How to properly vacuum every type of rug in your home

Shag rugs, antique rugs and more.

Credit: Getty / tzahiV
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Rugs are a great addition to just about any living space. If you have hardwood floors, they’re act as a barrier against scratches, and if you have a big, open room, a rug will make it seem less empty. Plus, the right rug can tie together your decor, making a room seem polished and put-together.

However, all that comes with a cost. That’s right—we're expected to clean our rugs, and different types of rugs require separate levels of care, as well as different types of vacuums. Start by identifying the rug you want to tackle, then follow the steps below to efficiently clean your floor coverings.

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How to vacuum an area rug

How to vacuum an area rug
Credit: Getty / JackF
  • Best vacuum: An upright vacuum
  • Time estimate: 20 minutes
  • How often to vacuum: At least once a week
  • How often to clean professionally: Once a year

Area rugs made from cotton or braided materials require a bit more attention than normal carpet, but overall, the cleaning process isn't too time-consuming.

Start by taking the rug outside and shaking it. Bring it back inside, then lay it down with the bottom facing up. Check your vacuum’s settings and adjust it for rugs, if possible. Start by vacuuming the underside of the rug—this loosens dirt and pushes it toward the surface, making it easier to vacuum when you flip it back over.

When you finish, turn the rug right side up and vacuum again, going along in strips and moving slowly. Avoid vacuuming any tassels, as these can get stuck in your vacuum.

How to vacuum a shag rug

How to vacuum a shag rug
Credit: Getty / RichLegg
  • Best vacuum: A powerful model, preferably with an upholstery attachment
  • Time estimate: 30 minutes
  • How often to vacuum: At least once a week
  • How often to clean professionally: At least once a year

To clean a shag rug, start by shaking it out, ideally outside of your home. This loosens the dirt in the rug (and eliminates some), making it easier to vacuum. Bring it back inside and lay it out normally.

Using the upholstery attachment for your vacuum, start at the top corner and work your way down the rug, slowly and in a straight line. Once you hit the bottom, start again at the top and keep vacuuming in strips until you’ve cleaned the entire rug. If it's still looking a little grungy, you may want to go over it again—the long fibers provide a lot of room for dirt to hide.

Never leave a running vacuum stationary on your shag rug. These rugs are—you guessed it—shaggy, so the fibers more likely to detach during the cleaning process, clogging up your vacuum and leaving weird bald patches on the rug.

How to vacuum an antique rug

How to vacuum an antique rug
Credit: Getty / tunart
  • Best vacuum: A gentle one with an upholstery attachment
  • Time estimate: 30–45 minutes
  • How often to vacuum: Once a month
  • How often to clean professionally: Once a year

Music to the lazy woman’s ears (me), antique rugs don't require a great deal of maintenance. High-quality antique rugs only need to be lightly cleaned every month or so—in fact, over-vacuuming will lead to wear and tear.

When it's time to clean your antique rug, prepare your vacuum by setting up the upholstery attachment. Flip the rug over, and start cleaning from the bottom; use the attachment to vacuum strips from top to bottom. If the rug has fringes on its sides, do not vacuum them, as they're likely fragile.

Move very slowly when vacuuming an antique rug—you want to capture all the dirt without ruining any of the fibers. Return the rug right-side up, and vacuum strips from top to bottom again. If you own pets or your antique rug sits in a high-traffic area, use a cleaning brush or broom to sweep the rug once a week.

How to vacuum a wool rug

How to vacuum a wool rug
Credit: Getty / Анатолий Тушенцов
  • Best vacuum: One without a beater bar, like a stick vacuum
  • Time estimate: 30–45 minutes
  • How often to vacuum: Twice a month
  • How often to clean professionally: Every 1–3 years

Wool rugs shed, especially when they’re new. Your instinct may be to bust out the vacuum and go to town on it every few days, but over-vacuuming your wool rug will only make it shed more. Instead, clean your wool rug a few times each month.

Start by taking it outside and shaking out the dirt and debris. Hang it over your porch or a clothesline and beat it to get the excess fibers out. Bring your wool rug back inside and set it upright.

It looks tough on the outside, but your wool rug needs a delicate touch—use a vacuum without a beater bar, as these will be less abrasive while cleaning. Move slowly and vacuum the rug in straight lines.

How to vacuum a handmade rug

How to vacuum a handmade rug
Credit: Getty / Vasyl Stetsyuk
  • Best vacuum: A gentle one, such as a hand vacuum
  • Time estimate: 30 minutes
  • How often to vacuum: Once a month
  • How often to clean professionally: Rarely

Have a rug your grandmother made? A handwoven rug you picked up from a craft market? These types of rugs often mean the most to us, and they’re far trickier to properly clean.

Follow the same process for cleaning an antique rug—clean it gently and infrequently, and take your time. Start by shaking the rug out over your deck, then returning it inside and gently vacuuming the underside. Flip it over and vacuum the top, taking care to avoid any loose threads or tassels.

General tips for cleaning rugs

Vacuuming tips
Credit: Eureka

Make these best practices a habit!

While rugs made from different materials have specific cleaning rules, there are a few vacuuming best practices that apply to all rugs in your home.

Have a pet? Brush your rug first

Pet owners know all too well the importance of a high-quality vacuum, but what if you have a rug that requires a softer touch?

Instead of risking damage with the vacuum, brush your rugs with a broom or small cleaning brush before vacuuming. This will remove pet hair before you start the process so you don't have to vacuum with such a heavy hand.

If your pet sheds often and build-up happens more frequently than the rug’s recommended cleaning, you can brush more often than you vacuum. Then, just use an electrostatic mop to collect pet hair off the hard floor.

Turn rugs every few months

This is particularly important if you have a rug in a high-traffic area or in a sun spot. Both foot traffic and sun rays can distort the rug over time, discoloring it or wearing it down in one area. Make sure you rotate your rugs at least once every few months to make sure you’re spreading the attention over every area. It may still wear down, but it will do so slower and more evenly.

Move furniture to different spots on the rug

If your rug sits under furniture, the legs will form impressions over time that will be difficult to remove from the rug. Move the furniture every few months—even if it’s just by an inch or so—to prevent these impressions from causing permanent damage.

Call in the pros

Most rugs—with the exception of handmade or fragile ones—should be deep-cleaned periodically. You can either hire professional cleaners or invest in a carpet cleaner for your home. Either way, this will kill bacteria and other pollutants that are hiding beyond your vacuum's reach.

Plus, many rug warranties stipulate that you must have it professionally cleaned every 12 to 18 months—otherwise, the company many not replace your rug if you have problems.

With proper care, your rugs will look their best for years to come, protecting your floors and adding a little flair to your home.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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