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How To Clean Your Area Rug with Carpet Cleaner

Do your area rugs need to be deep cleaned? Learn how to clean your area rug with a carpet cleaner at home!

I love area rugs. Seriously they can make or break a room. I have them in basically every room of our home. 

Not only do rugs help add style and character to your room and provide a nice soft surface, but they also protect your floors – especially in high-traffic areas! 

But even with regular vacuuming (which in our house means every couple of days with two crazy dogs that shed), your area rugs need a deep cleaning every once in a while!

You can take your area rugs to a professional carpet cleaner, but that can get pretty spendy.  The average professional rug cleaning will run anywhere from $50 to $300 (depending on the size and stains). There’s gotta be a better way, right? 

With a modest investment into a carpet shampooer, you’ll be able to clean area rugs at home like a pro! 

Today I’ll walk you through the entire process of cleaning my area rugs with our carpet shampooer and answer some frequently asked questions. At the end of the article, I also cover what to do if you have other types of rugs – like vintage or ones with natural fibers. 

We had recently moved the furniture around in the living room while we were renovating and building the new stairs for the dining room so I took advantage of the opportunity when the rug had all of the furniture moved off of it to give it a good cleaning! 

This guide for how to clean area rug with carpet cleaner contains affiliate links, but nothing that I wouldn’t wholeheartedly recommend anyway! Read my full disclosure here.

Rug cleaning FAQs

Before we jump into the entire step-by-step process, let’s cover a few rug cleaning frequently asked questions. 

Why do you need to clean your area rugs?

Even if you are really diligent about vacuuming your area rugs regularly, the fibers still trap dirt, gas, dust mites, bacteria, pet hair/debris, and more (like dead skin cells – gross). Even the most powerful suction on a vacuum won’t get that stuff out of the fibers in a rug once they have set in. 

The water and shampoo used in the rug shampooing process will pull that gross stuff out of the rug fibers and refresh them. 

How often should you shampoo your rugs?

You should deep clean your area rugs every six months or annually – like when you’re doing your spring cleaning!

You may want to do it more often (every 3-6 months) if there are a lot of spills or accidents from your furry friends. 

What about spot cleaning stains – like pet accidents?

When there’s a spill on the rug or an accident, it is a good idea to clean it up right away. The faster you can get to it, the less likely it will soak into the fibers of the rug.

Start by blotting it up with clean and dry cloth towels (or if it’s really gross – paper towels that you can throw away). 

Then spray the area with fabric cleaner or Folex.

If you have never heard of Folex, let me change your life. 

It’s an amazing cleaner that DOESN’T NEED TO BE RINSED! Yes, that is right. You spray it don’t the stain, rub it around a bit, and walk away. 

It works great on rugs and other types of upholstered furniture. 

When I don’t have any Folex on hand, I start by crying and then I pull myself together and grab a fabric cleaner (like a pre-treat stain remover) and spray it on the spot. 

Let it sit and then wipe it with a damp cloth – repeating the process a few times trying to get as much of the cleaner out of the rug as possible. 

Can you clean the area rugs on a rug pad?

Yes, you can keep your area rug in place while you clean it with the shampooer – with or without a rug pad. 

Does excess water get under the rug with this cleaning method?

No, the carpet cleaner sucks up the majority of the water from the rug. The rug cleaner doesn’t spray out a lot of water even when pushing the button to spray.

And if you’re using it the right way (check out my step-by-step instructions below), you’ll be moving the cleaner forward while spraying water and then immediately pulling the cleaner back to suck up the excess water. There isn’t enough time for the water to completely soak through the rug to get underneath the floor. 

To prove my point, I snapped a quick picture of the corner of my rug pulled up right after I was done deep cleaning. It was completely dry.

A person is holding a rug in the photo.

If you are really concerned about your floors (like a hardwood floor), feel free to move the rug outside to dry in the sun rather than keeping it in place. 

But in all of my years of experience, I’ve never done this. I always let my rugs dry in place. I always just pull up the corner of the rug after using the cleaner to ensure that my floors are dry.

What type of carpet shampooer do you use?

A carpet cleaner is being used in the living room.

We have the Bissell Deep Clean Premier Pet Upright Carpet Cleaner (model 17N4), but my exact model is no longer available. No surprise there because I’ve had this for about 10 years! 

