Housekeeping 101: Cleaning Rugs & Upholstery


While bare floors are making a comeback, there’s nothing better at tying a room together than a well-chosen rug. Since these are often the workhorses of the home, however, and take all the wear and tear that your wood or tile floors would normally get, it’s expected that they need some TLC on a regular basis. See what you’ll need to do to freshen up the look of your rugs, mats, and more. These tips work on upholstery, too!

Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum

Regular removal of dirt, dust, and loose particles is the easiest and safest way to keep rugs and furniture looking their best. Vacuum at least once a week (more if in a heavy traffic area), and avoid using the beater brush, which can kick up more dirt and fray fibers. If your vacuum can't turn off the brush, use the vacuum wand, which can be used with special attachments designed to get into the hard-to-reach places, as well.

Shake it like you mean it

Taking a rug outdoors and giving it a good beating is the method our grandmothers used – and it still works today! Since vacuums can miss some of the set-in dirt, putting your rug over a clothesline and allowing it some fresh air, sunshine, and a good smack is the best way to breathe new life into a dirty old rug.

Clean when necessary

Vacuuming is a maintenance miracle and can prolong periods between spot cleaning and whole-rug rinsing. Follow these tips to ensure you get the dirt out without damaging your fibers.

  1. Read the Label. It may come as a surprise to you, but the manufacturer knows best! The rug or furniture’s care tag has all the not-so-mysterious clues to what products to use – and not use – on your precious textiles. There will be info on the materials used, if they are color-fast, and what kind of treatment (if any) they may have for stain protection. Read these labels carefully for insights into the do’s and don’ts for your particular product.
  2. Test and test again. Even if the tag says it’s OK to use detergent or hot water, test this theory first. Take an edge of the rug (underside works best) and give it a try with the cleaning process of your choosing. Use the tiniest area possible to find out if the fibers can handle it, as well as how various colors stand up against moisture and detergent. Do colors bleed? Is there fading or shrinkage? If there’s even the tiniest bit of damage from your small experiment, stop what you’re doing and enlist the help of an expert.
  3. Wash with care. Some rugs will be small enough to wash in your laundry (provided the label says it’s OK.) Put it inside a garment bag and wash it on the hottest temperature allowed by the instructions, along with a dye and scent-free laundry detergent. It may need to be put on a second “rinse-only” cycle to get extra soap and dirt out. Hang to dry when finished.
  4. Spot vs. suction. Depending on your rug fibers, it may only tolerate small spot cleanings, with a bit of detergent and water in the dirtiest areas. Others can handle the power of a carpet extractor which is designed to soak the rug and then pull all the dirty water out. If you do use an extractor, be mindful of working the fibers the wrong way (which can fray them) and allow the rug to fully dry before walking or setting furniture on it.

Even the most temperamental rugs can benefit from a good flipping. Turn rugs every year or so to change up wear and keep them looking their best. The same can be done for cushions on your upholstered items, too!