How To Clean An Area Rug At the Carwash

Being a homeowner can be difficult at times. It seems there is always something that needs cleaned or fixed. I’m blessed to have hardwoods throughout my home, but that also comes with the problem of having to purchase area rugs to soften rooms. But renting a rug cleaner for just one large area rug doesn’t always make sense. So, what other option do I have?

If you look around the Internet, you’ll find an interesting trend: cleaning your area rugs at the car wash. Believe it or not, this actually works, and can cost as little as ten dollars for the whole process. It’s as simple as rolling up your rug, driving it to the car wash, cleaning it yourself, and then letting it dry at home.

how to clean an area rug at the carwash

There are a few steps you need to follow when using this hack to prevent further issues with your rug. Also, it’s important to only use this option on an inexpensive rug since it can be damaged from the powerful water stream. On that same idea, there is another option for rug cleaning at home: power washing.

What Is an Area Rug?

If you’ve never lived in a home with hard wood floors, you may not really understand the purpose of an area rug. With carpeting all around, why would you need a decorative rug? There are several reasons, such as keeping feet warmer in the winter, protecting the hardwoods from scratches, and for sprucing up a space.

An area rug is the same thing as a carpet but on a smaller scale. This piece of rug can come in a variety of sizes and is bound on the ends to make a clean piece. This edging is often referred to as serging, which gives the rug a sewn finish. These rugs can be made of different naps and designs for more color and visual appeal than a typical wall-to-wall carpet.

Many people bring area rugs into their homes to decorate the space and make it look complete. Typically, area rugs are used to box off areas of the home, hence the name. For instance, you’ll often see an area rug under a dining room table and chairs, a bed, or in the living room where the couch, chairs, and coffee table are located. Today, some rugs are made of materials safe to use outdoors, and they are used on decks to tie together a seating area. Long, thinner rugs tend to run down hallways to add dimension to the hall.

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The problem is that a lot of times, these areas are high traffic. Because these area rugs are constantly used, they get quite dirty (I’m looking at you, outdoor rugs). Typically, these are too large to throw in the wash. Even if they are small enough, like hallway rugs, it is not recommended since the backing can come off in the wash, and they can damage your washer. Avoiding a shampoo rug rental or steam cleaner can save you money, so what options do you have?

Washing at the Car Wash

It’s important to remember that rugs must be washed at old carwashes. The new, automated ones will not work because you need to be able to control the stream of water (plus they often use waxes, which will just make things worse). So, be sure to go to a carwash that has the wand for washing by hand.

Once you’ve packed up your carpet, unroll it at the carwash. Try to pick off-hours so that there isn’t a line of people waiting to clean their cars behind you. Many of these car washes have clips hanging from the wall to hang out your car mats for washing. If the rug is small enough, clip it up to let water and scum drip off the edge. If not, roll it out on the ground, avoiding the drains.

Next, add the quarters to your machine and turn the dial to pre-rinse. Allow the wand to blow water onto the ground for a few moments to clear any old wax that may still be in the wand from previous washes. Then, spray down your rug with the water. You don’t really need to focus any pattern at this point, just wet it.

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After the rug is wet down, use the soap brush available (typically long-handled) to scrub down your rug. Be sure to focus on high traffic spots, but be sure to take some time with this step, since this is where the cleaning happens. If there is no brush, use the soap setting on the spray wand to soak your rug, and use a sturdy brush that you brought from home.

Afterward, set the wand to rinse, and spray down the rug. If it’s hanging, start at the top and work your way down in rows, like a “Z” pattern. Run the spray until the water runs clear at the bottom of the rug. If the rug is on the ground, follow the same pattern, just start at the edge of the rug that is on the highest slant of the floor (most car wash floors slant so water can run to drains). This may take more than one round of quarters, but it will be worth it.

Let the rug drip dry before rolling up. Lay it over a banister at home, your truck bed, or on the ground in a sunny spot to dry.

Washing at Home

There is always the possibility that your area no longer has these old wand-style carwashes. They are always getting updated for the modern times. Or maybe you just don’t want to take the rugs to another place to clean. Another option is to use a power washer at home. This works great as well, because it is still a handheld wand and doesn’t cost you more than energy and water bill costs.

Power washers can be extremely powerful, so you need to be careful when selecting this choice. Be sure to use only rugs that you’d be fine having get ruined if everything turns South. Some power washers have different tips to use for different jobs. If this is the case, it is not recommended to use anything stronger than the 20-degree tip. A 40-degree tip will work well to get the rug wet and soaped up, while the 20-degree tip will help to rinse the soap out of the rug.

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Other than this, you pretty much have the same process as you do at a garage.

  1. Sweep the driveway where you plan to lay the rug.
  2. Vacuum off any debris to make the cleaning process easier.
  3. Lay your rug out on your driveway. If you have a slanted driveway or hill in your yard, this will work best.
  4. Wet down the rug with a 40-degree tip.
  5. Spot treat any stains with a good stain remover. Otherwise, plain dish soap and water will work with the power washer. Use white vinegar if you have any bad smells, like pet odors, to neutralize the smells.
  6. Scrub down the entire rug with a broom or long handled brush (save your back from bending over with a long-handle).
  7. Let the soap sit for a moment to really absorb into the fibers of the rug. Since you’re not paying by the minute, you can afford to wait.
  8. Begin in the highest corner of the rug, and use the same “Z” pattern to rinse with the 20-degree tip. Again, this will take many runs through the rug to get all the soap and dirty out.
  9. After letting the rug sit for a few moments, flip the rug over and spray the back. This will get rid of excess soap hanging out below.
  10. Flip over the rug once more, and run one final spray to get any loose rocks or grass off (vacuum when you get it inside to help with this as well).
  11. Hang the rug to drip dry on a fence, railing, or truck bed. If you don’t have anything to hang the rug on, lay it out on the ground to dry in the sun, though this will take longer.