How to clean a rug – give cotton, wool, jute and shag pile rugs some TLC at home

If your area rugs have seen better days then you need to know how to clean a rug like an expert. Do it by hand, at home, in no time at all

white area rug with blue couch
(Image credit: Getty)

Area rugs pick up a huge amount of dirt, daily. And knowing how to clean a rug properly, whether it's in your lounge or another part of your home is crucial to keeping yours looking fine and in great condition too. Whether you have a cotton, wool, jute or shag pile rug adorning your floors we have an easy method to bring them up perfectly by hand, at home. All it takes is a couple of household products – or natural baking soda if you wish – plus some elbow grease (of course) and a little care for great results.

The foot traffic of daily life, and maybe the fact that your pet loves to hang out on it can make your rug look far from its best, and even leave it a bit smelly. But, rest assured, the following method is simple and effective. Plus, for any Hinch-followers, we've also included Sophie Hinchcliffe's rescue rug remedy that requires just a few ingredients that you’ll have in the pantry already...

How often should you clean a rug?

When it comes to deep cleaning your rugs, it depends on what kind of rug you have – wool, cotton, Persian, jute and so on – as they all pick up dirt differently, and there is no fixed schedule as to when you should clean it properly. Instead, you should give them a more thorough clean when it is visibly dirty and/or has a funky smell. If you have pets, kids or both, you'll find you'll need to deep clean yours more frequently to keep up with your household.

In terms of maintenance, vacuuming your rugs every couple of weeks will prevent a buildup of dirt which can lead to tricky stains. And you should treat any spills that happen in your presence as soon as possible to stop them from setting.

When it comes to wool rugs however, you only need to vacuum yours once a month or so to avoid disrupting the fibres.

area rug in bohemian modern living room

(Image credit: Getty)

How to deep clean a rug

1. Shake it out

Whether you have a wool, cotton, jute or shag pile rug, start by shaking it out outside (pick a sunny day!) then vacuum thoroughly on both sides using the attachments to pick up pet fluff and the likes.

2. Mix up your rug cleaner

For cotton rugs: Get yourself a rug shampoo or mild and clear dish gel. Then, you'll need warm water – be sure to not use hot water as this can damage the rug's fibres. 

For wool rugs: Use cold water and a non-bio laundry detergent.

For jute and shag pile rugs: You'll want to use a dry rug shampoo instead.  

3. Clean your rug

Depending on the weather and the size of your rug, either you'll want to clean it outside or you could clean it in the bathtub if it's small enough. Most importantly, make sure you spot test your cleaner on a small area of your rug before covering the  whole thing. This will quickly highlight if there are any issues like discoloration etc. 

For cotton: Work the mixed solution into the rug using a sponge. Bring this up to a lather and let it sit over the entire rug for a good five minutes.

For wool rugs: Use just a capful of the detergent with your cold water and dab the solution on to the rug gently, working in the direction of the pile using a white microfibre cloth. 

For jute and shag pile rugs: Sprinkle a generous amount of the cleaner onto the rug and work it in gently with a clean cloth.

4. Rinse and ring out the rug

For cotton: Next you'll need to refill your bucket with clean fresh water, or grab a garden hose to rinse the cleaning solution from the rug. Ensure you remove as much surface water as possible.

For wool rugs: Again, grab fresh water and a clean cloth but do this by hand in the direction of the pile trying not to oversaturate the rug.

For jute and shag pile rugs: Simply vacuum the remnants of the dry shampoo.

5. Remove any stains

To tackle any stains, you can mix one part white vinegar with three parts water and use a sponge to clean the stains from your rug.

6. Dry the rug

Next, let your rug air dry thoroughly out of direct sunlight. Somewhere outside is the best way to sanitize it but indoors is fine also, just keep the room well ventilated to help speed up the process.

7. Vacuum

Only once completely dry, should you then vacuum your area rug. If you're cleaning a jute, wool or shag pile rug then you can brush it out too. 

Oblique Indoor/ Outdoor Runner

(Image credit: Made)

How to clean a rug with baking soda

You can clean an area rug at home and by hand naturally with  baking soda which is a great stain and odour remover also, especially if used in tandem with white vinegar. For a general clean, shake your rug out if possible, then vacuum the top and underside of your area rug on a low airflow setting. Next, sprinkle baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda if it's all you have) on the rug and leave for a little while before vacuuming again to help neutralise any odours.

How to clean a rug like Mrs Hinch

Cleanfluencer Mrs Hinch loves a rug – her home is full of them – and she knows how to bring them up really well! Her method should work on different types of rug, including wool rugs – but always do the patch test! 

Simply get yourself some fabric conditioner, washing gel (we recommend clear), a clean, lint-free light-colored cloth (to avoid color transfer), and a bucket. You'll need a capful of the fabric conditioner, then add the washing gel, mix, and add warm water. That’s your rug-cleaning solution. Then all you need to do is put your cloth into the mixture, wring it out so it’s not going to make the rug over-wet, then wipe on to the rug. Make sure you tackle just a small area at a time, and dip the cloth back into the mixture and wring again before working on the next section. Leave to dry fully before you let feet, the kids and your pets near your fresh, clean rug. Your rug has been hinched!

Hello and Happy Sunday everyone! I hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend so far! It still feels so strange for me to say my dining room 🤣 because I’ve never had one before! But as you can see this room was once my lounge and I love the fact that it still feels cosy which is exactly what I wanted! I also wanted to take this chance to say thank you for tagging and sharing your Activity Journals with me! It’s been so amazingly overwhelming guys and I can’t believe this is my second book to reach #1 and it’s all because of you ❤️ Ive loved seeing your hinchlists and I’ve ticked quite a few things off my list today and I’ll be adding some more ready for the week ahead ✅ But for the rest of today me Jamie Henry Ronnie and Abi are going to go for a quick walk to the park 🍁 and then I’m going to attempt to make some sort of sausage casserole/ hot pot thing for us 🙈😂 so wish me luck because I can’t cook 🤣 but I’m just excited for us all to sit up at this table and eat it! (If it’s edible) I hope you all have the best cosy evening indoors , candles on, TV, sofa and blankets! Because that’s exactly what we’ll be doing! Lots of love and thank you for everything ❤️ #mrshinch #mrshinchtheactivityjournal #imahincher #diningroom #iloveoctober Mirror: @furniturevillage Curtains: @veryuk Table: @barkerandstonehouse * Carver chairs: @charlestedinteriors * Table accessories: @dunelmuk Rug: @therugseller * Vase: EBay • {*gifted items} #gifted Sophie Hinchliffe

A photo posted by @mrshinchhome on Oct 20, 2019 at 7:01am PDT

Your rug cleaning essentials

Shop Arm and Hammer Baking Soda - Baking Powder, Baking Soda for Cleaning, Pure Baking Soda from Amazon

Another hero product in the world of natural cleaning.

View Deal

Shop Heinz All-Natural Distilled White Vinegar - White Vinegar for Cleaning, Pickling, and Cooking, 1.89 Litre from Amazon

A must for natural cleaning around the kitchen and beyond.View Deal

Shoes off please!