How to Clean an Area Rug on a Hardwood Floor

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how to clean area rug on hardwood floor

Area rugs are incredible at defining a space, protecting the underlying floor, and of course, adding style to a room.

But as great as they are, they still get dirty and need to be cleaned. If your area rug is on a hardwood floor, it’s understandable that you’d be worried about cleaning it. After all, wood is susceptible to heat and water damage.

The best way to clean an area rug on hardwoods is to move it to a non-porous floor. If you do this, you can use a steam cleaner or carpet shampooer on the carpet. Your second-best option is to lay a tarp under the rug before cleaning. If that’s not possible, you need to hand-clean your rug.

How Clean an Area Rug on Hardwoods: Step by Step

clean area rug on hardwoods

The safest way to clean an area rug is to move it to a harder, more durable floor like tile or vinyl. By doing this, you can safely shampoo or steam clean without worrying about damaging or scratching up your hardwoods.

The second safest method is to lay down a tarp or thick sheet of plastic on the hardwoods before cleaning. You can safely use any type of cleaning method when doing this since it won’t penetrate the underlying floor.

However, if you don’t have a tarp or any non-porous flooring to move your rug to, you can still clean your area rug.

Here’s what to do:

Vacuum the Rug, Rug Pad, and Floor

Start by thoroughly vacuuming your area rug. (If you don’t have a vacuum, try one of these methods.)  Once you have the carpeted portion cleaned, flip it over and vacuum the back. 

Take your carpet pad outside and shake out any dirt or debris.

Now, sweep and mop the underlying hardwood floor giving it plenty of time to try before placing your rug and pad back.

Hand Clean the Rug

After the hardwoods are clean and dry, it’s time to put the area rug back in place and give it a good cleaning.

Mix one tablespoon of clear dish soap like Dawn with four cups of warm water. Dip a soft-bristled scrub brush into the mixture and use it to scrub your area rug. Use gentle circular motions. As you clean, blot dry with a towel. 

Once the carpet is dry, vacuum it.

Frequently Asked Questions

faq clean an area rug on a hardwood floor

Can you shampoo an area rug on hardwood floors?

If you want to use a carpet shampooer on your area rug, you need to place a thick piece of plastic (like a tarp) underneath it to protect your hardwood floors. Failure to do this could result in water damage to your floors and void their warranty.

Can you steam clean an area rug on hardwood floors?

While steam cleaning a rug on hardwood floors most likely won’t cause damage, it is still a risk. Moving the area rug to a more durable surface like vinyl or tile before steam cleaning is your safest option.

How can I clean an area rug without moving it?

If you want to clean an area rug without moving it, hand wash it. This allows you to control the amount of moisture you use, making it a safe option for hardwood and laminate floors. To hand clean your rug, vacuum it, and then use a scrub brush and gentle cleaner on it.


If you’re wondering how to clean an area rug on a hardwood floor, the safest option is to hand clean. By hand cleaning, you don’t have to worry about your carpet getting oversaturated or overheated.

If you want to use a steam cleaner or shampooer on your rug, simply move the rug to a non-porous surface or place a tarp underneath it.

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Katie Barton lives with her husband and three daughters in an 1800’s style log cabin in southern Ohio. She thinks cleaning is relaxing and is considered the organizing go-to person by her family and friends. She runs the blog Cabin Lane where she shares about cleaning, decluttering, and minimalism. See full biography here.

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