Rugs are beautiful décor elements. However, they tend to see a lot of activity, especially in high traffic areas like the living room and kitchen. At some point, vacuuming will no longer be enough to get rid of the stains, and you’ll start considering your options.

You might be able to wash your rug in the washing machine. If it is made of cotton or synthetic fiber and a rubber backing that hasn’t worn out, you can wash it in the washing machine. Small woven or braided rugs can also be washed in the machine. Anything else and you have to be very careful.

If you wash a heavy rug or one that doesn’t meet the criteria above in your regular machine, you run the risk of damaging both the machine and the rug. Even with rugs that can be washed in the machine, you need to do it right. The rest of the article will cover all the details you need.

Why You Shouldn’t Wash Every Rug in the Washing Machine

As you’ve seen above, cotton, synthetic fiber, and polyester rugs can go in the washing machine with little or no problem. If the rug is made of wool or silk, on the other hand, a lot can go wrong, including the following:

  • Color bleeding: Washing some rugs in the washing machine can cause the color to bleed, especially when you use cold water. You can mitigate the color bleeding, but it is hard to eliminate it completely.
  • Shorter lifespan: The stress that rugs go through in a washing machine will most likely break down older rugs. Even for new silk or wool rugs, putting them in a machine even once is enough to leave them looking uneven.
  • Damaged fabric: Laundry detergent isn’t good for rugs made of wool and silk. These materials are protein-based, and the proteases in detergents will only break them down in the process of removing stains.
Dog paws on a dirty white rug.

How to Wash Rugs in the Washing Machine: Step-by-Step

Do you have rugs that can go in the washing machine? Here are the steps you have to follow:

1. Read the Label

What does the care label on the rug say? Some rugs are designated as machine-washable by the manufacturer. Some examples include Hebe Cotton and Actcut Super Soft. If the label says “dry clean only,” the color may wash off in the machine. If you can’t find the label anymore or read what is written on it, just go with the recommendations above.

2. Shake Off Dirt

You need to take the rug outside and get rid of the dirt by shaking it vigorously. Consider hitting the rubber side of the rug to force out as much dirt as possible. Alternatively, you can beat the rug on the floor outside if it is paved, or by the side of the fence. The excess dirt, food particle, pet hair, or small toys stuck in the rug can ruin your washing machine.

3. Pre-Treat Stains and Spots

After you’ve removed as much dirt as possible, the next step is to get rid of the stains in the rug as well as you can. There are different approaches for different kinds of stains, including beverage spills and pet “mishaps.” If you don’t know the cause of the stain, apply a small amount of liquid laundry detergent to the spot and rub it in slowly. Once the stain is properly covered, leave it for around half an hour.

4. Load the Machine

When you are done with treating the stains, it is time to put the rug in the machine. Is your machine a front-load model? You can either wash two rugs of the same size or add two towels in the machine with one rug for the best results.

If you are using a top-load washing machine, on the other hand, you should ensure the load is even on all sides. You can achieve this by distributing the rug evenly around the center agitator and adding towels to achieve the perfect balance.

5. Wash the Rug

To wash the rug, you should set it to delicate and fill it with cold water. Ensure the rug has enough room to move freely during the wash. Add your detergent, but not too much. Rugs need less detergent than your typical laundry.

You should avoid using chlorine bleach with rugs that have anti-slip or rubber backing. The chemicals can damage the rubber while in the washing machine, ruining the rest of your carpet. Oxygen-based bleach brands like Grab Green and Charlie’s Soap are a better way to brighten your rubber-backed rug without any damage to them.

6. Dry the Rug

With the materials used in making most rugs, you need to allow a lot of time for the rug to dry. Don’t put it in the dryer as the heat can melt the rubber-backing, as well as other parts of the rug. Instead, air-dry the rug on a clothesline or over the fence. However, don’t put it under direct sunlight as the colors may start to fade.

Once your rug is properly dry, it’s good to go indoors again.

Other Tips to Keep in Mind When Washing Rugs

  • Although it makes sense to regularly clean your rug, throwing it in the washing machine too frequently will only weaken it faster. The rubber backing on most machine-washable rugs can only withstand a few spins in the machine before disintegrating. You should only use the washing machine when it is absolutely necessary.
  • If you are not sure of how the rug will fare in a washing machine, it may be best to take it to a professional rug washing business. This is especially true for pricey rugs or those that have a lot of sentimental value.
  • If you are thinking of combing your rug with your other clothing, don’t. You will end up damaging your clothes, and in some cases, the rug as well.


Once your rugs get odorous or visibly too dirty, you may feel the need to throw them in the washing machine immediately. While there is technically nothing wrong with this, you need to slow down a bit to be sure you are taking the right approach to avoid damaging your rugs and the washing machine.

If you are unsure about your machine’s ability to wash a rug, take it to a Laundromat. They’ll probably have the right machine for this type of washing, but don’t forget to ask first.

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