’t show you. Bravo Lady! I have copied your instructions and once we have sunny dry days I’m attacking my area rug. Thanks again, not only for your instructions, but your blog and your classiness!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      March 9, 2019 / 12:23 PM

      Thank you, Ann. You are so sweet, if you are on Instagram, tag me with your rug pics!! xoxo

  8. Sarah E
    March 21, 2019 / 10:40 AM

    I can’t wait to do this to my synthetic area rug once the weather warms up. I have an elderly dog and a carpet shampooer, and although the Hoover has cleaned up his many digestive issues, there’s still a lingering dog-carpet cleaner-yikes smell. It’s definitely worth whatever “risk” there might be to the rug. And yes, sunshine is one of the best disinfectants! Come on SPRING!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      March 25, 2019 / 6:24 PM

      Yay, I’m so glad you have some hope for your rug!

  9. Sonya
    May 16, 2019 / 7:52 AM

    When you say “some” dish soap…what are we talking???

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      May 17, 2019 / 10:59 PM

      Hi Sonya, good question! Just do a quick squirt, maybe half a teaspoon. Hope that helps! xoxo

  10. September 10, 2019 / 10:18 AM


    I’m not just an area rug cleaner but also the past president of ARCS (Association of Rug Care Specialists) your method is fundamentally correct with how we wash rugs in a modern washplant. I’m not going to lecture you on the evils of DYI but some pointer if I may to you and your subscribers.

    -Consider the weight of the rug you want to clean when fully wet water can triple the weight of some rugs. A 3×5 is one thing a 9×12 is another story sopping wet. Often rugs heavy and difficult to move more fragile because of weight when wet so consider where and how you will dry the rug.

    -Before you start washing spend time vacuum the rug front and back multpyl times the more time spent here the better your cleaning result and it will save you time washing.

    -Understand the nature of the rug you are cleaning synthetic machine wove rugs are much easier and more forgiving to clean Vs. tufted and hand-woven rugs issues such as color run, and stalled drying wicking can be problematic.

    – Test several spots for color bleed issues (wool, silk, plant fiber rugs) with the detergent solution you are going to use and a white cloth. If there is color transfer ask yourself if it’s worth the risk or should you consider a professional?

    -Use a wet-dry vacuum to remove the bulk of the water and a fan to speed dry.

    -Summer seems like a no brainer time to wash a rug but area with warm days and high humidity and warm days with cool nights cause problems with drying

    -Your best bet is hand dish detergent a teaspoon to a gallon stronger than that doesn’t make it work better it just mean you will leave cleaning residue in your rug or hours of rinsing.

    – When the rug is dry vacuum again to fluff pile remove any soil residue

    As for Chris’s comments some are valid we see a number of home cleaning gone wrong most are drying issues with a subsequent mold issue, color bleed problems. Then again we see cleaning gone wring when in-home carpet cleaners try to clean area rugs in their clients’ homes.

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      October 31, 2019 / 10:21 PM

      This is wonderful advice, thank you so much for weighing in. I know my readers will appreciate it so much!

  11. October 9, 2019 / 1:25 AM

    Awesome blog Sarah!! Noted all the useful tips for rug cleaning. Can we have some trick to dry the rug faster? As 3 days is sometimes a enough time to wait for in monsoon season. Can we use a vacuum after cleaning the rug to dry it?

    • October 22, 2019 / 4:17 PM

      Awesome post, Sarah! I totally agree about how dirty carpet can get and it’s so gross! I agree with Angelina about having to wait 3 days for it to dry! That’s not easy to plan and I’m not certain I could keep animals and my crazy kids off of it for that long! I took a shot on a professional carpet cleaning company and I was pleased with the service. They used this special cleaning that seriously got my white carpets white again PLUS it only took 2 hours for it dry! Just enough time for me to get out of the house with my toddler, run errands, grab lunch and visit the park for a little before going home.

      • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
        October 31, 2019 / 10:30 PM

        Thank you, Mia. Great information!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      October 31, 2019 / 10:28 PM

      Oh yes, I see what you mean. I might try a wet/dry shop vac.

  12. Angela S.
    April 10, 2020 / 3:33 PM

    Hi Sarah! Great tips here!
    I’m wanting to deep-clean my front/back door mats that constantly get traction indoors. Our neighborhood is surrounded by loose dirt, so even when we take our shoes off at the door, dirt fills the mats. I usually pat them several times up against the fence outside to get dirt out until they’re just too gritty to keep. I end up throwing them away and buying news ones. But, I really don’t want to keep doing this! Should/could I use this same cleaning method? I also have two hall runners I adore but am scared to put them down because I’m afraid they’ll get too dirty to keep. Would love to hear your advice! Thanks so much!

  13. Sara Anderson
    May 13, 2021 / 9:26 AM

    This is great!! I’ve been trying to figure out oriental rug cleaning on my own and this is so helpful.

  14. Sara W.
    July 13, 2021 / 9:20 AM

    Ok, this is just what I needed! My grandmother gave me a vintage rug that was in pretty bad shape but had a beautiful design. I got it deep cleaned by a rug cleaner and that significantly helped how it looked. But it’s been over a year and starting to look dirty again. I’m totally going to try your process out this weekend!

  15. June 17, 2022 / 4:26 AM

    Because of the microscopic size of these particles, they can easily be inhaled when the area is disturbed, which can exacerbate allergies. Many professional carpet cleaning companies utilize a technique known as steam cleaning when performing carpet maintenance work. Steam cleaning exposes your carpet to high temperatures that dust mites can’t survive.

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