If you have large area rugs in your home that do not fit in the washing machine, or that you should not machine wash, use the steam cleaner to clean the area rugs. Steam cleaning cleans spots on upholstery and carpet that you cannot remove through dry cleaning with a vacuum alone. The moisture from a steam cleaner damages wood flooring surfaces, however. So, if you plan to clean an area rug using a steam cleaner over hardwood floors, you must do some surface preparation first.
Table of Contents
What does it mean to Clean An Area Rug Using A Steam Cleaner?
The phrase “steam cleaning” distinguishes a water-based method of cleaning carpets from dry chemical compound methods used by some professional companies.
It’s not the steam that cleans the carpet, though. It’s the detergents which the steam (or hot water) activates. That is true when you rent or buy a machine, or when you hire professional steam cleaners to do it for you. Even dry chemical cleaning companies use a small amount of water!
Steam cleaning — or carpet shampooing — does not require professional equipment. It also does not have the toxic risks associated with dry chemical carpet cleaning.
Using a Carpet Steam Cleaner to Clean An Area Rug
Move the Furniture
Once you have home carpet steam cleaners on hand to clean the floors, you’ll want to slide all furniture out of the way so you can easily access the carpet with your steam cleaner. Moving the furniture will allow you to quickly remove stains and dirt by carpet steam-cleaning and will also protect wood pieces and other decors from damage. Use a handheld steam cleaner once the furniture is out of the way to clean bathroom and kitchen tile and countertops.
Vacuum the Floors
Use a regular vacuum, not a steam vacuum cleaner, to clean your carpets before you steam clean them. This removes the top layer of dust, dirt, and crumbs so that the steam cleaners can focus on deeper stains and grime. Even the best carpet steam cleaner will work better on a freshly vacuumed carpet.
Just Add Water and Cleaner
Fill the water container with hot water and a bit of cleaning solution; some steam cleaners come with a bottle of detergent, but you can also purchase carpet shampoo or soap at a grocery store. Be sure to follow the directions before using your home carpet steam cleaners on your floors; adding too much soap to even the best carpet steam cleaner can damage the machine and ruin your carpet.
Start in the Far Corner
Before using a carpet steam cleaner, figure out a way to clean the entire room efficiently. You’ll want to make clean, straight lines while carpet steam cleaning to be sure that you don’t miss any spots. Beginning in the corner furthest away from the doorway or entrance to the next room will make it easy to move your carpet steam cleaner into the next room.
Let the Carpet Dry Completely
When you’ve finished scrubbing the floor with a steam vacuum cleaner or floor steamer, let it air out and dry before you replace the furniture or walk on the carpet. If you had to use a lot of shampoo with your floor steam cleaner, you’ll want to be sure that the floor was rinsed properly and has plenty of time to dry. Wear socks or cover your feet with plastic bags to prevent your shoes from soiling the carpet again or getting wet while the floor dries.
Protect Yourself from Fumes
If you use any shampoo or soap with your floor steam cleaner, chances are the scent will linger and permeate the room. Prevent the smell from overtaking your home or making you sick by airing the room out with a portable fan or opening windows and doors. You should also go outside after using a steam cleaner, either a floor cleaner or handheld steam cleaner, to avoid getting a headache from the smell.
Also Read: How to Clean A Glass Stove With Streaks
How to Steam Clean Your Area Rugs on Hard Floor
- Pick the area rugs up off the floor. If the rugs are large, you may need to roll them to remove them from the space.
- Cover the hardwood floor with a waterproof barrier. Use any kind of plastic sheeting or tarp, like painter’s plastic, and tape the plastic to the walls around the room with masking tape.
- Lay the area rugs that you want to steam clean back down on the covered hardwood floor. Follow the directions provided with the steam cleaner that you rented or purchased to use the specific steam cleaning machine properly.
- Allow the rugs to dry for 24 to 48 hours and then remove the rugs from the hardwood floor, pull up the plastic and return the rugs to their original locations.
How to Steam Clean Area Rugs Using Carpet Steamers
Vacuum Before Steam Cleaning Carpet
Carpet steamers (also known as carpet shampooers) aren’t vacuums. They’re specially designed to wash and at least partially dry carpets, extracting grime as they go. If you want them to get the ground-in dirt out of your carpet, you must vacuum thoroughly before steam cleaning. That doesn’t mean your usual quick back-and-forth over the rug, either.
