Some rugs are labeled "dry clean only" to prevent the homeowner from washing the rug, which can cause the dyes to bleed, while other rugs are made of delicate fibers that stretch or shrink when exposed to water. Although it's best to take the rug to a professional for cleaning, especially if it's a high-end piece or antique, you can dry-clean your area rug at home. The method depends on the size of the rug: Clean smaller, flexible rugs in your dryer with a dry-cleaning laundry kit, but use a special carpet kit for larger rugs. Before you dry-clean any rug, vacuum it as thoroughly as possible.
Vacuuming the Dirt
Crumbs, dirt, dust and dander get embedded in the fibers of an area rug; if you don't remove these first, you'll only work the debris deeper into the rug when dry-cleaning.
Set the beater bar on your vacuum to the highest setting. The bar is too abrasive for most rugs and can cause the fibers to loosen or tear.
Vacuum the face of the area rug meticulously. Flip the rug over and vacuum the backside.
Turn the rug face-side-up again and quickly vacuum the top one more time. This eliminates any dirt that may have shifted during the first two steps.
"Washing" Smaller Rugs
Clean smaller area rugs without a rubber backing using an at-home dry-cleaning kit that comes with an extra-large bag. Depending on the size of your dryer, you may be able to use this method for rugs measuring up to 5-by-7-feet if they don't have stiff backings; anything larger requires the rug-specific dry cleaning kit.
Move the rug to a well-lit area and check for marks or stains. Apply the pre-treatment product that came with your kit to any discoloration.
Place the rug in the dry-cleaning bag and add the pre-treated cleaning cloth. Zip the bag shut.
Place the bag in the dryer; place the dryer to the kit manufacturer's-recommended settings; and turn it on. Medium heat for about 20 to 30 minutes is typical.
Lay the rug flat to dry. It may be slightly damp from the steam created in the dryer, so avoid walking on it until it's dry to the touch. The steam is caused by chemicals in the dry-cleaning sheet, not water, so the rug's dyes remain intact.
Dry-Cleaning Larger Rugs
Dry-cleaning kits for rugs are typically powder based and contain a pre-treatment product, cleaning powder and brush. Some may also come with a sifter to use to apply the powder.
Spray any soiled areas or stains lightly with the pre-treatment product. Pay close attention to the main traffic area of the rug; if it's darker than the rest of the carpet, apply the treatment there as well.
Sprinkle the powder evenly over the rug directly from the box. If your kit came with a sifter, pour the product into it and apply the powder liberally, as if dusting baked goods with powdered sugar.
Work the powder into the rug with the brush. Be gentle and don't scrub, but make sure that the powder sinks into the fibers. Press down gently with the brush, twist and lift up; graze the top of the rug fibers gently, going back and forth. Try not to step on the rug; instead, reach across it as you kneel or stand on the edge.
Vacuum up the powder, making slow passes over each 3-foot section at least twice. As in the first vacuuming, keep the beater bar raised high and vacuum the rug's front, back and then the front again.