How To Clean An Area Rug The Fun Way! (Hint: Get Out Your Power Washer)

Over the last three months, my absolute favorite area rug ever — the colorful purple one in the living room — went from bright and beautiful to brown, dingy and downright disgusting. It’s not because I live in a filthy house. I’ll admit that I’m a clutter bug, but clutter and filth are different things. And I have my house cleaned once a week, so my house doesn’t really get dirty, or if it does, it doesn’t stay that way for long.

But the rug was filthy. Why? Because of this adorable rug rat.

Just look at how bright the colors are underneath the coffee table, and how dull and dingy they are everywhere else. 😀

Cooper has been with us just over three months now, and if you’re a regular around here, then you know all about Cooper and my adventures and struggles with this sweet guy. I seriously doubt that he got a bath during his three months at the Humane Society. Then when he came home with us, I didn’t want to take him to a groomer, where he might possibly have to spend time locked in a kennel again. (He was incredibly nervous and anxious during his three months living in a Humane Society kennel.) But the one time I tried to give him a bath, it took two hours of trying to coax him into the tub, followed by a wrestling match between me and a terrified 70-pound dog. He won.

Just last week, I finally got the bath situation figured out — a local mobile groomer came to the rescue. She bathed him in her small and adorable converted school bus, and as soon as he was done, he ran right into the house. So now we’re on her regular schedule, and I don’t have to stress about bathing and grooming Cooper myself.

But during his three months here without a bath, Cooper made a mess of my rug. It’s his favorite place in the house. If he’s not following me like my shadow, he’s on the rug. He sleeps there, he plays there, he rolls around on it, he runs laps around the coffee table on it, he chews his bones there, and he takes his treats there to eat. He LOVES that rug.

So with my sweet rescue dog finally bathed and clean, I had to find a way to rescue my rug. I considered purchasing a rug cleaner/steamer thing (and I still might). But for the initial cleaning, I really didn’t think any kind of rug cleaner/steamer would do the job since the rug was so filthy. So I decided to take it out to the concrete area in back, hook up the power washer, and give it a thorough, high-powered cleaning. And it worked!

Just take a look at this one corner after only one quick spray with the power washer…

I did a little video showing just how well that power washer cuts through the dirt.

(If you can’t view the video above, you can click here to watch on YouTube.)

I really can’t believe how dirty Cooper got this rug! But thank goodness it’s just an inexpensive polyester rug, because cleaning this thing with a power washer was so fun, and so satisfying. 😀

Of course, I would never recommend that you do this with an expensive, heirloom rug. Keep your power washer far away from that $20,000 antique Turkish rug. And I wouldn’t recommend that you do this with a natural fiber rug, like a wool or cotton rug.

But polyester? Well, polyester is essentially plastic, and it’s generally not very expensive. I think I got this rug for just over $100 on Overstock, so I was willing to take the risk.

After giving it an initial and very thorough washing, I mixed up some Palmolive Oxy dishwashing liquid in a bucket of water and poured it over the rug. (FYI, Palmolive Oxy is the best thing ever, and they don’t even have to pay me to say that.) I let that sit on the rug for about 10 minutes, and then washed it again until there were no more suds. Then I put the rug up on some patio chairs so that it wasn’t lying in its own dirty water…

…and gave it one more washing. Then I left it on the chairs for a few hours to let most of the water drain off. Then I removed the chairs so that the rug could lie flat while it completely dried.

And it’s as good as new! No more dirt and filth, and the bright colors have returned.

Just because this was so easy (and fun, and satisfying), I’ll probably never buy another kind of rug again. For me, it’s inexpensive polyester rugs from here on out.



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  1. I am amazed this worked! I am also amazed at your fearlessness. The rug was inexpensive but your entire decorating scheme revolves around it. I’d be tempted to buy a second rug to have in case this one can no longer hold up to repeated washings.

