How to clean a rug – expert tips and mistakes to avoid

Leave your rug fluffy and free of stains and dust with our pro tips

blue sofa and pale area rug in living room
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Whether you need to tackle a wine stain fast or simply want to freshen up your favourite Berber rug, it's well worth learning how to clean a rug properly. Even the one of the best carpet cleaners can't save a grubby hallway or living room rug once it's reached a certain point, but our expert tips below will help get your rugs looking good as new.

Over a quarter of us have thrown away a dirty rug rather than clean it, according to a survey by Ruggable, which is really wasteful. Plus, nineteen per cent find themselves buying a new one once a year.

How to clean a rug at home

'Rug care will vary depending on material, thickness, size, and shape – so there is no blanket rule when it comes to cleaning. For example materials like Jute it is best to stick to drier methods whereas wool rugs can be left to soak,' says a La Redoute spokesperson. 

The first thing is to find out the material your rug is made from and to check the manufacturer's label for any cleaning instructions.

blue sofa and pale area rug in living room

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Vacuum regularly

'As a rule of thumb, regular vacuuming will help maintain a dust-free surface for most materials,' says La Redoute. Run your best vacuum cleaner over the top and the underside of the rug, then move it aside and clean the floor area under the rug.

Rebecca Burton, buyer at Dunelm says low-pile rugs can be vacuumed, but high pile ones should be shaken outside. 'Some polypropylene rugs are highly durable and are now machine washable,' she adds.

four poster bed in blue bedroom with large rug

(Image credit: Future PLC / Pearson Lyle)

Use a soft brush or sponge

'For short pile rugs, use a soft brush and a sponge for long pile rugs,' says Rebecca Burton. Gently scrub in circular motions with some carpet shampoo.

Try a home remedy

'If you are a pet owner or have children, you can use a home remedy solution to pre-soak before scrubbing, brushing or hoovering,' says La Redoute. 'One trusty item that is bound to be in your cupboards is baking soda, which not only eliminates odours but is also cheap and natural.'

blue sofa and pale area rug in living room

(Image credit: Future PLC / Katie Lee Photography)

How do you deep clean a very dirty rug?

'Use a recommended carpet shampoo with a sponge, but avoid getting the rug too wet,' advises Rebecca Burton. 'Wring out the sponge but make sure it still has lots of soapy suds!

A more heavy duty vacuum carpet cleaner, at Amazon will help give a rug a good clean. If it's very dirty and/or high pile, consider taking to rug to a professional carpet cleaner.

What should you not do when cleaning a rug?

'Avoid cleaning a viscose rug at home as they water stain very easily,' says Rebecca Burton. 'We recommend taking these to a professional cleaner.'

She also warns against vacuuming long pile, shaggy rugs: 'This can spoil the yarns so it's best to take them outside and give them a good shake.' 

Layering rugs is a good way to keep your house warm in winter, and making the effort to keep them clean will help with allergies and air quality at a time when our windows are often kept shut.

Happy cleaning!

Millie Hurst
Senior Content Editor

Millie Hurst was Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home from 2020-2022, and is now Section Editor at Homes & Gardens. Before stepping into the world of interiors, she worked as a Senior SEO Editor for News UK in both London and New York. You can usually find her looking up trending terms and finding real-life budget makeovers our readers love. Millie came up with the website's daily dupes article which gives readers ways to curate a stylish home for less.