Area Rug Cleaning Tips

Area rugs are beautiful additions to many homes. These stylish investment pieces offer an inviting focal point to any room, though they are often delicate and can be difficult to maintain. Since most area rugs are exposed to tremendous wear and tear – everything from daily foot traffic to accidental spills to pet odors – understanding how to clean your rugs will help keep them looking new for as long as possible. Proper care and cleaning are crucial to preserving your investment for many years to come.

In order to get the most out of your area rug, regular cleaning is required. With so many types of rugs on the market, it can be difficult to discern what regimen to use with various fibers.  Here are a few general tips on how to keep your rug looking its best.


One of the easiest way to maintain your area rug is by vacuuming both sides of a rug once a week.Heavy foot traffic can push dirt deep into the fibers of your rug. By vacuuming the underside, you can loosen trapped dirt and oils moving them toward the top of the rug so once the rug is flipped right side up, dirt is easily removed. For synthetic and plant based fibers, use a beater brush set to the rug’s pile height. Utilize multiple passes in various directions to most effectively remove dirt. For wool fibers, loop-pile carpets, and other longer-pile rugs, avoid using a rotating beater bar as the fibers could get caught in vacuum. Instead us a floor tool with suction only. If your rug has decorative tassels, do not use a vacuum over the fringe as this can cause damage. Fluffing them by hand is all that is needed.

Rotate your Rug 

Heavy foot traffic and sun can add extra stress to area rugs. It is recommended that you rotate your rugs at least once a year to help them wear more evenly. This means turning the rug end for end or rotating 180 degrees. You may also consider rearranging furniture to change traffic patterns.

Clean Up Spills ASAP

Time is of the essence when your rug becomes stained. Blot or scrape the spill and remove any excess moisture as quickly as possible using a clean 100% dry cotton towel. NEVER rub your carpet when trying to clean up a spill as this could embed the stain even deeper into the fibers and cause permanent damage. Instead, blot the rug using pressure from the outside of the spill towards the middle. Fold the used part of the towel over and repeat as many times as necessary until you have absorbed as much moisture as possible.

Stain Removal

As for treating the stain, this is where things get tricky. While there are many options available for spot treatment, it is important to keep in mind that not all rugs or stains should be treated the same. Area rugs can be delicate and needed to be treated as such. Store bought cleaners are often harsh and if used improperly can cause irreversible damage to your rug.
Here are some DIY alternative options that are easily accessible and can be applied safely to most carpet styles:Soapy WaterFor basic stain removal, you can mix your own spot-cleaning solution by diluting a few drops of dishwashing soap in warm water. Don’t use more than 1/4 teaspoon per quart of water and make sure to use only clear dishwashing soap – creamy looking dishwashing soap may leave a sticky residue. After using the blotting technique described, mist the area using the soapy mixture and continue blotting until stain is neutralized.Warm, soapy water is the first and foremost option when tackling any type of stain and is safe to use on all carpet fibers, though some stains are more difficult to get out than others. If a stain persists after using the soapy water mixture, follow the guidelines for the cleaning agents listed below.Hydrogen Peroxide Hydrogen peroxide is used for certain stains without breaking down carpet dyes.
Use for: red wine, chocolate, blood, soda, coffee and tea, berries, mud

Dab on 3% hydrogen peroxide and allow spot to dry for one hour. Repeat as needed.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is a mild acid that neutralizes alkaline stains.

Use for: urine, vomit, beer

Use a spray bottle mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water to saturate area. Blot using technique and rinse with soapy water. Repeat as needed.


Ammonia is an alkaline cleaner which neutralizes acidic spills

Use for: tomato sauce, ketchup, mixed beverages
Use a spray bottle mixture of 1 tablespoon ammonia to 1/2 cup warm water to saturate area. Blot using technique and rinse with soapy water. Repeat as needed or switch to hydrogen peroxide as detailed above.

*Never use ammonia or any other highly alkaline cleaner such as laundry detergent on wool. Ammonia is toxic so use good ventilation.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol can be used in place of a commercial dry-solvent spot cleaner.

Use for: fat-based stains such as butter, ink, wax, makeup, acrylic and latex paint.
Dab on full strength from bottle. Blot using technique and rinse with soapy water. Repeat as needed or switch to hydrogen peroxide as detailed above.

*Do not let rubbing alcohol puddle as it may destroy the carpet backing.

After a stain has been treated, it is important to rinse the area by misting with warm water or blotting with a wet towel and then blotting with a clean dry towel. Repeat these two steps until none of the cleaning residue is left behind. Again, use the blotting technique outlined above and do not rub the area or the fibers may become matted.

Once the spill has been cleaned, most rugs can be left to dry naturally. For plant based fibers, damp areas will need to be dried more quickly as water will weaken the fibers. This can be done through the use of a fan or hair dryer set on low.

Not only do area rugs need to be cleaned regularly, they will need to be cleaned correctly. This is where we come in. While the cleaning tips outlined above will help maintain your rug, a deep-cleaning every 12 to 18 months is the best way to ensure you get the most out of your investment. For the best possible clean, it is best to consult a professional area rug cleaner.

Louisville Carpet Cleaning and Flood Restoration has experience working with delicate area rugs and will take the time to determine the most appropriate cleaning solution. Please feel free to give us a call anytime to discuss your area rug cleaning needs at (502) 585-2444.

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