    My dogs only want to be near me when I am around so I trained them to “go to your pillow” when resting, chewing, etc. (I tried and failed to get them to go and stay there when someone is at the door., which was actually my main objective.) At my own house I have a couple pillows in strategic places. If I am heading elsewhere in the house and want the dogs near me but not underfoot, I take the pillows with me. At my sister’s house, she recovered an old sofa cushion specifically for the dogs to use and at my mom’s we use an old cotton bath rug.

  2. OMG! So good to know!! On your recommendation, we just bought a cheap poly rug from Overstock. We have 2 mutts that do a number on our rugs and wanted something pretty, but cheap. AND, now we know how to clean it!!

  3. My father had a Pay Lake and bait shop. He had bought some of those rugs that you usually hire a service to pick up and drop off. When they got muddy and disgusting (did I mention he had a Pay Lake and bait shop?) he told me to put them in his truck and take them down to the car wash and spray them. We did that about once a month.

    Years later, I had bought a beautiful, but inexpensive area rug and matching runner. It always vaccumed up well. Until I got a stomach virus. I didn’t make it to the bathroom and the rug was a way better target than my wall-to-wall carpet. As soon as I could walk again, I dragged that thing out to my driveway and tried my power washer on it. Good as new!

    I since did this with inexpensive area rugs I kept in my basement on the concrete floor. Those were cheap and were cut pile and a glued mesh underneath. It DID spray the glue off the bottom of the rug…which probably weakened it. but they were cheap basement rugs so it was no biggie.

  4. Love it!

    I used the power washer on a heavy cotton rug that had been used outdoors by previous owner. Took forever to dry, but did the job!

  5. Wow!! Looks great. I have a COOPER in my house so i love the name. I think I need to try this 🙂

  6. I have 3 dogs and rugs are pretty much disposable after a year or two, although I have definitely power washed rugs to give them a bit more life!

  7. Wow! What a difference! Who knew. I am so happy you shared it. I just bought an inexpensive by very pretty, blight and light rug for our kitchen table / back door entrance area. We have two dogs that constantly go in and out of the back door and it is a high traffic area as is. I was dreading the rug getting dirty, now I am excited that I get to power wash it!

  8. I love the cleaning idea for polyester rugs!

    From one large dog owner to another, I understand. All dogs have oily hair and skin, some more than others. This is natural and good.

    My Sam had his own Big Barker bed in the living room. It’s very good for his bones and joints. I use clean, folded painter’s drop cloths as his “top sheet.”

    Ask your vet for the optimum time between baths; too often is not good. Sam can be freshly washed and clean, but the sheet is still a dark, oily mess in 3-4 days. I have seven drop cloths so I just change them out. When 4 or 5 are dirty a quick trip to the commercial washer does the trick.

    Your sweet baby can be lovingly trained to not lay on the carpet, any carpet.

    He will quickly learn which spots are his, and which are not. “Consistency” is the key. At first he’ll be a bit confused, then he’ll catch on, and then he’ll find creative and interesting ways to push the boundaries.

    Just be consistent and never let a “no” area become an “okay” area.

    Sam has his BB bed in the living room. No; it’s not glorious and decorative, but it’s healthy and clean. He is allowed to lay anywhere on the hardwood floors or he can lay on his bed.

    When we finish (?) our back sunroom-to-living room conversion, he will have a second bed in that larger room, too.

    Sam is so cute when we eat in the “breakfast nook.” It is an area exactly 5’x7’ feet with a rug and 36” round table filling the area. He lays next to the rug, but if even one (big hairy) toe sneaks onto the rug I raise an eyebrow, he grumbles – and moves the toe. He knows!

    The large BB dog bed is placed where a fourth chair should be in the small LR. He’s out of the traffic pattern, but he is included in the family group.

    When he wants solitude there is one old chair in the den that is his – and his alone. When it gets too nasty, I Thrift Shop for another suitable one.

