Skip to Content

How To Clean An Area Rug On Hardwood Floor [8 Steps]

Just like carpets, area rugs should be cleaned periodically to keep them free from disease-causing germs. But what is the best way to clean an area rug, particularly one on a hardwood floor? We've done a bit of digging to find the answer to this for you, and in this post, we discuss it.

Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Before you determine which method will be best for cleaning your area rug, it's essential to know the material that the area rug is made of. Not only will this prevent you from damaging the rug during the process, but it will also help you determine the best solutions to clean the rug thoroughly. Here are the steps to clean an area rug on a hardwood floor:

  1. Prepare the rug for cleaning
  2. Vacuum the rug
  3. Spot clean any surface stains
  4. Remove odors with baking soda
  5. Vacuum the area rug
  6. Apply a plastic bag or tarp
  7. Apply a carpet cleaner
  8. Dry the area rug

Area rug cleaning can be a bit more complicated than typical carpet cleaning, as many area rugs are composed of delicate fabrics and tightly woven fibers. It can be complicated if the rug is on a hardwood floor, which you want to protect during the cleaning process. Continue reading to learn about the best way to approach cleaning your area rug.

Gray sofa with throw pillows, gray area rug and flowers on sofa tables, How To Clean An Area Rug On Hardwood Floor [8 Steps]

Steps To Clean An Area Rug On Hardwood Floor

House interior living room and kitchen area with area rug on hardwood floor

Things you'll need:

  • Baking soda
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Upright or upholstery vacuum
  • Carpet shampoo
  • Carpet stain remover
  • Steam cleaner
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Dishwashing liquid

1. Prepare the rug for cleaning

Remove any existing furniture or personal items from the area rug before cleaning it. This includes coffee tables, chairs, couches, desks, etc. Also, be sure to pick up any large pieces of debris on the rug, as they make clog your vacuum.

2. Vacuum the rug

Before cleaning the rug, it's always best to first vacuum it to remove any loose dirt and debris that may be caught up in its fibers. If the rug is small enough, you can use an upholstery vacuum, but an upright vacuum will be more efficient if it's on the larger side. If you have a rug pad beneath the rug, be sure to remove this and vacuum it as well, as it can also be the source of a lot of dirt and debris. You can also give the rug pad a good shake out on the deck or in the backyard to loosen up the dirt.

3. Spot clean any surface stains

The next thing that you want to do is to remove any surface stains from the area rug. Though it's always best to remove the stains immediately as they happen, sometimes you may not recognize things until you actually give the rug a more thorough cleaning. If the stains are relatively small, place a plastic bag, thick padding, or tarp beneath the area rug to protect the wood from moisture.

Next, grab your spot cleaning solution and apply it to the affected area using a microfiber cloth or soft bristle brush. If you don't have any cleaner on hand, try mixing a teaspoon of dish soap with 2 cups of warm water and apply it to the stain. Work the solution into the stain for 2-5 minutes until the spot has wholly lifted from the area rug. Afterward, wipe the stain with a damp cloth or rag to remove any remaining soap--you don't want the rug to become hardened from an oversaturation of cleaning solution.

If you are having trouble with the stain, consider mixing a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide into the solution to help lift the same from the rug's fibers (if it's a light-colored rug). Be sure to do a quick spot test first.

See this hydrogen peroxide on Amazon.

4. Remove odors with baking soda

If there are any lingering odors on the area rug, consider sprinkling baking soda on the entire rug to absorb them. Allow the baking soda to sit on the rug anywhere from 60 minutes to 12 hours, depending on the strength of the odor. If needed, you can also use a soft-bristled brush to help work the baking soda into the rug's fibers.

5. Vacuum the area rug

Take out your vacuum and run it over the area rug a few times. If you haven't already removed and clean the rug pad, this is a great time to do it. Hold the area rug in half and sweep or vacuum the hardwood floor beneath the rug.

See this vacuum on Amazon.

6. Apply a plastic bag or tarp

Before using any steamers or carpet cleaners on the area rug, it's best to protect it using a tarp or plastic covering. Hardwood floors can be delicate, and some may be more resistant to damage from moisture than others. Taking an extra step to protect your hardwood floor can go a long way to preventing damage.

See this tarp on Amazon!

7. Apply a carpet cleaner

Next, pour your carpet cleaning solution into your carpet cleaner's reservoir and dilute it with the appropriate amount of water. Next, run the carpet cleaner over the area rug. Try to cover no more than a 2-3 foot area at once, and be sure to go over each area at least twice to ensure a thorough cleaning. 

