Rug Wash in the Great Outdoors

One day a picnic table, the next a wash station
One day a picnic table, the next…a wash station

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

  1. Thoroughly vacuum the front and back of the rug before taking it outside.
  2. 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).
  3. Place the rug facing down. dirty rug cleaning
  4. Add a spray nozzle to your garden hose for added pressure. (Embedded dog fur is no pushover.)
  5. 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.hosing off rug
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
    rug on log cleaning with hose
  8. Allow the rug to dry in a shaded area.kazak rug cleaning
  9. Direct sun can quickly fade the dyes in the fiber. Flip a couple times until dry.
  10. Optional but encouraged: Have a stern talking to any third parties who see your rug as their serviette. Boz Gracie napping bulldogs

Now if only I could use the hose on my upholstered furniture…

Boz the bulldog on his throne
I’m sure Boz is taking in all of my instructions for keeping the cleaned rugs clean.


15 thoughts on “Rug Wash in the Great Outdoors”

  • Perfect tutorial on the washing of handwoven rugs! If extremely dirty and a mild soap (like Woolite) is used to wash, make sure all soap is rinsed away since anything remaining will attract dirt.

    • Thanks Eileen, good tip. Yep it may be time to buck up and slipcover my two armchairs. My friend Karen, makes them out of white canvas from a new painters drop-cloth.

  • Excellent plan. I’ve never washed my rugs, but good to have a photographic demo. Our Egyptian carpet seller friend advised using baby shampoo for particularly dirty spots, but I’ve gotten away with water and a very mild, very dilute citrus-based cleaner for our family’s feline version of such dirt: cat hair, cat barf and the odd prey-related stain (mouse bits, bird guts). Sigh. Tom, at least dogs don’t use chair arms (or rugs) as scratching posts. We have about given up on upholstered furniture, and are sticking with manly but boring leather.

    • Kathy, that made me chuckled; you’re right, at least no mouse parts or scratching-post attempts around here. And you’re not alone, I do have a leather sofa, with so much “patina” one would would find it hard to describe the color.

  • This was great, Tom. I am sure the dogs are pleased you finally did their laundry. ha Tough job for only 2 hands to flip and turn, but you had 4 eyes watching intently, I am sure.

    • Susan, under their supervision, I do seem to get a lot done on my own. Hey I wanted to applaud your artful handiwork in the basket-making realm. Wow! Do you take commissions? Warm regards, Tom

  • Tom, love the tutorial on cleaning the beautiful rug. As for cleaning you chairs I have a suggestion. Microfiber gloves or a cloth, a mixture of 1 c. water, 2 c. vinegar, 1 T.baking soda and 10 drops of essential oil (optional). Soak the microfiber glove, wring it out, and wipe the chair. I use this to clean my cat hair from the furniture. Does a great job and it doesn’t smell bad. Love your Boz and Gracie!

  • Tom,
    Thanks for the pictorial tutorial…beautiful rug!
    I have Cairn Terriers, and they, too, use my rugs for napkins. But they are so charming in their disregard for cleanliness and godliness. You booted me to deal with it on a calendar basis. Thanks,
    Pat (in Sebastopol, CA)

    • Hi Pat, yep Cairn Terriers (like bullies) are about as cute as a dog should be. I often say the line from West Wing when talking to Boz and Gracie, “I serve at the pleasure of your two.” Thanks for the visit!

  • I’m with you Tom…area rugs are the way to go. Although, I must say, taking a spray hose to rugs in a new invention I have not seen before….like the idea of woolite…I may give it a go!

  • I had a friend who was a hand-knitter (she sold her work at juried craft fairs across the Northwest), and she advised against using Woolite on natural fibers. Instead, she told people to use a plant-based product such as Murphy’s Oil Soap on all types of wool, silk, cotton, etc.

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