Coupling hardwood flooring with an area rug can be both aesthetically pleasing and convenient. After all, wood floors, once installed, are relatively low-maintenance, and area rugs provide you with that extra pop of style to compliment the room. However, the fact of the matter is accidents are occasionally going to happen, and it’s not always going to be practical for you to take a large area rug outside, or to a dry cleaner. 

This means that you’re left with the necessity of taking care of it in situ. But knowing how to clean an area rug on hardwood floor is not always immediately obvious. You don’t want to use the wrong product for the job, risking ruining an expensive piece of carpeting. Not to mention the potential for wood flooring underneath to take collateral damage. 

The good news is, with a little care and preparation, you can take care of most area rug mishaps simply. We’ll guide you through a few areas of focus, along with some tips to help you get the best possible result. 


When spillages occur, it can be easy to fall victim to panic, which can in turn lead to further mistakes being made. One of the most important steps in how to clean an area rug on a hardwood floor is taking a moment to step back, assess the situation, and make appropriate preparations. 


  • Mitigation — In the event of a liquid spillage, this involves gently soaking up any excess fluid. Use a paper towel or rag to carefully blot the area. If the spill is something more substantial such as food, or the fluid has dried, scrape at the area using a windshield scraper or bread knife, pulling up and disposing of excess dirt. Don’t scrub or rub the spillage at this stage, as this can exacerbate the issue. 
  • Remove Debris — Whether it’s an unexpected spillage, or long-term grime, you don’t want to make the situation more difficult by mixing loose dirt up in your cleaning solution. Take a vacuum, and run it along the full upper surface of the area rug. You can use a broom or lightly beat the rug to ensure that no clouds of dirt or dust are rising before proceeding.
  • Protect the Hardwood — A significant spillage can result in fluids leaking through to the hardwood underneath. Lift the rug, mop up any excess liquid, and lay a ground sheet. This also helps to protect your hardwood floor from any damage that could be caused by stain removers or cleaning products you’ll be using. 
  • Spot Testing — There are various methods for stain and grime removal, which we’ll go into shortly. However, if you haven’t used a cleaner or solution on your rug before, it’s important to perform a spot test. Apply a small amount of the solution to a corner of the rug, along with a little water, and leave it for a few hours. This will reveal whether it is likely to affect the color of the rug.  

Carpet Shampoo   

Particularly if your rug is made from synthetic materials, an off-the-shelf carpet shampoo can be an effective option. As you’ll be applying this while it’s still on the hardwood floor, be mindful of how much warm water you’re applying to the area.

  • Use a moist brush to gently work the shampoo into the stained area. 
  • Work from the outside of the stain and move toward its center, to mitigate the potential for the stain to spread. 
  • Prepare a 1:1 solution of water and white vinegar, and lightly brush it into the cleaned area to help remove excess detergent. 
  • Dry the area by first using rags to soak up excess moisture. Then use a fluffy towel, making sure to carefully push any plush rug fibers back into an upright position.

Baking Soda and Hot Water

When considering how to clean an area rug on hardwood floor, one of the simple and versatile options is a sodium bicarbonate paste. It’s effective on a wide variety of stains and spillages, including wine, juice, coffee, grime, and even sticky substances. 

  • Sprinkle the dry baking soda over the affected area. If you’re cleaning the entire rug, be sure to spread this evenly throughout, in order to keep the effect consistent. If you are applying it to a fresh spillage, you should be able to see the chemical reaction fizzing. 
  • Using a damp brush or cloth, gently work the baking soda into the fibres of the fabric. You’re not looking to use enough water to dilute the sodium bicarbonate, just enough that it turns the powder into a thick, pale paste. 
  • Leave it to dry for a couple of hours. 
  • Vacuum the rug when dry to remove the remains of the baking soda and stain. 

Steam Cleaning

A rug can be a great addition to your home, but it’s essential that you keep it looking fresh. While there are creative and cost effective options for how to clean an area rug on hardwood floor, sometimes it’s worth the time and investment to rent a steam cleaner. 

While this can inject life back into your rug, and take care of most persistent stains, it’s important to be wary of how this could affect your hardwood flooring. By their nature, steam cleaners emit a significant amount of water vapor, and as such you must make sure that your floors are adequately water sealed, you keep windows open where possible to aid natural drying, and that you place a sufficient barrier layer between your rug and the floor.  

Conclusion — Keep it Fresh

The reality of life is that you’re unlikely to be able to keep your soft furnishings in pristine condition. However, by taking the time to understand how to clean an area rug on hardwood floor, you have a toolkit that can help you keep it fresh for years to come. 

Remember to: 

  • Prepare for cleaning by both vacuuming the rug and protecting the flooring beneath
  • Use a baking soda and warm water paste to remove stubborn stains
  • If using carpet shampoo, brush the stain from the outside to the inside to prevent spreading
  • Invest in occasional all-over steam cleaning to keep your rug in peak condition for longer


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