How to Clean a Thrifted Area Rug

Last Thursday, on a whim, I met my Mom for a little treasure hunting.  I was looking for furniture to paint trying to stay on track when I came across a rug I loved.  I could only see the corner but it looked like perfection.  The rug was rolled up, taped up and this store in particular won’t let you preview before purchase.  It’s kind of like what you see is what you get. To be honest, it feels like a game show where you just have to -take a chance on what’s behind “door number 3.”


I’ve purchased a few rugs sight unseen and so far they’ve all worked out.  The price on this rug was really good and for that reason alone it was worth taking the chance.   Besides, my mom had already said she would buy it from me if I got it home and it wasn’t the look I was after or I could sell it my booth.  The purchase seemed like a win- win.


Here are a few tips about cleaning a thrifted area rug:

Perform a Smell Check While You’re in the Store – I don’t know any other way to put it but you need to do a smell check.  I know.  It sounds so gross.  I’m not saying you need to put your nose directly on the rug but as your holding it up to admire the pattern if something foul like pet accidents, water damage or cigarette smoke waifs through the air it’s not going to be a good purchase. My rug smelled musty like it hadn’t seen the sunshine or a vacuum cleaner in 20 years.  This is also a good time to check the integrity of the rug. Make sure the tassels/fringe, binding and backing are in tact. I know this will be tough if your rug is rolled up so do your best to check the portions of the rug you can see.


Check for a Care Tag – It wasn’t until I got the rug home I realized it had a care tag.  The tag let me know it was ok to use mild detergent and water on the rug.  It also gave me a heads up about the makeup of the rug’s fibers.  I know vintage rugs and hand loomed rugs don’t always come with a label so make sure to understand the differences in fibers and textures prior to purchasing a rug.  If you’re buying from an antique store or vendor try to get as much information about the rug as possible.  This will help you make a more informed decision. Also, take a picture of the care tag using your camera or the camera on your phone.  That way, if you lose/misplace the original tag you’ll still have the care instructions available.


Shake, Sweep and Vacuum – As soon as you unrolled the rug, shake it out.  Then sweep it with a broom.  Next, vacuum the rug multiple times on both sides until you’re satisfied you’ve dislodged as much of the dirt/debris as possible.


Air it out – Given that rugs can be expensive most people take care of good rugs. You may only need to vacuum the rug really well and set it out in the sun to air out for a few hours. Just keep in mind the sun could cause color fading.


Apply a Generous Amount of Odor Neutralizing Powders – Natural products like baking soda have great odor neutralizing properties.  After researching the fibers in your rug to a make sure it’s suitable, apply a generous amount of a powdered odor neutralizer and allow it to sit for at least 24 hours.  Once the 24 hours have passed, complete the shake, sweep and vacuum steps again.


Clean with Mild Detergent or Carpet Cleaning Solution – Again, these steps will depend on the fibers in your rug.  For example, water weakens the fibers of grass rugs, coir, sisal and rush. Do a spot test in an inconspicuous corner to see if the fibers will shrink or cause color bleed through.  If cleaning with these products is deemed appropriate for your specific rug, fill a small container with warm water and a mild detergent.  Using a washcloth or rag gently wipe down the back of the rug and allow to dry.  Keep in mind you don’t want to saturate the fibers.  Once the back has completely dried, flip the rug over to the front and shampoo with carpet cleaning solution and an at home carpet cleaning machine only if appropriate. Allow to dry.  After these steps are completed, vacuum the rug on both sides again.


I can’t it emphasize enough, be educated about the fibers and materials that are in your rug. Cleaning an animal hair hide rug requires different care than that of a wool fiber rug.  If you’re purchasing an antique, hand knotted/woven, handmade, kilim or an oriental rug don’t take any chances and have it professionally cleaned.

As for my thrifted rug, it’s clean but I can’t say it has found a permanent home yet.  I’ve already tried it in several different places around the house.  The pattern is beautiful and has a lot of color in it.  Lots of red to be exact.  And you guys already know how I feel about color, right? I’ll keep you posted.

How to Clean a Thrift Store Area Rug - The Crowned Goat - Pinnable

Many blessings,


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  1. Great tips! I’ve passed a couple of deals because they needed cleaning. This info is good to know. Cute shoes too!!

    1. ha ha your sweet Angie! I’ve had to pass on a few that I thought may be too far gone to save but this one stole my heart. I’m glad I took the chance, now all I have to do is find the perfect spot for it….Hugs, CoCo

  2. CoCo – this rug is amazing and beautiful! Thanks for all of your wonderful tips. We have definitely come home with a couple of dud purchases that took quite a bit of cleaning once we got them home! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks so much ladies! It’s hard to know when to pass and when to take the chance on thrifted. I’ve been lucky so far but every little tip helps when you’re looking for rugs. Hope your day has been awesome, Coco

  3. What a gorgeous rug! These are some great cleaning tips. I never thought to vacuum the underside of a rug, but I’ll have to give that a shot (I hope I’m not outing myself as a terrible housekeeper!).

    1. Jamie, not at all! I had no idea my refrigerator shelves slid out until I started cleaning them last week 🙂 Hope your day has been totally awesome, Coco

  4. Thanks Coco! I love the colors in that rug, good deal, you picked the right door LOL. Once I washed a sisel and it would have been just fine and turned out great but I put it over a lawn chair back to dry and it misshaped. I should have just let it dry flat, although that would have taken longer. Lesson learned 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Mary Beth. It’s taken me a bit to get used to having so much color in this rug. I think that’s why I flipped it over – the colors were much more muted 🙂 I’m on the hunt for a few more rugs so hopefully I’ll have good luck with those as well. Hope your day was a happy one, Coco

  5. Thanks for all the good tips. I leave the sniff tests to Bluwaterguy, who I swear has the most sensitive nose on the east coast. And those are some cute shoes too! Bwg ~~~

    1. I made my mom help me do the sniff test too. It can be hard to tell sometimes. I’m glad we took the chance though. Thanks for saying my shoes are cute. I love those little flats. Hugs, CoCo

  6. Hi Coco! Great post! I’ve been working with a client on her bedroom and she recently had her oriental rug cleaned. It had a few bare spots so we were talking about over-dying, since that is so cool. But turns out it is very expensive. She brought home the rug and decided to use the reverse side like you did. No wear and the colors we were emphasizing were more obvious as well. It’s a good look.

    1. Thank you, Karen! I definitely appreciated the muted colors in the room so much more. It’s like my short cut until I can achieve the threadbare look I’m after. So exciting that it worked out for your client too. You do such good work, I know she’ll be proud when you’re finished with everything. Hugs, CoCo

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