TLC - how to clean your rag rug

Taking good care of a rag rug ensures its longevity and continued vibrancy in the colors. Simply airing out the rug or giving it a good shake is often sufficient to refresh it. But sometimes it might need a little more TLC.

All our rugs have been washed at 40 degrees Celsius, using a detergent without bleach.  This means that in theory, you can do the same.  But we have a very large and robust washing machine.  Many rugs are simply too large to fit into a regular washing machine – but the smaller rugs can be washed in a regular household washing machine. If it’s a larger rug, it might be good to skip the centrifuge. A wet rug can be very heavy. Better take it out right after the rinse, take it outside, roll the rug up, place it on the ground and step on it to squeeze out as much as possible of the water. Lay it out flat to dry and when it’s not as wet and heavy, you can hang it up to dry.

Do not attempt to tumble dry! 

However, repeated machine washing will eventually wear on the rug, so this should be avoided until necessary. Before doing that, there are other methods you can try, that are cheap and wear less on the rug.  Here are tips on how to clean a rag rug in many other ways.

Whip them!

Hang them up and give them a good, thorough bashing to get all the dust out.

If you spill something…

First try just cleaning that spot. A cloth, warm water and some regular dish detergent might be sufficient enough.

Baking soda

Using baking soda is an old household trick and as environmentally friendly as detergent comes. Dampen the rag rug by spraying a light mist of water over it. Sprinkle baking soda over the rug. Let it dry and then vacuum your rug or take it outside to give a good bashing as above. Flip to the other side and repeat.    

The snow is your friend

Using snow is an effective method for cleaning rag rugs, so if you live in an area where you get snow, grab the opportunity to give your rugs a quick and easy clean. Cold and dry snow helps restore the rug’s colors and freshness while eliminating bacteria, dust, and pet hair.

Follow these steps for snow cleaning your rag rug:

  1. Leave the rug outside in the cold while the temperature is below freezing. This kills bacteria and cools the rug, which is good for the snow cleaning method. A cold rug doesn’t melt the snow, thus making your rug all wet.
  2. Lay the rug flat on the snow and shovel some snow over it. Use a scrub brush or a broom and brush off the snow. Flip the rug and repeat.
  3. If you feel that it’s needed, you can also whip the rug, while it’s laying on the snowy surface. All the dirt you get out, will show on the snow.
  4. Shake the rug thoroughly before bringing it indoors again. Hang it to dry before placing it on the floor again.

The cold and the snow will brighten the colors and freshen up the rug, so it smells good again.  

Wash by hand

Back in the day rag rugs were often washed in the lake with soap (or dish detergent) and a scrub brush.

Everyone doesn’t have a lake or creek where this can be done, but today many of us have clean water in the garden hose and can do the washing in our own backyard on a wooden decking, a large table or similar.

Soak the rugs thoroughly with water. Mix warm water and soap/dish detergent in a bucket and scrub on to the rag rug. Scrub a portion at a time, from the center and outwards to the edges until the soap lathers. Leave the soap on the cleaned section, fold it, and let it rest while you scrub the remaining part of the rug. Turn the rug to the other side and repeat.

Once you finish the entire rug, rinse down with clean, cold water – from the center of the rug and towards the edges – to remove any trace of soap.

Roll the rug up, and step on it to squeeze out as much water as you can. Spread out the rug on the dock and let it dry in the sun. Or you can hang it up, if and when it’s not as heavy from water anymore. Make sure to hang it lengthwise – colored stripes going downwards. Sometimes the older, vintage rugs made with fabrics in bold colors might bleed and by hanging the rug with the stripes pointing down, the color will drip along the stripes.  As all our rugs have been machine washed by us, rugs with  disastrously bleeding colors have been sorted out. So not to worry, but hang the rugs lengthwise just to be safe.       

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