How to Clean Area Rugs at Home

An area rug adds color and beauty to a room, creates a baffle from echoing sound, and warms the space when it's chilly. The rug also needs to be cleaned, especially if receives heavy traffic. Whether your area rug is made of natural or man-made fibers, it can be cleaned by hand. The Persians have hand-cleaned their carpets for centuries; use a page from their housekeeping book to make your carpet shine as if it's brand-new. If the tags with cleaning instructions are still attached, or available, follow the advice of the manufacturer. Some fibers are not color-fast.

Oriental Rugs

Most Oriental rugs are woven from wool or a wool-silk blend. These natural fibers can last a lifetime when they're properly cared for.

Step 1 Vacuum Thoroughly

Wait for a sunny day to clean your Oriental rug. Vacuum the rug thoroughly on both sides before taking it outside to a driveway or a patio, near a hose spigot. Lay it out in a sunny spot.

Step 2 The Bath

Combine cool water and mild liquid detergent in a bucket and mix thoroughly. Hose the rug until it's soaked; then pour half of the bucket over the rug. With your hand, spread the soapy mixture over the rug, moving in a linear direction with the nap. Scrub with the soft brush, staying with the nap. Be firm, but not forceful. Do the same with the fringe, brushing it out and untangling any strands.

Step 3 Rinse Well

Spray the hose over the rug until no soapy bubbles are apparent. Rub your hand against the nap to test for rising bubbles, and continue until all the soap has washed away. Use the squeegee in the direction of the nap to force out the remaining water.

Step 4 Sun Bath

Move the rug to a dry spot and let it dry in the sun. Turn a fan on the rug to speed the drying process. When the fibers feel dry, flip it over and dry the reverse side. You may need to move it again to avoid letting it sit in a damp spot.

Step 5 Restore the Nap

When the rug is completely dry, vacuum it again to refresh the nap and reduce any fiber stiffness.

Woven or Braided Rugs

A small woven or braided rug can be machine washed on the gentle cycle. Place it in a large mesh laundry bag. Wash it with cool water on the gentle cycle, using gentle liquid detergent. Dry it on the gentle cycle, using a low setting. A larger rug can be hand-washed like an Oriental rug. However, don't use the brush to scrub it; instead, use your hands or a soft sponge.

Sisal and Grass-Woven Rugs

An open-weave rug gets dirty on the top, with dirt and grit flowing through to the floor below. Vacuum regularly, removing the rug to clean the floor underneath it as well. Sponge-clean the rug frequently using cool water, and spot-clean with a mild, soapy detergent and water mixture. Be sure the rug is completely dry -- the grasses absorb the water easily. Dry using a rotating fan until all the water disappears.

Eliminate Mildew Odors

Mildew can collect on a rug if it's damp and humid. Pour baking soda over the mildew and let it sit at least two days before sweeping or shaking it off. Vacuum. If the smell persists, pour vinegar on the spot and let it sit for 15 minutes before blotting it. Rinse with cool water and dry.