    With his own bed(s) and spots, your sweet pup will be happier and more confident knowing his boundaries and your rug will stay lovely.

  9. My sweet dog has gotten older and slower so I’ve swapped my nicer rugs for indoor/outdoor rugs. I found several nice ones at Target, Lowes and even Walmart. They aren’t the softest, but they’re so easy to drag outside and hose off. After seeing this post, I’m tempted to buy one like yours!

  10. Wow! What a difference! and how nice to have that large concrete area to clean it on, lol. Is that rug still available?

  11. I was wondering if you roll up the carpet now that it is clean and put a special dog bed in the living room maybe he would go to his bed to chew bones etc. When he got used to that you could put the rug back down. He not stay off it altogether but it might increase time between cleanings.

  12. Just out of curiosity, how DOES one clean a super expensive Turkish rug? Or the natural fiber ones you mentioned?

    1. Some carpet cleaning companies will pick up, clean and drop off your area rugs. I have no idea how much they charge though. I think Servicemaster is one.

    2. If I had a valuable rug I would find a service that specializes in cleaning those sorts of rugs. If you don’t know what company near you does that work, find a rug company near you that sells expensive rugs and ask who they recommend. The larger of the high-end rug companies in my mid-size city actually operates a cleaning and restoration business.

    3. What Marianne said, or you can wash it by hand, if there is a big concrete or tiled area outside. Just use the garden hose, whatever washing liquid is suitable for the fibers, and a brash (the type you use for clothes, not for painting or for cleaning the floor). The main problem is to figure out how to dry it. It should be either laying flat, as Kristi did, or you can hang it over some sturdy rod (my grandparents had a metal one for that purpose). A washing line might be too weak. And it might take more than one day for it to dry. I couldn’t solve the drying problem, so paid a rug cleaning company £50. They also treated it against moths.

    4. We had a wool Turkish rug and it had to be cleaned by a company that cleans “Persian Rugs.” It was pretty expensive ($150) and we had to bring the rug to them and pick it up. Of course a steam cleaner with RUIN one of those rugs.

  13. Ive used the power washer method before and it does do the job. I’m in Iowa so that isn’t an option in the winter so I also have a Bissel carpet cleaner and a Bissel spot bot – because with 3 dogs – I need it. I love Bissel products and I’m on my 3 full size Bissel and 2nd spot bot since 2000. They are awesome!

    1. After my third bissel shampooer would not pump water I swapped to a Hoover and have had it a long time . I love my bissel green machine even though.

  14. We did the same thing with our porch cushions. There’s been a lot of construction in our neighborhood lately and our chair cushions were FILTHY!

    Once power washed and given a few days to dry, they were like new!

    Definitely plan to try this on my rugs!

  15. I need to clean my area rugs too, but it’s either been too hot to drag them out to clean them, or it’s rainy! Plus, we live in a wooded area and have had LOTS of ticks lately, so I’m hesitant to clean them outside and have them sitting out there to dry. I have a Bissell shampooer to use, but power washing seems easier! Wish we didn’t have oil spots all over the garage, I would do them there! Hubs doesn’t treat the garage like it’s a part of the house, so I will have to get out there and clean it if I want it to look good! GRRR! So I’m reluctant to pre-clean the garage before I can clean the rugs.

    1. Just as a note to Kristi: I would never clean my area rugs on a wood floor.

      To Marianne: You probably could do your rugs in the garage. Before I moved, I put down several shower curtains from the dollar store on our garage floor (to keep away from the oil), placed all our area rugs there and used a steam cleaner on them. I let them dry, rolled them and took them to the “new” place ready to go. In a smaller garage, you could probably do them one at a time.

