How to Clean a Rug Effectively | Anyclean

updated: 12/05/2024

Is there anything more comfortable and beautiful than a lush, high-quality rug on your floor? We know how much you cherish your Persian, Ottoman, and Afghan pieces, but are you willing to invest the time and energy to keep them in good shape?

Do not worry, we will step in with some handy tips and tricks that will help you with the task! We’ve asked some of our leading London rug cleaning specialists to share their observations and knowledge on the best practices for rug maintenance.

All rugs and carpets require specific care to maintain their appearance and lengthen their lifespan. There are minor but important differences in caring for machine-made and handmade rugs; if done properly, you can add considerable life to your rug…

A large Persian rug with floral motives in a home setting

General Rug Maintenance

Prevention is better than a cure, as the saying goes, so we have compiled a list of ways in which you can prevent your rugs from ever getting damaged:

  • Avoid your rug (and floors) getting dirty by protecting entrances to your home with dedicated barrier mats.
  • Consider a “no shoes” policy in your home. This will also protect hard flooring and carpeted areas. (In many countries, this is the norm)
  • Rotate your rug periodically to distribute the areas of heavy traffic.
  • Never place rugs on damp floors.
  • We also recommend using a rug underlay to prevent colour transfer onto existing floor coverings and hard floors, rucking problems and tripping hazards on hard flooring.

Some rugs have manufacturer care labels attached when purchased, so you should always read and follow the supplier’s guidelines and recommendations.

Vacuuming and Brushing Your Rugs

Regularly vacuuming your rug is fundamental in prolonging life and preventing premature wear.

Hand Tufted and Hand Knotted Rugs

A suction-only vacuum should be used with these rugs. A beater bar should never be used on the surface of these types of rugs.

 If you use an upright vacuum with a beater action, ensure the brushes are on the highest setting and are just skimming the rug’s surface.

Shaggy Rugs

For shaggy rugs, shake the rug to loosen any grit or loose fibres. Using tools on the lowest setting will help minimise the excessive shedding usually associated with these rugs, especially the felted wool fibres.

Machine Made Rugs

These types of rugs with a cut pile should be vacuumed with cleaners that have beater bars. This will keep the pile upright and loosen any grit in the base of the pile.

Periodically, the rug should be turned pile down, and the back of the rug should be vacuumed with an upright cleaner. The beater bar is set low to loosen any grit in the pile. The rug should then be turned the correct way and vacuumed as above.

Natural Fibre, Sisal and Loop Pile Rugs

A ‘suction only’ type of vacuum should be used for these rugs. A beater bar should never be used on the surface of these types of rugs. Fringes can be straightened out by hand with a comb, soft brush, or vacuum tools using a single motion away from the rug.

Spills and Cleaning Tips

Firstly, you should never rub the surface pile of a rug. The correct way to approach a spillage or mark is to blot the area with a clean, absorbent cloth or white paper towel. Try not to make the spillage area larger.

Secondly, scrape any excess spillage with a blunt knife or spatula.

Before using any cleaning products on your rug, always’ spot test’ it to ensure the solution will not damage or bleach the fibres. Washing up liquid, abrasive cleaners, or caustic solutions (including some carpet cleaning products) contain bleaching agents, which can damage the rug’s pile. Hence, it’s essential to find the correct cleaning solution.

We have successfully used Woolclean products and various solutions for washing woollen clothes, such as sturgene and pre-wash sprays, and find they give good results and do not harm the fibres.

Always brush the pile so the affected area is in the same direction as the rest of the rug. ( A normal comb is perfect; it separates the tufts and helps prevent a matted appearance.)

If you are not confident in tackling a spill, seek professional advice.

A large Chinese silk rug in a modern London apartment overlooking Hyde Park

Spring Cleaning Your Rugs – General Tips

Spring is an excellent time for rug cleaning. The sunshine and warmer weather make it easier to drag area rugs out of doors, and leaving them open aids in drying. Throw rugs and area rugs can be impossible to keep clean. It seems as though everyone, including the animals, heads right for these rugs, and the result is every kind of stain imaginable. These rugs probably took a beating during the holidays or if you live in an area where the winter months are incredibly muddy and wet.

When it’s time for rug cleaning, a practical approach is to gather all the smaller rugs and wash them together. Add some colour-fast bleach to the load. Depending on the number of rugs you own, you might need to run two smaller loads. Remember, the smaller the load, the better, as dirt doesn’t dissolve quickly with this material. Throw rugs, usually lightweight, can be bundled into the washer. On the other hand, area rugs are typically more oversized and require some hand work to get clean.

Area rug cleaning requires more effort, as they are typically hard to vacuum. This is where your mother’s advice of using ‘elbow grease’ comes in handy. Get a hard bristle brush and some mild detergent. Brush the area rugs against the grain. This technique is particularly effective in removing pet hair. If you lightly wet the rug with the detergent, the pet hair should stick to the brush and come up quickly. Follow this with a thorough vacuuming, keeping one corner firmly anchored to the floor with your foot. Remember, if you encounter gum, freeze it with an ice cube, then scrape it with a knife.

If it’s a sunny day, air out your area rugs by throwing them over a fence or just laying them across the grass where the kids won’t run over them.

Use simple cornstarch for your rug cleaning needs for grease or oil stains. Coffee stains will come out using a mixture of 20% peroxide and a few drops of ammonia. Ammonia is also suitable for this job if your little darlings have spilt milk. It’s football season, so if beer is spilt on the area rugs, use vinegar to remove the stale smell. (Football season can also lead to blood stains, so remember to keep some ammonia around just in case of this type of stain!)

If area rugs need a good airing out, hand them from a sturdy clothesline or over a fence and beat them with a broom. There used to be neat rug beaters made from the same type of tree branches used to make switches, and if you can find one in an antique store, they are the absolute best for beating dust from smaller rugs, which can’t be laundered any other way.

If your area and throw rugs are made from wool and dry-cleaned only cornstarch, it is again your best bet, as rug cleaning costs can get high for woollen rugs. There are, however, some great commercial products for removing stains and freshening dry, clean-only area carpeting. These products use dry chemicals to remove the more stubborn stains, which home remedies may not help.

About the author 

Nick Vassilev

Nick blogs about cleaning. He is a cleaning expert with more than 25 years of experience. He is also an NCCA-certified carpet cleaner. Founder and CEO of Anyclean.