How to Clean and Care For an Outdoor Rug

Outdoor rugs and door mats serve as wonderful ways to add style and comfort to your patio space, but as they become exposed to outdoor elements and regular wear-and-tear, rugs can start to look drab. Luckily, it’s easy to keep them looking fresh with a simple outdoor rug cleaning routine. Learn how to clean an outdoor rug to get the most out of your investment and keep it looking new with our tips and simple care instructions.

Below we’ll explore the following topics:

  • Supplies you’ll need for outdoor rug maintenance
  • How to wash an outdoor rug
  • How to spot clean your rug
  • Mold and mildew removal
  • Outdoor rug maintenance tips

Supply List

When learning how to clean an indoor/outdoor rug, it’s important to have all the right tools. You probably have many of the items on this list in your home already.

Depending on the type of spots you’re dealing with, you may need some or all of the following supplies:

  • Broom
  • Vacuum
  • Hose
  • Cleaning solution – Preserve the color of your rug by using a mild detergent that won’t cause fading. You can buy specialized products like rug shampoo or make your own cleaner by mixing a tablespoon of clear dish soap with a gallon of water.
  • Bucket
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Gentle scrub brush – A bristled brush like a deck brush is best for woven rugs, while a sponge mop is ideal for rugs with a smoother texture.

Steps for Washing an Outdoor Rug

  1. Remove excess dirt and debris by shaking or sweeping your outdoor rug.
  2. Clean smaller dust particles with your vacuum. For the best effect, vacuum both sides of your rug to loosen any remaining dirt.
  3. Using your cleaning solution and scrub brush, gently scrub both sides of your indoor/outdoor rug with a small amount of solution.
  4. Rinse your rug using your hose to remove all the cleaning solution. To avoid having your rug sit in the water, try laying it on a driveway or other inclined surface. If possible, you can also hang it or drape it over a fence.
  5. Allow your rug to dry completely, flipping it regularly to ensure both sides are fully dry. Whenever possible, dry your rug in the sun to help guard against mold and mildew.

Spot Cleaning

While washing your rug is helpful to maintain the overall freshness and lifespan, not all spills and stains require a full wash. When you just have a small stain or soiled area, revitalize your rug with this simple spot cleaning process:

  1. Blot any liquid. If the spill is fresh, soak up any excess liquid using a clean towel. Avoid rubbing and, instead, blot gently until all moisture is removed.
  2. Remove solids. For dried spills, gently scrape off any solid material with the edge of a knife or other utensil.
  3. Prepare your cleaner. For general spills, follow the same dish soap-and-water recipe as you would use for rug cleaning. For challenging stains, try these specialized solutions:
    Sticky stains like gum – Harden the material by freezing it with an ice pack, then proceed to scrape it off.
    Grease – As with your dishes, dish soap is the best bet for tackling grease and food stains on rugs, too.
    Red stains – For spills like red wine, gently blot (don’t rub) with club soda to remove the color as soon as possible.
  4. Blot with cleaner. Using a fresh sponge, take a small amount of cleaning solution and blot the stain. Repeat this step until you can’t see any spot left on the rug.
  5. Rinse. For small stains, simply clean your sponge and blot with fresh water to rinse. For larger patches, you can rinse with a hose as you would for a full clean.
  6. Dry the rug. While your rug dries, remember to check on it and flip as needed to ensure it dries all the way through. As mentioned, try to lay or hang your rug in the sunlight to help the drying process.

Removing Mold and Mildew

While most synthetic rugs are designed to resist mold and mildew, you may still find that it crops up occasionally in humid environments. Depending on your needs, follow the above steps for a full rug wash or spot clean, but swap out your detergent for baking soda and vinegar as your outdoor rug mold cleaner.

  • Gently sprinkle baking soda over the affected area of your rug.
  • Spritz the area with standard white vinegar and allow it to sit for five minutes.
  • Rinse your rug with a hose, then leave it to dry completely in the sun.

Not only do baking soda and vinegar eliminate moss and mildew, but the combination also works as a natural deodorizer that’s great for rugs in areas with pets or plenty of foot traffic.

Outdoor Rug and Maintenance Tips

Keep your outdoor rug looking its best with a few simple tips for long-term maintenance:

  • Store your rug when it’s not in use by rolling it up and covering it with a plastic bag or tarp. Remember to make sure your rug is completely clean and dry before putting it away for the season.
  • Check the tag to find the recommended care instructions for your specific outdoor rug. While some may require special care, most outdoor area rugs are crafted with long-lasting quality and can be cleaned with easy home solutions.
  • Reduce the build-up of dust and debris by vacuuming your rug on a regular basis. While it’s still a good idea to wash your rug before storing it for the season, vacuuming and sweeping regularly helps prevent odors and prolong the life of your area rug.

Follow the above tips on how to care for indoor/outdoor rugs to keep your space looking and feeling fresh. Whether you’re tidying up after regular use or treating a new spill, easy care for outdoor rugs makes it simple to get a pro-level clean at home. And for great ideas on how to select and style your outdoor rug, see our Outdoor Rug Guide.

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