      For those people with no garage or no clean place to clean the rugs: Now, we have no garage, and no power washer, which certainly would be easier, but we have a car wash area in the condo complex. I do the same thing in the car wash area, but I use the hose and a broom. I lay out the plastic, put down the carpet and wet it with the hose, then wet it again with DILUTED (you don’t need a lot of detergent – I like Oxiclean) detergent from a bucket. I sweep it through the carpet with a nice clean straw-type broom (old fashioned), let it sit while I do the next rug, and onward. Then I rinse, sweep out the water, rinse, sweep, repeat until they are completely rinsed. One more sweep, then we roll them up (they will be heavy!), place them on the car (hood – wish we had a truck) and slowly drive home. We unroll them, lay them over the car and let them drain, then let them finish drying on the patio or over the patio railing. Works for us in our “down-sized” conditions, although I hate using all that plastic. Thinner plastic drop cloths would probably work well, too, and be a bit larger.

  16. Oh boy. Now I’m thinking about my 2 wool rugs – because we have 2 dogs who hang out on the rugs. The rugs don’t look dirty to me, but if I’m being honest- I haven’t really looked closely when moving a chair to compare a “protected” area to a “general use” area!

    1. If your wool rug gets smelly from the dogs, as mine did, you can sprinkle it with Borax, leave for awhile, and then vacuum up. Worked wonders for me.

  17. I’ve done this before with smaller rugs, but not with larger area rugs. Willhve to keep this in my mental index box.

  18. I think a power washer is one of the best things ever invented and you are right; it’s so satisfying to clean away all the dirt. I use mine for all of our decks, the house, everything outdoors. It’s great and the before and after on your rug is amazing.

  19. I love that rug! But, I’m really happy you found a solution for the rug, and you weren’t upset with Cooper ❤️ So glad you could work out his baths too with out too much stress for him. I am looking at our power washer with a whole new view. Thank you, and hugs to Cooper. 🐾

  20. I take my rugs to the car wash, hang them on the mat clips and spray them down. roll them up and bring them home to dry in the sun. Works perfectly.

    1. Those must be really small rugs if you’re hanging them from the mat clips. When my 8×10 rug was wet, it was way too heavy for me to lift on my own. The rug, when dry, probably weighs around 25-30 pounds. It was probably four times its weight when it was wet.

  21. My favorite way to cool off on a really hot day is to get out the power washer, take my shoes off and start washing something–concrete, rugs, whatever. It works great at cleaning, cools everything down, and gives me some think time.

  22. I have 2 dogs and 4 cats. I’ve been using grass rugs for a few years now, they work great. There’s no smell once they air out and the pets can’t damage them. But I love color in rugs and I’m going to use your idea in my newly redone living room. Can’t wait to find just the right one! Keep up the great work, this old lady is learning new tricks from you all the time 🙂

  23. Folks need to be careful. I have a walkout finished basement. Unfortunately we had a flood when our sump pump couldn’t keep up with an accumulation of water on the other side of the retaining wall between the basement and our crawl space on the uphill side. I took the rug to get cleaned. The colors had run. The cleaning company said that they couldn’t do anything about it. They told me that a lot of area rugs are not colorsafe. Glad yours was. And thanks for adopting a rescue dog! 🐕

    1. That’s why I said I would only do this with polyester rugs. Polyester is colorfast, so I would be very surprised to hear of colors running on a polyester rug. Blends and 100% natural fibers like cotton and wool may or may not be colorfast, depending on how the fibers were dyed. I wouldn’t recommend spraying water on those without testing for colorfastness first. And even then, I’d take it to be professionally cleaned if it had any value at all.

  24. I have done this several times when my kids were growing up. I absolutely love your rug so I am so happy it worked. Cooper is so worth the trouble l, I bet. I’m so glad you adopted him. That beautiful face! My dog is the boss around here, lol!

  25. Love that you allowed your sweet pup time and space to get acclimated. Yay for you! Now,can you tell me which power washer you own? We so need one.

  26. Hi, so good to know. Cooper is adorable. I, too, would love to know what pressure washer you purchased, please? I also had not heard about Palmolive with Oxi-Clean.

