Spring is a great time for rug cleaning. The sunshine and warmer weather make it easier to drag area rugs out doors and being able to leave the doors open aides in drying. Throw rugs and area rugs can be impossible to keep clean. It seems as though everyone including the animals head right for these rugs and the result is every kind of stain imaginable, and these rugs probably took a real beating during the holidays or if you live in an area where the winter months are especially muddy and wet.
When it comes time for rug cleaning, throw all of the smaller rugs into one load and add some colorfast bleach. You may have to run two smaller loads, depending on how many rugs you own, but the smaller, the better, as dirt doesn't dissolve fast with this type of material. Throw rugs are usually made of lightweight material and can be bundled into the washer, area rugs are typically larger and will need some hand work to get clean.
Area rug cleaning is a little more in depth, as they are typically hard to vacuum. Here's where your mother's idea of elbow grease comes in. Get a hard bristle brush and some mild detergent, and brush the area rugs against the grain. This will especially serve to remove any pet hair, and if you lightly wet it with the detergent first, the pet hair should stick to the brush and come up easily. Follow with a good vacuum if you can, keeping one corner firmly anchored to the floor with your foot. Remember to loosen gum by freezing it with an ice cube, and then scraping it up 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 in an area where the kids won't be running over them.
For grease or oil stains, use simple cornstarch for your rug cleaning needs. Coffee stains will come out using a mixture of 20% peroxide and a few drops of ammonia. If your little darlings have spilled milk, ammonia is good for this job as well. Its football season, so if there is beer spilled 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 just 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 available 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 clean only, cornstarch is yet again your best bet, as rug cleaning costs can get high for woolen rugs. There are, however, some great commercial products for removing stains and freshening dry clean only area carpeting which use dry chemicals to remove the more stubborn stains which home remedies may not help.