Can you wash a rug? And should you? Don’t make this mistake!

Rugs are great to have. They make your home stand out. But let’s face it… they’re sometimes too delicate and time-consuming when trying to keep them clean, especially in high-traffic places like entryways or dining rooms.

Having them neat and clean can be very difficult. You may not have the time to deep clean your rugs as often as they should! And as dirt, dust, pet odors and stains start to pile up… you start wondering why you didn’t buy a machine washable rug… well, maybe it is and you don’t even know!

carpet washing

But even if it isn’t a washable rug, here we are to help you get your rugs all cleaned up and looking brand new!

Well… yes and no. First, you have to assess your rug. Depending on the fabric, you’ll be able to clean your rug at home or you’ll have to hire a professional rug cleaner. The best way to determine if you can wash your rug in the washer is to read the care tag. If you don’t find it you can always ask the manufacturer.

Cheat sheet to know if your rug is washable!

It’s a known fact… the washer or washing machine (call it as you may) is one of the most time-saving machines we can have in our house (if not the most!), as far as cleaning is concerned. Many household items can be thrown into the washer and have them all freshened up in no time. Just be sure to check the care tag first!

Now, when trying to see if your rug is washable, first you need to look for the care tag. They are usually placed on the underside of the rug. Here you have the meaning of the most important tag symbols for you to fully understand it!

– Tub filled with water: washing machine

– Square: dryer

If either of them (or both) are crossed with an “X” it means that the rug CAN’T be washed or machine dried. Sometimes, manufacturers prefer to use other types of coding, such as the following:

can the carpet be washed

Leaving codes and symbols aside, the materials from which rugs are made are also a good indicator to determine if your rug is washable or not.

Rugs can be made of very different type of materials such as wool, cotton, jute, nylon, polyester, silk, etc.

As a general guide, if your rug is relatively inexpensive, then it will probably be machine washable. If your rug is made up of delicate fabrics such as silk, wool or natural fabrics, then washing them in the washer will probably damage them.

Here’s a guide to make it easier for you:

– Natural rugs (such as wool, vegetal fiber, leather rugs): they should NEVER be washed in the washer if you want them to look nice and brand new. If they need a deep clean, then hiring a professional will save you from lots of trouble! You may think they’re too expensive, but the truth is… buying a new one can be even more expensive! Not to mention, how hard it is to find a rug you like…

natural carpet

– Cotton rugs and Synthetic rugs (acrylic and polypropylene rugs): you can safely throw them into the washing machine without any risk. Some say even small braided and woven rugs can go into washing machines as well. Just to be safe, use the gentle cycle with cold water.

Cotton rug

– Antique rugs (such as oriental and Persian rugs), and other delicate fabrics should be cleaned by professionals. What I said about Natural Rugs also applies in this case. This type of rugs usually have lots of bright colors on it and washing them at home will most likely produce color fading or bleeding.

Antique rugs

How to wash a rug in the washer

By now, you should know if your rug is machine washable or not.

Now it’s time to take action. Just a few simple steps and you’ll have your rug looking brand new!

1. Start shaking the rug and vacuuming it thoroughly to remove all the dirt and dust you can before throwing it into the washer.

2. Pre-treat all spot and stains accordingly to help the washer clean them away. Let it sit between 15 and 30 minutes.

3. Turn on the washer and set it on the most delicate cycle (they usually use a slow/slow combination with cold water).

4. Add a neutral detergent. But be careful! Use only half of the detergent you would normally use for the same amount of load.

5. Throw the rug in. It should be evenly spread inside. Some say adding a towel or two helps the washer obtain better results, but the rug should have enough room inside the washer to move around.

6. Close it and let the washer do it magic.

7. Once the cycle has finished, set the washer to run another rinse cycle to ensure you’re getting rid of almost all the detergent.

Once you’ve done all these steps, you can either let the rug air dry or use the dryer if you don’t have the time to wait. Here you have the pros and cons of each option:

a. Our recommendation is to let it dry naturally as it will make the rug last longer, and keep its original shape and color. Hang it in a place away from direct sunlight to avoid bleaching. If you can’t hang it because it’s too large or can easily stretch, leave it on a flat surface but don’t let it sit there too long. You will need to flip it every hour or so to prevent mold and mildew from appearing.

b. If you decide to use the dryer, make sure it’s ok to do so by looking at the care tag. Use the air only cycle to remove the excess of moisture.

dry the rug

Problems when using a Washer

In case you’ve decided to wash your rug in the washing machine, you should be aware of the problems that may arise from washing your rug in the washer:

– It can shrink, looking uneven or even bumpy, if you use a dryer after washing your rug in the washer.

– Look out for color fading! If you want to prevent it, avoid a warm water cycle.

– It can shorten the useful life of your rug. Each time you wash your rug in the washer, the fabric gets damaged due to the agitation and detergents used. But the risk of having any of these problems can be reduced, as we said earlier, if you use a slow/slow combination cycle in your washer, with cold water and a neutral detergent. And for the dryer, use the air-only cycle.

Not washable? You still have other options!

Well, don’t worry!

Washable rugs can be easier to maintain but on the other side, they may not look as pretty as the one you’ve got. And almost always, there’s something you can try to clean it before having to hire a professional.

If you want to try and clean it all by yourself we have an Ultime Guide for Rug Cleaning at home, in which we poured out all our knowledge on rug cleaning. You have a section in it where we talk about the different types of rugs and you can find tips and recommendations.

If you’re not sure and don’t want to mess it up… (we get it, rugs are sometimes too expensive to risk damaging them with a DIY solution) you can always find the Best Rug Cleaner Professional near you and hire them to do the job. I promise you won’t regret it!


We answered this question because one of our readers sent us a message asking us.

Nancy Adams

I am a fan of home decor, I devote all my free time to this activity. One of the most important components of home comfort is carpets & rugs and at the same time, it is one of the poorly covered topics on the Internet. Therefore, I decided to share my experience and knowledge in this niche.

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