Once you find the best area rug for your space, you want to protect your investment and keep it looking new ... but life is messy, and area rugs in high-traffic areas need more than just the occasional vacuuming. Steam cleaning can be an effective way to lift stains from carpets, but it can damage hardwood flooring beneath an area rug. One simple precaution helps you protect your floors before you bring hot steam anywhere near them.
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Should You Steam Clean Area Rugs on Hardwood Floors?
Steam cleaning allows you to sanitize carpets and kill the germs that people and pets have tracked into your home. It can remove dents and eliminate or reduce odors and stains in carpet fibers. It's also a pretty simple process compared to a project like shampooing a carpet. Most types of residential carpet can be safely cleaned with steam but check the care instructions on your area rug before using steam or any water-based cleaners.
However, steam generally isn't recommended as a way to clean hardwood floors because hot water can warp wood, even if it has been sealed. Ideally, you would roll up an area rug and take it outdoors or to a garage where you could steam clean it away from any wood surfaces. If that's not possible, putting down a plastic barrier under the rug should protect the floor from steam damage.
Using dry carpet cleaner is also an alternative to steam cleaning. Dry carpet cleaner is sold as a powder that you sprinkle on a slightly moistened carpet, brush in, and then vacuum away. There's almost no drying time required after using dry carpet cleaner, while a steam-cleaned rug may stay damp for as long as 24 hours.
You can use any kind of household steam cleaner to steam an area rug, but the best option is to use a steam mop with a microfiber head because you can press the mop head right into the carpet. This allows stain and odor molecules that the steam has loosened to transfer to the microfiber material and be lifted away.
How to Steam Clean an Area Rug on Hardwood Floors
Things You'll Need
Step 1: Vacuum the Rug
Vacuum the rug well to pull up any loose dirt or debris. This is important because adding water to a dirty carpet will basically create mud.
Step 2: Lay Down a Protective Barrier
Have someone help you roll up or lift the area rug and spread out a plastic drop cloth (or multiple drop cloths) under it. Make sure the plastic extends out at least a few inches on all sides of the rug.
Step 3: Steam Clean the Rug
Follow manufacturer directions to prepare and use your steamer. If you're using a microfiber steam cleaner, run the mop head directly across the carpet. If you're using a cleaner that shoots out jets of steam, hold it a few inches above the carpet as you move it over the entire area. After steaming a section, blot it by hand with a microfiber cloth to remove stains.
Step 4: Dry as Much as Possible
Remove as much excess water from the clean rug as you can. The longer the carpet stays wet, the more likely it is that mildew will set in and create a musty smell that will have you pulling out the steamer for another cleaning session. Lay down old towels on the rug and walk over them to help them absorb water. Open windows and aim a fan at the rug to speed up drying time. Don't remove the plastic sheeting until the rug is completely dry.