How to Clean a Rug - Area Rug & Carpet Cleaning Guide

Home Hacks

Wait, We Need to Clean Our Rugs *How* Often?

A tidier home, right this way.

January 18, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

My least-favorite chores are the ones that only need to be done a few times a year, because, frankly, I always forget to do them. I’m talking about things like washing curtains, dusting the fridge coils, and yes, deep-cleaning your carpets.

Can’t remember the last time you called in the pros to shampoo your rugs? You’re certainly not alone, but basically any cleaning expert will tell you that simply vacuuming your rugs isn’t enough. As the months go by, grime and bacteria inevitably accumulates deep in rugs, and even the most powerful vacuum cleaner can’t get it all out.

Plus, not only will professional cleaning keep your carpets looking pretty and odor-free, but it’s often mandatory if you want to maintain the product’s warranty. All that to say: It’s time to add “Clean Carpets” to your to-do list, if it isn’t on there already!


You Should Professionally Clean Carpets Every…

Twelve months. If you’re relatively good about vacuuming and spot-treating stains, you should be fine having your rugs professionally cleaned once a year, according to Rug Doctor.

To keep your floor coverings looking pristine for the rest of the year, experts recommend vacuuming slowly. Dean Carter, owner of Carter’s Carpet Restoration, explains to TODAY that it should take 15 to 20 minutes to vacuum a 300-square-foot area… yeah, I’ve been doing that wrong. Whoops! This slow pace allows to vacuum to vibrate carpet fibers more efficiently, shaking out the majority of the dirt that’s hiding in there.


Pets and Kids Complicate the Matter

There are a few factors that make it necessary to deep clean your rugs more frequently than once a year. Namely: beloved children and pets.

If you have young children, experts recommend deep cleaning your carpets every six months—but not necessarily for the reasons you’re thinking! Sure, kids can bring more dirt into the house, but it’s actually a matter of safety. The American Lung Association explains carpets can trap mold spores, bacteria, dust and more, and children are more likely to be exposed to this type of pollution in carpets because they often spend time playing on the floor. So, you’ll want to have rugs professionally cleaned to maintain a safe play space.

Pets, on the other hand, just create a mess. Your pooch probably isn’t too concerned about wiping his feet when he comes inside, which means more dirt and grime is going to end up in your carpets. Plus, pet dander and fur can burrow its way deep into floor coverings, so you’ll want to give your rugs a more thorough clean every six months or so.


Here’s How to Tell if Your Carpet Needs Cleaning

Not sure if your carpet is due for a cleaning? There are a few easy ways to check:

  • The Smell Test: Can’t seem to pinpoint the source of that lingering wet dog scent (or generally unpleasant odor) in your home? Get up close and personal with your carpet and see if it’s the culprit. If so, it’s time to call in the cleaning pros.
  • The Rub Test: Home Depot suggests rubbing your palm on a carpet in a circular motion for 10 seconds. If your hand is dirty after, your carpet needs some TLC.
  • The Allergy Test: If your allergies are being particularly troublesome, even after you’ve vacuumed and dusted, it could be a sign that allergens are hiding deep down in your carpets.
  • The Scrub Test: Grab a brush and some soapy water, then gently scrub a high-traffic area of your carpet. If your brush comes away dirty and/or the spot you cleaned is a different color than the rest of the rug, it’s time to schedule a shampoo for your floor coverings.

Oh, and Be Sure to Check Your Warranty

Deep cleaning carpets is good for both aesthetic and health purposes, but it might also be mandatory to maintain your warranty.

Many carpet companies require you to have their products cleaned every 12 to 18 months—and we’re talking about calling in the pros, or using one of their approved carpet cleaning devices. If you can’t prove you completed this maintenance, they may not honor your warranty if your carpet ever needs to be replaced.

However, if you don’t have a warranty, you can just scoop up a carpet cleaner and do the job yourself.


This Is the Trick to Cleaning Area Rugs

You should follow the same cleaning schedule with area rugs to keep them looking fresh, but there are a few additional ways you can maintain removable rugs.

For one, you can take area rugs outside every few months and give them a good beating. Small or medium rugs can simply be shaken, while larger rugs may need to be draped over something and swatted with a broom. This helps to loosen up embedded dirt deep within the pile.

Another handy trick is to vacuum the reverse of your area rugs—Melissa Maker of Clean My Space notes that this is especially handy on high-pile rugs. Flip the rug over and vacuum the back first—you may need to stand on the edges to keep them from flipping up—to shake loose dirt and debris. Roll the rug up and move it aside to vacuum the grime you just dumped on the floor before putting the rug back into place and vacuuming its front.


How Often Do You Need to Replace Carpets?

Have your carpets seen better days? Even though it’s sad for both you and your wallet, there will eventually come a time when you need to get rid of your rugs.

Monarch Carpet Cleaning explains that the average rug can last anywhere from five to 15 years, depending on where it’s located, how diligent you are about maintenance, and the general quality of the product.

However, there are a few sure signs that it’s time to start thinking about saying goodbye:

  • Stains that won’t come out
  • Fraying around the edges
  • Odors that won’t go away
  • Mold growth
  • Damaged or deteriorating padding
  • A dull, dirty, or matted-down appearance

If you notice any of these signs, it’s probably time to replace your rugs—not only for appearances, but for health purposes, too!

When’s the last time you gave your rugs a deep-clean? Let us know in the comments!
Grab your copy

It's here: Our game-changing guide to everyone's favorite room in the house. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks—from our community, test kitchen, and cooks we love—to help transform your space into its best self.

Grab your copy

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • staceyrae11
    staceyrae11
  • laura
    laura
  • jax
    jax
Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.

4 Comments

staceyrae11 February 1, 2021
Hi Camyrn, I was wondering if you have a good resource for recycling old unworthy of charity donations throw rugs? I am very passionate about not just trashing them. Finding a resource that uses them in a more sustainable purpose/repurpose option is imperative. Thank you in advance. 🙂 1
 
staceyrae11 February 1, 2021
Hi Camyrn, I was wondering if you have a good resource for recycling old unworthy of charity donations throw rugs? I am very passionate about not just trashing them. Finding a resource that uses them in a more sustainable purpose/repurpose option is imperative. Thank you in advance. 🙂
 
laura January 20, 2021
This article doesn't appear to address Oriental rugs, which can last over 100 years. Why so different?
 
jax January 20, 2021
Cuz they are expensive?