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How to Clean an Area Rug on Hardwood Floor

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You notice something startling. The part of the area rug under your sofa is clean and bright. The part of the rug that people walk on is dull and dirty. 

Can you clean the rug? Will you have to throw it away? 

The good news is that you can learn how to clean an area rug on hardwood floor. It requires a bit of work and some cleaning equipment, but the results are well worth the effort. Let’s get started. 

Removing Dust

The first step to cleaning an area rug is to get rid of the dust. Dust, dust mites, and other microscopic particulates can cling to the rug fibers. Getting rid of these particulates will brighten the rug and help remove odor.

Use a vacuum with a strong motor and a HEPA filter if possible. The strong motor will pull stubborn debris off the fibers. The HEPA filter will help capture the dust. 

Vacuum one side of the rug thoroughly, then flip it over. Vacuum the other side. Flip again and repeat on both sides at least once more. 

If vacuuming doesn’t remove all the dust, get a broom and lightly beat the rug on both sides. Keep beating the rug until no more dust comes out. Then, vacuum both sides one more time.

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Deodorizing the Rug

When you smell something, you are actually perceiving odor molecules. Anything that has an odor emits these light, airborne chemical molecules. They float through the air and your nose picks up the “scent” when you breathe them into your nose. 

Rugs can have an odor whether they are clean or not. A brand new rug may smell of any chemicals or cleansers used on it during the manufacturing process. An older rug may smell because it has dirt, mold, or other odor-causing particles stuck in its fibers. 

You can deodorize any rug with the help of sodium bicarbonate. This is more commonly known as baking soda. Baking soda helps neutralize odor molecules, which reduces or eliminates the detectable smell.

Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda all over the rug. Let it sit overnight, then vacuum. The rug should smell a lot better. 

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Cleaning the Rug

If removing the dust and neutralizing odors doesn’t get the rug clean, you can try other things. How you tackle this depends on if you want to spot clean the rug or to clean the entire thing.

NOTE: Always test rug cleaners on a small corner patch to see if any damage occurs. 

Spot Cleaning

Spot cleaning involves treating a particular area of the rug, instead of the entire thing. 

You have a couple of options. 

Baking Soda

Make a thick paste out of baking soda and water. Use as little water as possible. Place a rag or absorbent towel underneath the spot you want to treat. This will prevent damage to the hardwood floor below. 

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Gently apply the baking soda paste to the stained area. Use a soft toothbrush to rub it into the fibers. Allow to dry overnight, then vacuum. 

Carpet Cleaner


  • Choose a carpet cleaner that is formulated to clean the rug material (wool, polyester, etc.). Perform the corner test to make sure it’s safe.
  • Mix the cleaner with water, as recommended on the label. Use a soft brush or cloth to apply the cleaner to the rug. Brush it in one direction to wet it, but not soak it.
  • Spray the area with a mixture of water and vinegar. Then, brush it in the other direction. The vinegar helps remove soap residue, while the water dilutes it.
  • Use a wet cloth to rinse the area. Press dry towels into the area to remove excess water. Repeat until carpet is mostly dry.
  • Let dry thoroughly, then vacuum. Repeat if the stain is still there.

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Steam Cleaning the Carpet Inside

If the entire rug is dirty, steam cleaning is your best option. It will loosen and remove dirt quickly and efficiently.


  • Vacuum the rug on both sides to remove dirt and debris. Lightly beat the rug if vacuuming isn’t enough.
  • Roll up the rug and place it to the side.
  • Put down a tarp or other waterproof barrier on top of the hardwood floor. Tape the corners and edges to make sure it doesn’t move. This barrier will protect the floor from damage.
  • Roll the carpet back out on top of the waterproof barrier. Keep it two feet away from the edges to protect the uncovered hardwood.
  • Follow the directions on the steam cleaner. When you’re done, the rug should be damp, but not soaking wet.
  • Allow the rug to dry. If the rug is thick, this could take up to 48 hours. Do not remove rug from tarp until it’s thoroughly dry. Open the windows or turn on a fan to make it dry faster.
  • Roll up the rug and remove the tarp. Then, put the rug back into its intended location. Vacuum the rug to lift the fibers.

That’s the easiest way to clean a rug without damaging the hardwood floor underneath. 

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Cleaning the Carpet Outside

If the weather is warm, you can take the rug outside to clean it. It will take longer to dry.


  • Before taking it outside, vacuum it thoroughly on both sides. You may have to beat it lightly to remove any remaining dust when you get outside.
  • Test the corner of your rug with the cleaner you want to use. Let it set for a few hours, then rinse. If there’s no damage, you can clean the entire rug.
  • Hose down the rug to get it wet. Use a brush to work the shampoo into the carpet fibers. Put extra work and shampoo on stains.
  • Let the shampoo set as directed by the manufacturer. After the shampoo has been on the rug for the time recommended, hose it down to remove the shampoo. Rinse it thoroughly to remove all the soap residue.
  • Remove excess water from the rug. Wring the rug with your hands to get rid of excess moisture. Use a squeegee to push water out of the fibers.
  • Let the rug dry. Hanging it over a clothes line will allow air to flow in and around all sides. If the weather isn’t going to cooperate, bring it into the garage or laundry room to dry completely.
  • Lay the rug flat and vacuum it again. This helps raise the fibers and restore the rug’s intended look.

And that’s how to clean an area rug on hardwood floor. Your rug should now be fresh, clean, and odor free. 

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