There are literally pounds of dirt lurking under your feet. Here's how to remove it—and when to do it again next.  

By Tamara Kraus
May 25, 2018
Boyoun Kim

If you knew how many pounds (yes, pounds) of dirt were lurking in your carpets, you might think before you stepped. Wool rugs are particularly good at hiding dirt, and debris can damage the structure of the rug over time, says Lisa Wagner, author of the blog Rug Chick and a certified rug specialist. Here’s how to prevent that.

Small Natural Rugs (Cotton or Wool)

Wash colorfast rugs by hand with a mild detergent, using a soft brush or a sponge. Rinse thoroughly with water mixed with a small amount of white vinegar to remove residue. Roll it inside a thick towel, then stand on it to remove as much moisture as you can. Hang the rug so it dries as quickly as possible.

Small Synthetic Rugs

If the rug is very sturdy and machine woven, clean it in the washing machine on the gentle cycle. Hang it in a spot where it will dry quickly.

Larger Area Rugs

Hire a pro for a deep cleaning every few years. In between, vacuum regularly and deal with spills ASAP. If the dyes are colorfast, dampen the area with a sponge dipped in seltzer, using as little liquid as possible. Blot with a white cotton cloth, then sandwich the stain between two towels and stand on top briefly to remove excess water. If the dyes aren’t colorfast, use a mixture of four parts cold water and one part white vinegar, or sprinkle cornstarch on top and vacuum after 24 hours.

Wall-to-wall Carpet

You can rent a steam cleaner, but a real carpet cleaning is best left to the pros (visit carpet-rug.org to find providers). Vacuum before the crew arrives—they’ll move the furniture. The cleaning is quick, but wear only white socks on the carpet until it’s fully dry (up to 24 hours). To maintain, treat stains by blotting with a white cotton cloth. Pretest a carpet cleaner in an out-of-the-way area. If it’s OK, apply a small amount to the white cloth and blot. Then blot with water.