If you have an area rug for long enough, there will come a time when just vacuuming won’t do. Without a deep cleaning, the pet stains, kid stains, and just plain life stains will start to pile up. But don’t worry! Smaller rugs can actually be thrown in the washer. Follow these instructions to learn how to wash a rug in a washing machine:

How to Wash a Rug in a Washer

1. Read the care label.

First, read the care label on the back of your rug. If it says dry clean only, the colors may run in the wash. If it’s machine washable or you ripped the tag off years ago and just want to get it cleaned quickly, go for it. Most throw rugs are perfectly fine in the washer.

2. Shake it off. 

Take your rug outside and give it a good shake to get as much dirt and hair off as possible. A great way to do this is to grab one end of the rug and beat it against something, like the side of the fence or back of the shed. The more stuff you can get out of the rug the better. You don’t want all that dirt and pet hair to wind up in your washing machine.

3.  Treat spots or stains.

Once you’ve given it a good beating, it’s time to clean any tough stains in the rug. Pre-treating tough stains will definitely help return the rug to its former glory. If you know what type of stain it is — chocolate, wine, grease — treat it accordingly. If not, apply a small amount of strong liquid laundry detergent to the spot and rub it in gently. A toothbrush is perfect for smaller stains. Let the treatment set for about fifteen minutes.

4. Load and balance.

After you’ve treated the stains, place the rug in the washer. If you have a front load washer, wash two rugs together or add a towel or two for best results. With a top-load washer, make sure the load is even on all sides. Distribute the rug evenly around the center agitator, adding towels as needed to achieve balance.

5. Wash.

Set your washer to delicate, fill with cold water and add your detergent. If the rug has a rubber backing, don’t use chlorine bleach. This can cause the rubber to deteriorate in the machine, causing an even bigger mess! You can use an oxygen-based bleach to brighten your rubber-backed rug without damaging it.

6. Dry.

Finally, air-dry your rug on a clothesline, dryer rack or just sling it over the fence. Try to keep it out of direct sunlight so all those newly washed colors don’t fade. You may be tempted to toss it in the dryer, but the heat can shrink the rug and damage the backing. If you’d like to get any last wrinkles out, use an iron or put it in the dryer on tumble dry low/air cycle.

 

Other things to take note of when learning how to wash a rug:

  • While regular maintenance is helpful, deep cleaning your rug too often can actually hinder its quality, so only do so when necessary (e.g. visibly dingy, odorous).
  • If your rug was pricey or has major sentimental value, it might be best to take it to a professional.