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How to wash and maintain Rugs & Carpets at home

Updated on by Sarina

Most rugs and carpets get soiled very fast – they are up against those shoes and feet carrying all those dirt, dust and whatnots. When the rugs and carpets are small and sturdy it is not a big deal to clean them. But cleaning big rugs and carpets are more of a challenge. And when they are precious to you, more so. 

Larget carpets and rugs cost a lot of money and you will want to preserve them in their original beauty for a long time. But it takes some maintenance to keep their look and feel intact. And some are not meant to be cleaned at home – recognize those which have to be cleaned only professionally and find a reputed firm and be at peace. Those that can be cleaned at home, can be cleaned as follows.

How to clean most rugs and carpets

carpet cleaning

No, not exactly like this!

Daily cleaning

Every time you sweep the floor, which I hope you do every day, take the rug outside and shake it (for small ones) or brush it with a medium bristle brush (for big ones) to remove the dirt on it. Brush the rugs and carpets in the direction of the pile.

When you are sweeping the floor, ensure that you are sweeping from under the carpets as well. This may sound like a lot of trouble but this is essential. You have to ensure that dirt does not settle on the material and slowly destroy it.

If you see a small stain take a little shaving foam and dab it there – the foam acts as a cleaner. After this rub it off with a wet cloth. Usually small stains can be removed this way.

Weekly cleaning

Use a vacuum cleaner and its upholstery cleaning attachment to carefully suck up all the dust and dirt. Do this for the top surface as well as for the back. Do not use the rotating brush attachment to clean carpets/rugs- you can use the brush attachment which is gentle on the fibers.

Go back and forth with the brush to get as much dirt as possible.You can go against and with the pile to take away all the dirt.

When vacuuming, be careful when you reach the edges. The attachment may suck up loose threads and unravel the whole thing if you are not careful.

Thorough cleaning

This thorough cleaning can be done once a year. 

Rugs are mostly made of wool, cotton fabric. These fibers may become brittle with dirt or wear and will disintegrate. You also have to be careful in cleaning to ensure that you do not damage the material.

Choose a sunny warm day to clean your rug /carpet.

You will have to repair any holes in the rugs before cleaning otherwise the small hole you have now will develop into a big one after the cleaning is done. If any threads seem broken, see if it needs stitching back. If there are holes you may want to cover the hole – you can patch the area or reweave over the hole with a similar heavy thread.

What do you need for the cleaning: Decide on how you will be cleaning – Dry-cleaning or Wet cleaning.

Dry-cleaning at home

Dry-cleaning at home is a comparatively easy method of cleaning but it just cleans the surface and does not clean the rugs and carpets deep inside or as thoroughly as wet cleaning. In this type of cleaning a dry-cleaning solvent is applied on the surface and then it is vacuumed. This method is suitable for delicate carpets/ antique carpets which will be destroyed if you wet clean them. 

Wet cleaning at home.

Rugs and carpets made of cotton, wool, nylon can be washed but do not use cleaners or heat on plant based materials like jute, sisal and hemp. Acrylic carpets can start to pill horribly with the wrong treatment. 

What do you need for wet cleaning: You can use a rug/carpet shampoo / mild foam-type carpet cleaner. If the material of the rug is wool you can use a wool cleaner. You will also need warm and cold clear water, a sprayer to spray clean with water. An attachment on your vacuum cleaner which sucks out water (without rotating brushes) or a steam cleaner with a hot water extraction facility, plastic sheet to lay the rug, or carpet to dry.

First, clean dust/dried particles from the rug or carpet thoroughly- you can use a handheld vacuum for this.

You will have to pre-test the cleaner on your carpet before doing the full-on cleaning. This is to prevent a colour bleeding mess of a carpet. Use the cleaner on a small corner, let it sit there for some 10 minutes, and then wipe with a white fabric to see if there is any color bleeding. If there is, do not opt for water cleaning.

Treat stains

If there are spots /stains which are stubborn use hot water or any of the stain removers. 

Some hard stains may need commercial stain removers. You can use this on the stained spot as per the instructions. They are usually applied before washing or they can be applied and then blotted away with dampened cloth lots of paper towels or a sponge. Ensure that you remove the chemical completely. These chemical cleaners can prove to be dangerous to health. You can use your own spot remover by mixing borax in water. Check out this post on the different homemade stain removers that you can use


Small rugs and carpets can be washed in a big pail or a bathtub. You can soak them inside the bathtub. But big and thick rugs and carpets should not be soaked like this. Just surface cleaning with a foam cleaner will suffice – if they are soaked fully they will never dry. If carpets and rugs have even an ounce of water remaining it can result in mildew growth 

For surface cleaning – Use a damp washcloth to work a foam cleaner on the surface. Ensure that you are not using extra force and rubbing hard which can damage the surface of the carpet/rug. Use clean cloth to press and absorb the cleaner out of the rug. 


For rinsing use a sprayer to spray water (do not use too much force). Rinse with warm water and then clean again with cold water. Ensure that both sides are cleaned. With a rug you want to surface-clean, spray just enough water to remove the cleaner you have applied – not to make it soggy wet. 


Do not underestimate the weight of a rug or carpet when it is wet. Though it may look small it can weigh a ton with the water. And this water has to be removed as soon as possible. Water sogged carpet is a breeding ground for bacteria, mold.

If you have the attachment for sucking out water in your vacuum cleaner or the special steam machine with water extraction facility, do so. All the water must be removed from the rug.

If not, you can use a window cleaning squeegee to wipe out the water and then use a dry thick terry cloth to take out the water as much as possible. Otherwise, it will take a long time to fully dry and this can create a foul smell. And this foul smell will remain forever.

Lay the rug on a thick line that will not fall down under the weight of the rug or lay on top a clean plastic sheet. If possible keep on a titling surface so that water can drain out. Turn over now and then so that the rug/carpet is dry all over. Put it out to dry in the sun so that the last of the water is dried out.

rug cleaning

Maintenance of your rugs and carpets

Do not allow any one to step on your rug/carpet with shoes that they have worn outdoors. This is the first rule in maintaining a rug /carpet.

If kids or pets are playing, put waterproof sheet on top – no mishaps spoiling your precious asset.

If something falls which you know may stain, immediately blot with a paper towel to stop the stain from spreading. Blot from outside of the stain to the inside to prevent spreading

If something greasy falls on your carpet, immediately put some talcum powder or cornstarch – this will absorb the oil. Remove the excess powder with a brush. If something soft and pliable which sticks like chewing gum has fallen on your carpet, rub ice wrapped in a plastic wrap on it to make it brittle enough to remove it easily.

To remove bad smell on carpets and rugs, one home remedy is to put Baking Soda powder on them for some time. You can vacuum the powder after leaving it overnight. The powder would have absorbed the bad smell.

Related posts : How to clean fabric upholstered furniture. 


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