While looking at the newer options from Bissell, it is most similar to the ProHeat 2x Revolution Pet Pro Plus that is sold now. It looks like the newer version is a little lighter and slightly smaller size – which makes it a bit easier to maneuver than my big beast. 

How to clean area rugs with a carpet cleaner: Step-by-step instructions

Supplies needed:

Step 1. Vacuum well

A vacuum cleaner is in action, diligently cleaning the carpet in the living room, with a dog calmly resting on it.

Before you add any water to your area rug, you want to get all of the loose dirt, pet hair, and dust up from the rug with a good vacuuming.

A woman is using a vacuum cleaner to clean the carpet in the living room.

Usually, I do 2-3 rounds of vacuuming the entire rug with my vacuum cleaner on its strongest setting. 

Step 2. Pretreat any stubborn stains

If you have any stubborn stains sticking around on your rug (or sticky messes), you can pretreat them before starting the carpet cleaning process with the big shampooer. 

There are two ways to pretreat stains on a rug. You can either use a stain remover spray (like OxiClean) or you can use a little bit of the concentrated carpet cleaning solution. 

This Bissel professional rug cleaner has a special tough stain tool that allows you to spray the formula onto the stain, scrub it a bit, and then suction away the stain.  

Doing this first (or just spraying it with another type of stain remover) before you run the shampooer over the whole rug usually does the trick for me on tough stains. 

If you don’t have any stains, you can skip this step.

Step 3. Fill carpet shampooer with cleaning solution and hot water

In the photo, a person is seen applying shampoo to a carpet cleaner.
In the photo, a person is applying shampoo to a carpet cleaner, preparing to clean the carpet.

After you’ve taken care of any stains on the rug, it is time to get your carpet shampooer all filled up. Follow the instructions on your machine and on the back of the bottle of the solution you’re using to fit it up.

But whatever you do be sure you use hot water from your tap in the cleaning tanks. The warmth helps cut through the difficult task of cleaning area rugs!

A woman is holding a bottle of carpet cleaner freshener in the photo.

I love this Bissell professional cleaning solution that is 2x concentrated and has Febreze added for a nice fresh smell.  

Step 4. Run rug shampooer over your area rug

Now it is finally time to shampoo the rug! Start by moving all the furniture off of the rug.

Plan your path of cleaning the rug so that you end in a corner where you don’t have to be stepping over. I did the first top half of my rug and then moved onto the bottom part so I didn’t have to step over the newly cleaned area. 

The photo shows someone using a rug shampooer to clean an area rug.

Plug it in and turn on the machine (an obvious first step, ya?). Then unlock the lever (you have to push a button on the back of the machine on mine) and get it in the right position where you want to start.

In the photo, a woman is seen using a rug shampooer to clean an area rug while a dog on the other side.

Push the trigger and make one slow stroke forward on the rug. Let your finger off of the trigger and slowly pull the machine backward sucking up the water and shampoo from the rug. 

Keep in mind that while you are pushing the trigger you are releasing water and shampoo from the bottom of the machine onto the rug. Depending on the color of your rug, you’ll probably be able to see it be visibly wetter. 

The photo displays a carpet cleaner being used to clean the carpet.

While you are pulling the machine backward (towards you), it activates the pull of the sucking to take up the water. You’ll be able to hear and see the gross dirty water coming up on the front near the brush roll.

A close-up shot showcases the carpet cleaner in action.

I’m always a little shocked at just how brown and gross the water is that comes out of the rug. 

In the photo, a girl is seen using a carpet vacuum cleaner to clean the carpet.
It’s so easy – even the kiddos can help!

Continue running the cleaner over the rug slowly (without the trigger being pressed) until there is no more water being pulled up.

A woman is using a vacuum cleaner to clean the carpet in the photo.

Step 5. Repeat, if desired

If your rug is really dirty because you haven’t cleaned it in a while (or ever), feel free to repeat this process. The goal is to get the water coming up out of the rug to be mostly clear. I did mine two times. 

Step 6. Empty dirty water out of the carpet cleaner

The photo shows a dirty water extracted from the carpet cleaner.

When you’re out of water/cleaning solution or you’re all done cleaning your rugs, you can empty the dirty water. Warning it will be really really gross. 

In the photo, someone is pouring out the dirty water from the carpet cleaner.

You can either dump it outside or down the toilet. 

