How to Wash a Rag Rug

We’re always being asked about the best way to go about washing rag rugs and finally today we’re going to share some of our tips and advice.

Over time rugs get a lot of wear and tear – people tramping back and forth across them, things being spilt and dust simply gathering. Of all the decoration in the house, rugs certainly have to work some of the hardest.

With an everyday wool rug, cleaning is simply a case of regular vacuuming and putting in a bit of elbow grease with a carpet cleaner as and when it’s needed. Rag rugs are a completely different kettle of fish. They should never be vacuumed (even if they are used in heavy duty areas such as kitchen or if you have dogs) as the pieces of fabric will likely come loose. Here’s how we clean our rugs…

Firstly, we never back our rag rugs. If you back a rag rug then the dust and grime can settle between the rag rugging and backing. The simplest way to keep a rag rug clean is to take it out once a month and beat it to force out all the dust and bits that have collected amongst the fabric strips. This will have the added benefit of plumping up the rug which will have become flattened over time. The colours and textures in the rug will show up more as if they’re new.

From time to time though, beating the rag rug just isn’t going to cut the mustard. We have a black and white shaggy checked rug in a hazardous area in our kitchen which often becomes a victim of stray food bits. The other day we decided “Checkmate” was due for a wash.

Checked Rag Rug

A few of you may well recognise this kitchen 🙂

Before we get started, a few words of warning. Firstly, you should never wash a partially made rag rug as the washing process tightens the holes in the hessian. We also do not recommend washing vintage rag rugs in the washing machine if possible. The hessian weakens over time so period rugs are more vulnerable. We also only wash our rag rugs on dry days so that they can be hung out for a time on the washing line afterwards.

The first thing we did is put our rug in a pillow case – this helps to protect it. We then put it in the washing machine on a really cool machine setting of around 30 degrees or cold. The hessian is ok at these temperatures but we’ve never tried any higher setting so wouldn’t recommend it. After we fished the rug out of the washing machine, one piece of rag had come out, but we easily hooked this back in.  You don’t need to necessarily put any pieces that have fallen out back into the rug as it won’t be noticeable that any have come out.

We then hung the rug out to dry on the washing line.

How to wash a rag rug

This is my black and white checked rug hanging out to dry in the sun.

After a few hours outside drying we brought it in and finished drying it out on the Aga, but you could put it anywhere you do your usual drying.

So that’s how you do your regular cleaning but if you have a really heavy stain, the best way to deal with it is to sponge the area with Vanish cleaner as soon as the spillage has happened. If that doesn’t work then as a last resort we would pull out the discoloured rags and rag rug the area with news ones. As long as you are careful to match to the colours or blend well then this shouldn’t be an issue – rag rugging is a very forgiving craft 😉

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