- Pick up all toys, books and other items on the floor.
- Remove your furniture or, at the very least, pick up smaller pieces (floor lamps, ottomans, etc.) and take them to another room.
- Dust your baseboards, so you’re not just knocking stuff off of them and back onto your freshly-vacuumed carpet.
- Use your crevice attachment around the base of the walls and any remaining furniture.
- Vacuum carpeting in two directions, first slowly in one direction then again from a 90-degree angle. Although this seems like overkill, carpet fibers are twisted, so vacuuming from different directions ensures each “side” of the thread gets cleaned.
Prepare the Room for Steam Cleaning
If you can remove all of the furniture from the room, great. If not, you’ll want to cut squares of wax paper or aluminium foil and slide them beneath the edges or feet of furniture. This will protect your furniture and keep it from absorbing any moisture in the carpet left behind after steam cleaning. Leave them in place until the carpet is thoroughly dry, usually about a day.
It’s always a good idea to spot-test any cleaning product you plan to use on your carpet. I recommend testing in a closet or other out-of-the-way location. This way you don’t risk damaging or fading your carpet with a product that’s not right for it.
Use a 2-Step Process
If you are concerned about your machine’s warranty then, by all means, use the manufacturer’s recommended products. But note that these products are highly perfumed, something that can irritate allergies and asthma. I’ve also found they don’t clean any better than using a homemade solution while costing much, much more.
- Step One
For the first step, I use one tablespoon of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap for every quart of almost (but not) boiling water while filling my machine’s tank.
Castile soap is oil-based. Those darker places in high traffic areas on your carpet are also oil-based, usually from city grime from the bottom of your shoes. Castile soap is ideal for tackling these areas because “like dissolves like,” which means Castile soap is excellent at powering through many carpet stains all on its own.
Nevertheless, it is soap, so it needs to be rinsed out of the carpet to finish the cleaning. That’s where the second step comes in.
- Step Two
On the second go-through, use a 50-50 mix of white vinegar and very hot water. In addition to neutralizing and removing the soap, vinegar has stain-fighting properties. This second pass-through will lift away more dirt and grime while also deodorizing your carpet.
It is not necessary to follow it with a clean water rinse.
Operate the Steam Cleaner Properly
Most carpet steam cleaners are designed to lay down water when you’re pushing the machine forward then extract it while you pull it back.
Be sure to pull the cleaner VERY slowly so you can remove as much water as possible. Too much water left behind will cause your carpet padding to get soaked and can lead to mold, mildew, and horrible odors.
For this reason, it’s also best to steam clean carpeting when the weather is warm enough to open the windows since that will speed up drying. If you can’t open the windows, then run fans to help your carpets dry before mildew can set in.
This rug cleaning equipment is specifically designed to remove all dirt and debris that steam cleaners won’t pick up. If this dirt and debris are not removed from the rug, it will not only tear the rug fibers up over time, decreasing the look and value of the rug, it could also fester, creating possible health problems in the future.
How To Clean Area Rugs Yourself
Eventually, the time comes when your area rug or removable carpet needs more than just another vacuuming. If stains are piling up or there are deep-rooted problems with dust (or worse, dust mites), it’s time for a full cleaning. Fortunately, you don’t need to hire a professional to fully clean your rug! You just need the right tools, cleaner and approach. Here’s how to clean area rugs:
Set Up an Outdoor Station
Summer is an excellent time to clean your rug because you’ll need to do it outdoors. Pick a day when the forecast is clear and sunny (preferably for the next few days), and set up a station to clean your rugs. It shouldn’t be on the lawn, if possible (you don’t want any cleaners soaking into the grass), and the support system you choose needs to be a lot stronger than a clothesline, as rugs are usually quite heavy. If you have two trees, you can stretch bungee cords or thick rope between them. Benches and any sort of sturdy wall can also work.
Vacuum Thoroughly On Both Sides
Start with a thorough vacuuming. First vacuum the fibers, then flip the rug over and vacuum the other side to remove any lingering dust. When it’s clean, it’s time to roll it up carefully and take the rug outside to your cleaning station. Prop it up at the station with the right side facing you.
