Skip to content

How to Clean an Area Rug on a Hardwood Floor? A Step-By-Step Guide

Cleaning an area rug regularly is as important as cleaning the carpets in your home. With the passage of time, the debris and pet hair, that they absorb, get buried deep into the fibers if not cleaned regularly. Cleaning area rugs is easy if you can roll them up and take them outside. In this case, you can clean them without using any cleaning machine. The problem arises when you cannot take them outside and they are placed over the hardwood floors. 

You cannot clean an area rug on a hardwood floor with carpet cleaners or steam cleaners or apply any cleaning solution directly to it without taking any precautionary measures. So, how to clean an area rug on a hardwood floor? Read on to get enlightend!

Key Takeaways

Regular cleaning of the area rugs is as important as cleaning any other surface in your house. Cleaning the area rug is easy if you can pick it up and take it outside. But it is not that simple when it is placed on a hardwood floor and you cannot take it outside. 

Cleaning an area rug on a hardwood floor requires protecting the floor before steam cleaning or deep cleaning. Water or the chemicals used in the cleaning solutions can damage the surface of the hardwood floor. 

For this purpose, a plastic tarp is spread between the rug and the floor. This tarp makes sure that the water or the cleaning solution doesn’t reach the surface. 

How To Clean An Area Rug On A Hardwood Floor?

how to clean an area rug on a hardwood floor

Rugs come in different sizes and are made of different materials. While plush rugs with high and thick pile are comfortable to walk on and give a lavish look to your house interior, they are not suitable to be placed in high foot traffic areas like hallways or entryways. They trap and absorb more dirt, grime, and other debris and get more difficult to clean. And if by chance it gets to taste human urine, getting its smell out of it becomes a real job. 

You cannot use deep cleaning methods without taking any preventive measures if there is hardwood flooring underneath it. Not only the water and moisture will harm the surface of the hardwood but the cleaning solutions and the chemicals used in them will also damage and put scratches on the surface of the floor. And, if there is a paint spill on the rug, it will decolor your floor as well. 

Rugs with high fibers mostly require steam cleaning or deep cleaning. This removes the dirt and stains and also refreshes and fluffs up the fibers.

Following is a step-by-step guide on how to clean an area rug on a hardwood floor.

Prepare The Area

Before cleaning, you must prepare the area first. 

  • Remove any piece of furniture placed on the rug and declutter it by picking up any item dropped on it like socks, cloth or toys, etc
  • Ensure proper ventilation while cleaning indoors
  • Keep children and pets away from the cleaning zone
  • Preferably pick a day when there is enough sunshine outside so that the rug dries up quickly


Once the debris is buried deep into the rug, it will release a foul smell all around. To get rid of this smell, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda. It will deodorize the rug and will freshen up the fibers as well. It also helps loosen up dirt and debris. 

Let it sit for at least half an hour and then vacuum it.


It is time to get rid of the loose dirt and debris. Take a vacuum cleaner or a carpet sweeper, preferably with a bristle brush cleaning head, and vacuum the rug thoroughly. The bristle brush will dig deep into the pile and will remove most of the dirt, debris, and pet hair. 

If possible, flip the rug over and vacuum it from the underside as well. You will have to remove it anyways to place a protective cover underneath it to shield the hardwood floor before the deep cleaning. 

If you want to automate the vacuuming process, you can choose a robot vacuum cleaner that will autonomously do the vacuuming job. Robot vacuum cleaners come in different specifications and features. Some are best suited for thick carpets and rugs.

Protect The Floor

Once the rug is vacuumed properly, now it’s time to place a protective cover underneath it. This will let you deep clean it without damaging your hardwood floor. 

  • Roll the rug and place it on a side
  • Take a plastic tarp and place it over the hardwood floor 
  • The plastic tarp should be at least two feet larger than the rug from all four sides. This will ensure that the water and the cleaning solution don’t run over the edge of the rug
  • Make sure that the tarp doesn’t have any holes in it or else the water and cleaning solution will seep through those holes and will damage the floor beneath
  • Fix the plastic tarp on the floor by sticking duct tape on all four sides 
  • Now place the rug on the tarp for a deep cleaning session

Deep Clean

Vacuuming a rug will get rid of most of the dry debris, dust, and pet hair but it won’t have any effect on liquid spills and other stains. To get rid of these stains you will have to deep clean them either manually or by using a carpet cleaning machine. 

