How to clean a rug & wave goodbye to stains

Accidental spills and stains are part of life – whether you’ve spilled a drink on your living room rug, muddy shoes and paws have trodden dirt into the doormat, or your favourite bedroom runner is looking a little worse for wear.

But it doesn’t need to spell the end for your rugs and mats – with a little careful cleaning, there’s a way to wash away dirt and remove grime from most types of rugs.

How to clean a rug

No matter the type of rug, the first step is to remove loose debris and dirt.

  1. Shake your rug to remove dust and loose dirt – if possible, do this outside.
  2. Vacuum your rug to remove any dirt which may be more embedded in the fibres. Always ensure your rug is totally dry before vacuuming.

The next rug-cleaning steps depend on the fabric you are working with. Always check your rug’s care label to determine the material and follow manufacturer’s instructions to avoid accidentally damaging your rug.

How to clean a wool rug

  • Woollen rugs require a delicate cleaning process as colours can easily bleed or fade, and the pile can pull or even shrink if it gets wet.
  • Remember the golden rules: Never soak a wool rug with water, always make sure your carpet shampoo or detergent is wool-specific, and always use white cleaning cloths with no artificial colours that could bleed onto your rug.
  • Mix a small amount of wool-friendly carpet shampoo with cold water and test a small area before you start.
  • If there are no adverse effects, gently dab the stained area with the cloth, dampened with a small amount of the water and solution – be careful not to get the rug too wet.
  • Repeat this step with clean water and a new cloth.
  • Blot dry with a clean, dry cloth, and leave to dry in a well-ventilated room.

How to clean a synthetic rug

  • The quickest and easiest way to remove stains from manmade fibre rugs is often with a spot cleaner – an electric handheld cleaning machine that lets you scrub away a stain before sucking up the dirty water to ensure your rug doesn’t get oversaturated. Shark’s StainStriker range is a great choice, combining two cleaning formulas that mix on contact for powerful stain removal.
  • First, vacuum your rug as normal and then target any spills or stains with your spot cleaner. For large rugs or deeper cleans you may prefer to use a full-size carpet cleaner.
  • Alternatively, you can manually apply carpet shampoo mixed with water. Mix up the solution and test an inconspicuous patch first, applying it with a clean, white cloth. If you’re happy with the result, dab it onto the stain and follow the manufacturers’ instructions.
  • Allow the rug to dry fully outside or in a well-ventilated room.

How to clean a shag pile rug

  • Fluffy, deep pile rugs can hide embedded dirt, while longer fibres can get matted or tangled and lose their alluring texture.
  • Try using a powdered carpet cleaner to refresh your shag pile rug without using water – shake the powder over the rug, leave it to deodorise, then vacuum away.
  • Synthetic shag pile rugs can also respond well to spot cleaners – or try steam cleaning with a carpet-glider accessory attached to your steam mop. This allows steam to refresh your rug without direct contact which could oversoak it.

How to clean a sheepskin rug

  • Sheepskin and cowhide rugs require specialist cleaning, just like leather and suede clothing. The safest method is to take it to a dry cleaner who offers a leather and sheepskin service.
  • If you wish to clean your sheepskin rug at home, firstly be sure to choose a sheepskin-specific detergent.
  • Fill a bath with cool water, mix in the detergent and add the rug. Submerge the rug for up to 10 minutes, or as directed on the detergent instructions, then empty the bath and rinse with cool, clean water.
  • Gently squeeze the water and detergent out of the rug until dry, then blot the rug dry with clean towels.
  • To completely dry the rug, lay it out on a large, dry towel and reshape the rug with your hands. Leave to dry in a cool, well ventilated place away from heat and light, to avoid shrinking.

How to clean a rag rug

  • Rag rugs are popular for their tufty designs, made by knotting short lengths of fabric to a hessian base, to achieve a textured finish.
  • If your rag rug is made from cotton fabrics, it’s best to follow the steps listed under ‘How to clean a wool rug’ above.
  • Synthetic rag rugs can be spot cleaned using carpet shampoo and a white, non-coloured cloth, being careful to test that the fabric colour doesn’t lift first.
  • Some rag rugs can be washed in the washing machine – check the care label to be sure and always follow the cleaning instructions.
  • To generally refresh and deodorise your rug, mix white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and lightly spritz over the rug, being careful not to oversaturate it. Hang it up to dry outside or in a well ventilated room.

Where is the best place to clean a rug?

If you have the space, it can be easier to clean a rug outside to avoid getting water, cleaning solution or possible dye on your flooring. If this isn’t possible, you could try cleaning rugs over the bath, or move them to a room where you are comfortable with any possible mess.