Find carpet cleaner on Amazon.

8. Dry the area rug

After you have cleaned the carpet, be sure to open all of the room's windows and turn on any ceiling fans to help circulate the air in the room to dry out the area rug faster. The time that it takes the rug to dry will depend on the size of the area rug. They can take anywhere from a few hours to 48 hours. Be sure that the area rug is completely dry before allowing traffic on it again.

Quick Tips

  • The height and type of the fiber materials in your area rug will determine the best cleaning method. If your area rug has a higher fiber nap, it may be best to steam clean it to help keep the fibers fluffy and restore them to their original height after the cleaning--as opposed to leaving them crushed.
  • If your area rug has tightly woven fibers, be careful when using brushes and other tools as they made pool at the fibers causing them to eventually fray.
  • Sometimes certain detergent and carpet shampoos can be too harsh for the materials in an area rug, in which case a steam cleaning would be a better solution. It's also helpful to check your area rug's care tag to see if machine washing is suitable for it.
  • In some cases, an area rug may benefit more from a lightweight surface cleaning than deep shampooing, which can damage it if it is made of delicate fabrics such as silk or cashmere.
  • A gentle bonnet cleaning can also be an excellent choice to clean your area rug if it contains any specialty dyes or has tightly-woven fibers that easily fray.

How Much Does It Cost To Have An Area Rug Cleaned?

The average cost to clean an area rug can range anywhere from $50 to $300 in more, depending on your location and the type of rug you have. The area rug size also plays an important factor in determining how much you will be charged for the cleaning. Rug cleaning companies often charge you by the cleaning foot, with the average cost hovering around $5, though it can go up to $7.

How Do You Freshen An Area Rug?

One of the quickest, cheapest, and most effective ways to freshen your area rug is to apply baking soda to it. Baking soda is a well-known natural deodorizer and can be applied to the rug right out of the box or canister. Applying the baking soda, sprinkle it on the area rug, and sit anywhere from 1 hour to 12 hours--or overnight if the smell is powerful. Afterward, vacuum the baking soda from the area rug.

See this baking soda on Amazon.

Can You Steam Clean An Area Rug That's On Hardwood Floors?

Simple dining room with large glass windows

Yes. In many cases, you can steam clean an area rug on hardwood floors, sometimes even without a buffer between the carpet and the area rug. However, it's not recommended to do so as you may damage the hardwood floor with the moisture emitted from the steam cleaner. It's best to place a plastic and padded barrier between the two to prevent this. Although many steam cleaner manufacturers claim that their cleaners are safe to use on various surfaces, including hardwood floors, it's best to err on the side of caution when doing so, as hardwood floors can have various levels of water-resistance.

What Are The Best Area Rug Cleaners?

With so many different carpet cleaners on the market today, it can be confusing to know which is best. Here are a few well-reviewed carpet cleaners to help you narrow down your choices.

Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution

This powerful carpet cleaner has several accessories and multiple settings to provide you with a quick and thorough carpet cleaning. It includes 12 rolls of carpet brushes and has a deep-clean mode to lift stubborn stains from dirt, food, or pets.

Find this cleaner on Amazon.

Hoover PowerDash Pet Compact Cleaner

The Hoover compact cleaner is a must-have carpet cleaner if your home is constantly being riddled with urine stains from pets. While it doesn't have the bells and whistles of other cleaners, it gets the job done and is very portable. It's also backed with a one-year warranty and is super lightweight, weighing only 12 lbs.

Click here to see this cleaner on Amazon.

BISSELL Pet Stain Eraser Cordless Portable Carpet Cleaner

Spot cleaning can be a very back-breaking task, but not with this portable cleaner by Bissell. If you are looking for a professional strength cleaner to remove spots on your carpet or area rugs, this is it. No more scrubbing or pre-treating; this portable cleaner quickly lifts dirt and stains on contact.

Find this cleaner on Amazon.

Wrapping Things Up

When cleaning an area rug on a hardwood floor, it's important to place a barrier between the floor and the area rug to prevent potentially damaging the hardwood floor. The barrier can be a plastic tarp, trash bag, or thick padding, which can help absorb moisture emitted during the cleaning process.

We hope that this post has answered all the questions you may have about cleaning your area rug if you have wood floors. Before you go, be sure to check out our other posts:

How To Keep Carpet Edges From Fraying [6 Methods]

15 Best Carpet Colors By Room