As an optional step, you can run the machine over the rug again with just water to rinse out any remaining cleaner. Bissell recommends this step, but to be completely honest, I rarely do it. Shhhh! 

But if you’d like to do the rinse step, just fill the take with warm water (no solution added) and repeat the process as Step 4. 

Step 8. Empty dirty water out of the rug shampooer

If you chose to rinse the rug, you’ll need to dump out the dirty water again.

You may be shocked to still see dirty water coming up out of your rug. It will probably make you think “why don’t I clean my area rugs more often?” At least that is what I usually think when I’m doing it! 

Step 9. Rinse on all parts of the shampooer

​As the last step, before you put everything away, rinse all the parts of the carpet cleaner. Just check your manual for the exact cleaning instructions for the machine. Let everything air dry well before putting it back together.

Then just tuck your machine away until the next time you need it. We keep ours in the garage, which means it gets pretty dusty but no big deal. 

A carpet lies gracefully in the living room, adding warmth and comfort to the space.

Regular maintenance of rugs in between deep cleanings

Now that you’ve just spent a bunch of time and energy getting your area rugs nice and clean, what can you do in between your deep cleanings to keep your rugs as clean as they can be? 

Here’s a short list of the regular maintenance of area rugs to keep them looking their best: 

  • Vacuum the rug regularly. Regularly can mean different things for different people, homes, and even rooms. For instance, with two crazy dogs that shed and small kids that eat snacks all over the house – we need to vacuum every couple of days. At a minimum, rugs should be vacuumed once a week.
  • Freshen them up by spraying with a fabric and air freshener regularly – we use OdoBan. This helps prevent them from smelling in between the more thorough cleanings.
  • Use a natural odor absorber. As another option for an odor remover and deodorizer on your area rugs, you can sprinkle baking soda over the rug and let that settle before vacuuming git up. 
  • Take care of any spills or stains right away. Blot them up with a dry towel and use a fabric cleaner. See the above reference of why I think Folex is seriously the best option for these spills and stains. 
  • Use a rug pad. Read more bout why rug pads are important in this article. 
  • Rotate your rug so it is getting worn evenly. 

What about other types of rugs?

Different kinds of rugs require different methods of cleaning. All of the area rugs in our house are new rugs with either wool or synthetic fibers and have a backing underneath. 

Cleaning antique rugs

Antique rugs, however, are a little different story and, in general, require different cleaning methods. 

If you have delicate rugs that are unbacked, like authentic Persian rugs or oriental rugs, here’s the best way to clean them: 

  • Vacuum well 
  • Flip it over it over and vacuum it again (this will usually make a bunch of dust and dirt fall out on the ground)
  • Turn it over again and vacuum 
  • Soak in the bathtub in slightly warm water with a splash of Woolite (which is a gentle cleaner that is designed to prevent color fading)
  • Squeeze out water from the rug
  • Put outside to dry (this works best on a sunny day)
  • Flip it over while drying so both sides get air and sun

Cleaning jute or sisal rugs

If you have jute or sisal rugs, you’ll want to avoid using water. This type of rug tends to start browning when it gets really wet and the last thing you want to do is discolor your pretty rug – right? 

To deep clean natural fiber rugs: 

  • Shake it outside to get excess dirt out – you can also use a stick or rug beater
  • Shake baking soda all over the rug let it sit for a few hours and then vacuum it up (or shake it out)
  • Lay it outside in the sun to get fresh air and UV rays

Cleaning washable rugs

Washable rugs are seriously the best and easiest to clean – of course. Just pop them in the washing machine! Depending on the brand of your washable rug, you may or may not be able to put it in the dryer. 

Related – Check out more about washable rugs in this article!

If your rugs are looking (or smelling) a little gross, no worries! The good news is that with a small investment in an upright carpet cleaner, you can deep clean your area rugs at home. No need to spend a ton of professional rug cleaning!

By taking care of your rugs with regular vacuuming and deep cleanings every 6-12 months, you’ll extend the lifetime of your rug (and have a cleaner home).

​When was the last time you deep cleaned the area rugs in your home? Let us know in the comments! 

A woman is seen cleaning a carpet using a vacuum cleaner in the photo.

1 thought on “How To Clean Your Area Rug with Carpet Cleaner

  1. Thank you. I have been looking for a rug and was worried I could not clean it with my steam cleaner. I feel so much more informed now.

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