I have a penchant for area rugs — small to large, bold to muted, plain to intricate. While I grew up with the wall-to-wall sculptured berber and the jolly shags of mid-century modern, my Uncle Mike and Aunt Esther introduced me to the wonders of Persian rugs seemingly too beautiful to step foot on, but that’s not how they saw it. Some rooms boasted two or three rugs stacked like paisley pancakes, used, abused, admired and beautifully woven into daily life. My Uncle once told me that in the old country (a favorite term of his), rugs would be placed in the street, enlisting foot traffic, sun, and a little dirt to soften the palette. A thorough washing would transform the brazen to the harmonious and the everyday to magic-carpet status.
Now while my carpets may not have lined the backstreets of Beirut, I think such an assignment would have been less wearing to their warp and weft than the floorboards of my old farmhouse. You see the streets of my Uncle’s Middle East did not have to endure the onslaught of scoots, drools, farts, piddles, fur and muddy paws of one Boz and one Gracie. Bulldogs are the Oscar Madison’s of the dog world. If I may co-opt a phrase from my late friend John, “It’s not a rug; it’s Boz and Gracie’s napkin.”
After a long winter of beastly abuse, my rugs are headed to the great outdoors for a thorough washing and revitalization.
How to Wash an Area Rug in the Great Outdoors
- Thoroughly vacuum the front and back of the rug before taking it outside.
- Place the rug on a frame that will elevate the rug and allow water to drain off easily (e.g., picnic table, fence, hammock stand, porch rail and lawn furniture).
- Place the rug facing down.
- Add a spray nozzle to your garden hose for added pressure. (Embedded dog fur is no pushover.)
- Hose off the underside side of the rug, starting with a back-and-forth motion, working from the highest point to the lowest. Repeat the process several times.
- Flip the entire rug over so the top surface is seen. Most handmade rugs are so tightly woven that the water does not penetrate to the other side. As you can see below, the board underneath is still dry.
- Repeat the process three to four times of hosing down the rug with a standard garden nozzle set to a forceful stream. (I would stay away from using power pressure washers.) Start from the top working your way to the bottom. Gravity is your friend.
- Allow the rug to dry in a shaded area.
- Direct sun can quickly fade the dyes in the fiber. Flip a couple times until dry.
- Optional but encouraged: Have a stern talking to any third parties who see your rug as their serviette.
Now if only I could use the hose on my upholstered furniture…