  27. Great idea for rug cleaning! BTW, my son bought a small garden sprayer to keep by the back door and when the dog wants in, he sprays off her feet. This helps keep the floors a TINY bit cleaner!

  28. I kept my daughters swingset that she outgrew 15 years ago just for cleaning rugs. I take the big area rug out, lob it over the top, hose it with the power washer and leave it hang there till it’s dry. The side brace bars hold smaller rugs to dry. Also the side brace bars work great for hanging up laundry on plastic hangars to dry (tops and jeans) if I don’t want to use the clothes dryer.

  29. I have read that power washers are great for soiled patio cushions and for baseball pants with grass stains on the knees. I love my power washer, but it’s not as fun as it was 15 years ago.

  30. What is Peeve’s reaction to Cooper (and vice versa)? I hope they are going to be best friends even if it takes a little time. Good to see Peeve in the photo. Oh, and how on earth did you get Peeve to sit on the fireplace mantle for a photo op? None of mine (we have three) ever cooperate for photo shoots.

  31. One additional critique for you to consider. I assume this rug (which is beautiful btw) is 8×10 or 9×12. I think your room would look more pulled together if the 10 or 12-foot side of the rug ran parallel to longest side of the room (which has the 3 windows overlooking your front porch). It looks like you have the 10/12 foot side parallel to the fireplace, which competes with the natural proportions of the room. Try rotating the rug 90 degrees. I’m pretty sure you love it that much more!

  32. I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s done this! I washed a 10 x 14 vintage wool rug I got cheap off Craigslist. It was gorgeous but dirty, and every (reputable) rug place quoted me $1000+ to clean it. But if you watch their processes on YouTube, it’s pretty much the same way people have been cleaning wool rugs for hundreds of years – LOTS of water and gentle scrubbing. I figured I’d risk it since I hadn’t spent a ton on it. Mine was colorfast, and I didn’t use a pressure washer, just a hose and a bazillion gallons of water. I rubbed it down with mild dish soap and it came out amazing. Lots of work but worth the savings!

  33. I’ve got a question … I have done this several times on my area rug, but every time it becomes too heavy to lift after it’s wet. My husband and I can’t even drag it! So when we leave it to sit on the ground, even last summer when it was 102 degrees outside, it stays wet for so long that it stinks by the time it dries (usually 48 hours in the hottest days of summer). It’s a large low-pile rug, but it takes too long to dry. Every time we wash it ourselves, we end up taking it to the cleaners afterward because the smell is so gross. What’s the secret? We’ve tried hanging it up first, then washing it, but it never gets truly clean that way, it stays a tad dingy.

    1. This rug was an 8′ x 10′ rug. I put it on the concrete outside to pressure wash it, and then dragged it and draped it over some outdoor chairs to dry. It was NOT easy dragging that wet rug, and I almost thought I wouldn’t be able to do it myself, but I just worked and worked at it and finally got it done. Mine didn’t have a smell to it, and it took somewhere between 24-48 hours (I can’t remember now) to completely dry. If your rug is larger, I think you’d have to drape it over something before washing it. I’m not sure why it’s not getting clean when you do that, though. Sorry I couldn’t be more help!

  34. First of all, your rug is absolutely gorgeous! I love all the colors! It’s everything I’ve been looking for and I didn’t even know it. Second, you got such amazing results, I’m going to try this on our area rugs this weekend! We have an area rug cleaning service clean all of our area rugs every couple of years but this is a great option for in between those cleanings. Thanks for the tips!

  35. Hi Kristi, your post was 4 years ago but I’m so glad I came across it. I’ve been looking for a way to clean my polyester runners forever. Couldn’t get them very clean the last time I tried. I was wondering if you could tell me if you used a power washer or a pressure washer. Power washers use heat from what I understand. I’m trying to decide what would be best. Thank you for answering this post if you find it.