Deep Cleaning The Area Rug Using A Carpet Cleaner

Once the area rug is vacuumed for loose debris and the floor is protected by placing a plastic tarp or sheet, you can use a steam cleaner or a carpet cleaner for deep cleaning. 

Most carpet cleaners come with specific cleaning solutions and only recommended solutions should be used for better results. 

Carpet cleaners come with two tank system. In one tank you fill in the cleaning solution or the carpet shampoo and the other tank collects the dirty water. A carpet cleaner takes the necessary cleaning solution, applies it to the stained area, and then vacuums back the dirty water into the tank. 

Although a carpet cleaning machine sucks all the water and cleaning solution, it is still recommended to let the rug fully air dry before allowing any foot traffic on it.

Manually Deep Cleaning The Area Rug

If you don’t have access to a carpet cleaning machine, you can manually deep clean your rug. For manual cleaning, you can either use carpet shampoo or you can also make your own homemade cleaning solution. 

To make a homemade solution, you will need the following items:

  • White vinegar
  • Distilled water
  • Liquid dish soap

Follow these steps for manually deep cleaning:

  • Mix one cup of distilled lukewarm water, one cup of white vinegar, and one tablespoon of liquid dish soap in a bowl or a spray bottle 
  • Whenever you make a homemade cleaning solution, it is always recommended to first try that solution on an inconspicuous area. This will make you certain that the solution is not harmful to the surface in any way
  • Apply this solution directly to the stained area
  • Take a bristle brush and rub the stain so that the solution reaches deep into the fibers
  • Leave the stain and let the cleaning solution set in for at least 15 to 30 minutes. You might have to leave it overnight if the stain has penetrated deep into the fibers 
  • Once the stain looks dissolved, take a white microfiber cloth or a white towel, damp it with lukewarm water, and rinse the stained area on the rug. 
  • Once the stain is gone, take a dry towel and blot the surface until it is dried. You can also leave it in proper ventilation to let it dry as well.
  • Let the rug dry completely before allowing any foot traffic on it
  • Ensure proper ventilation during this process

Let The Area Rug Dry Completely

Once the area rug is cleaned either manually or by using a carpet cleaner, you should let it dry completely before allowing any foot traffic on it. Otherwise, the footprints will make it more messy and sludgy. Keep the place well-ventilated to dry quickly

Remove The Plastic Tarp

Once the cleaning and drying-up process is complete, roll the rug up and move it to one side. Remove the plastic tarp that was placed on the hardwood floor for protection. If there is any water or cleaning solution on the plastic tarp, make sure that it doesn’t drop on the floor. 

Vacuum And Mop The Hardwood Floor

Once the plastic tarp is removed, it is essential to clean the hardwood floor as well before placing the area rug back in its final place. 

Vacuum the hardwood floor thoroughly and mop afterward for better cleaning. This will ensure that the rug is placed on a well-cleaned hardwood surface. 

If, by chance, any water or cleaning solution has seeped through the plastic tarp and spilled onto the hardwood floor, mopping the floor will make sure that all the moisture is gone. 

Let the floor air dry before placing the rug back on.

Place The Area Rug Back On The Hardwood Floor

Once the hardwood floor is cleaned, mopped, and dried completely, it is time to put the area rug back in its final position. 

Can You Steam Clean An Area Rug On A Hardwood Floor?

While steam cleaning is best suited to clean, disinfect, deodorize, and freshen up your carpets and rugs, care should be taken while steam cleaning them on a hardwood floor. Steam can damage the hardwood, especially if the floor is not properly sealed.

How Do You Dry An Area Rug After Cleaning?

A carpet cleaner machine dries the rug after cleaning. It vacuums all the water and cleaning solution from the rug once it is cleaned. If the rug still looks damp, you can use a hair dryer if you have a smaller rug. For a larger area rug, you can switch on a pedestal fan and face it toward it.

Choosing a nice sunny day will also shorten the drying time. Keep the place well-ventilated to fasten the drying process. 

Latest posts by Billie Kelley (see all)