How to Vacuum an Area Rug

You probably remember to vacuum your wall-to-wall carpeting regularly, but what about your area rugs? You should vacuum your area rugs weekly and two or three times a week if you have pets. Regular vacuuming keeps dust and dander at bay and helps ensure a more allergen-free home. Family and guests will have cleaner surfaces to walk on and sit on, and your rugs will last longer.

Cleaning area rugs the right way can take up a bit of time, but it is time wisely invested. A quick run of the vacuum over an area rug may not eliminate all dirt, or worse yet, it could damage more delicate rugs. For rugs with a sturdy or moderate amount of pile, go over the surface a few times with the vacuum to pick up all dirt and debris.

The Best Vacuums for Different Rug Types

Matcha from Genesis by Jaipur

Use an upright vacuum to clean tufted rugs. A tufted rug looks durable but usually has a latex backing that wears down over time. More dirt gets trapped in tufted rugs due to their loose pile. Vacuum in the direction of the pile and avoid beating the rug, which may break down the latex backing.

Select a wet/dry vacuum for a long-pile shag rug. Avoid vacuuming the back of the rug, as it will damage fibers. A woven rug is often handmade, and the back of the rug will have knots reflecting the front design. For durable woven area rugs, use an upright vacuum cleaner. If your woven rug is older or thinner, use a handheld vacuum or upholstery attachment.

General Area Rug Vacuuming Tips

TLP714C from Total Performance by Safavieh

Vacuum large rugs when you vacuum your carpets to get rid of dust and dirt. Turn over reversible rugs and vacuum both sides. Grime left on the reverse side of the rug can cause the fabric and backing to wear out prematurely. You’ll also need to rotate your rugs every year to prevent wear and tear from high traffic areas, regardless of how often you vacuum.

For delicate rugs, try using a nozzle attachment to lift up dirt. The nozzle uses suction instead of the powerful spinning brush on the bottom of the vacuum. Clean a lightweight rug with a special attachment that lets you control the amount of suction so you won’t damage the fabric. Vacuum wool rugs every week or two in the pile direction. The shedding will diminish after steady vacuuming for a few weeks.

Can I Vacuum a Sheepskin Rug?

SHS-9600 from Sheepskin by Surya

A water-resistant sheepskin area rug can last years, maybe a decade or more, but you can’t use a vacuum on them, even on a low setting, as it will damage the fur. You’ll still need to take a few precautions to keep a sheepskin rug looking good.

Stop matting by brushing the rug with a sheepskin brush, and keep the rug away from direct sunlight to avoid yellowing. When you wash the rug, use non-alkaline detergents, since wool washes may cause the leather backing to deteriorate or stiffen. Dampen stained areas on a sheepskin rug and sprinkle it with potato starch or cornstarch. Shake the powder out of the rug after the area dries.

Vacuuming Thick or Heavy Rugs

Stasia Diamond Shag from Airy Shag by NuLoom

Turn your vacuum’s beater bar off when vacuuming a thick rug. Vacuum sideways across the rug width and pile direction if you use an attachment. Don’t use the beater bar near fringe, as it will destroy the tassels. Alternately, you can use an upholstery attachment and vacuum in the pile direction. Pick up the attachment after every stroke to avoid vacuuming in the pile direction.

Thin, Delicate or Silk Rugs

REG03 from Regal by Nourison

Any old or delicate rugs may not survive a cleaning by upholstery attachment. Use a horsehair brush across the width of the rug. Dust off dirt and debris on yarn tips before the soil can penetrate into the rest of the fibers. Be thorough but gentle and clean your delicate rugs often to preserve them. Use an upholstery attachment with your vacuum with thin, pile rugs. Pick up the attachment after each stroke; don’t push it in the pile direction. For thin rugs without pile, gently vacuum the width of the rug with an upholstery attachment.

Other Ways to Remove Stains and Dirt on Area Rugs

Cleaning Sponge Pixabay

Sometimes vacuuming won’t get out stubborn stains, and a washing machine or steam cleaner may harm the rug. Here are a few tips for getting rid of miscellaneous stains and dirt left over after you’ve vacuumed.

Use a carpet brush or sweeper to remove pet hair on short-pile rugs, or a carper rake on long-pile rugs. A regular broom (or dust broom) works well on outdoor rugs.

Steam Cleaning Area Rugs on Hardwood Floors

If you can’t remove stains on your area rugs by vacuuming, putting them in the washing machine may be an option. If the manufacturer’s tag cautions against machine washing, you can steam clean large area rugs.

Cover hardwood floor (or other work areas) with a plastic sheet and lay the area rug over it. Tape plastic to the walls of the room to keep them safe, and steam clean them per the machine directions and/or rug manufacturer’s directions. Let the rugs dry for a day or two, and then place them back in their regular location, and remove the plastic.

If you can’t remove stains on your area rugs by vacuuming, putting them in the washing machine may be an option. If the manufacturer’s tag cautions against machine washing, you can steam clean large area rugs.

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