If your rug is still dusty at this stage, you can take a page out of the old frontier book and beat it with a broom handle or similar tool to knock even more dust out. Don’t whack too hard, but give the rug a few firm knocks to see if clouds of dust come out. If they do, keep whacking.
Test Out Carpet Shampoos
As a general rule, when finding out how to clean area rugs, always test out the carpet shampoo before you apply it to the whole rug. Apply a little to a small corner or patch, mix in some water, and let it settle for a few hours. Go back and rinse that spot off. Check carefully to see if there is any color damage or fiber damage. It’s a good idea to look for carpet shampoos designed for the materials that your rug is made with. Don’t try to make your own DIY rug cleaner or use other cleaners not intended for rugs and carpet!
Wash the Rug and Apply Shampoo
With a safe shampoo chosen, it’s time to pull out the garden hose and give your rug a good rinse. Don’t worry about getting it too wet, you need to prepare it well for the shampoo application. A sturdy brush with a stout handle is usually the best way to work the shampoo deep into the carpet fiber, but make no mistake, this step will require a lot of scrubbing and foam. Dress accordingly, get it wet and focus on any stains.
Rinse the Rug
Read the directions and leave the shampoo on your rug for as long as indicated. When the time comes, hose down the rug again. It’s important to rinse all the shampoo out, so you aren’t left with any residue.
Help the Rug Dry
This step requires patience. Try to wring the rug as much as possible to get rid of all the excess water. A squeegee can help with this step. After that, your rug will still be very wet and you’ll need to wait for it to dry completely before moving it back inside your house. This may take longer than a day—or even the weekend. Consider moving the rug to the laundry room or garage for more protected drying. When the rug is fully dry you won’t be able to feel any water even when you squeeze hard, and it will probably be a bit stiff.
Vacuum One Last Time
Put the area rug back in its place, and then give it one last vacuuming. The carpet fibers will probably be flattened and odd-looking after a washing. A thorough vacuuming is like combing your rug to restore its proper appearance.
Cleaning Your Area Rug Yourself
Before you get started, assess your rug. Antique carpets, Persian rugs, and other delicate pieces should be left to the professionals. These types of rugs are expensive to replace, so it pays to invest in their care to keep them in great shape. Rugs should only be cleaned when they are visibly dirty or have an odor.
Things you need, includes; rug shampoo (or mild dish detergent), Bucket, soft- brush or sponge, and water.
Optional things you need; rubber gloves, garden hose, wet-dry vacuum, remove Dirt and Debris.
Vacuum on The Rug Both Sides.
If you have used a carpet cleaning service or steam cleaner on your rug before you may have noticed that the back of the rug never gets touched. The back of the rug is just as important to clean as the front of the rug. When you are cleaning just the surface it is not reaching the fabric in the back, so you are getting only a partial cleaning job done. If you want a thorough cleaning you need to clean both sides and get it done right. If you have pets, use the brush attachment to get any stray hairs.
Mix Your Cleaner
If you purchased a rug shampoo, follow the directions on the bottle for mixing. You can also use mild dish detergent mixed in a bucket with warm water. Do not use hot water as it can shrink the rug or cause fading.
Do a Color Test
Before you start scrubbing, make sure the cleaner doesn’t cause the colors to run. Test the solution on the corner of the rug to make sure it is colorfast. If the color doesn’t bleed, it’s safe to move on to the next step.
Wash the Rug
Using a sponge or soft-bristle brush, work the cleaning solution into a lather on the rug. Let the cleaner sit on the rug for a few minutes before rinsing.
Rinse the Rug
Rinse the soap out of the rug using a garden hose or buckets of clean water. Make sure all the cleaning solution is removed from the rug and the runoff water is clear.
Remove Excess Water
At this point, you’ll want to get rid of as much excess water in the rug as you can so it will dry faster. You can use a wet-dry vacuum if you have one, or use a squeegee in the direction of the nap.
Let the Rug Dry
Lay the rug flat and allow to the top to dry completely. Flip over to let the bottom side dry. Fans can help speed up the process. Make sure the rug is fully dry before you return it to the room.