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How to Clean an Outdoor Rug (Step by Step)

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Do you want to know how to clean an outdoor rug? Caring for an outdoor rug is a little different than caring for indoor rugs. Outdoor rugs are exposed to the elements and can be impacted by sun, rain, snow and even critters that live in your yard. If your outdoor rug gets a lot of moisture and rain, mold and mildew can become a problem.

In this article we’ll show you how to clean an outdoor rug.

For light cleaning follow the steps below.

  • Sweep debris off the outdoor rug regularly
  • Spot treat any stained areas with mild soap
  • Rinse and hang to dry
  • Pressure-Wash for heavy dirt or mildew or mold
side by side dirty to clean outdoor rug

Like most things that require cleaning, it is easiest to clean an outdoor rug if you regularly do minor maintenance. But not to worry—if you have not cleaned your outdoor rug in a while, it is still possible to remove all the gross debris with a little time and effort.

Table of Contents

Remove Debris from the Outdoor Rug

Most outdoor rugs are designed to withstand a lot of wear and tear since they are designed to be outside in the elements. They typically are made of synthetic materials that are more resistant to moisture and fading. Despite their hardiness, outdoor rugs can still accumulate layers of gross buildup. 

Frequently Sweep Away Debris from Outdoor Rugs

One of the easiest ways to maintain your outdoor rug is to regularly sweep away debris. It often takes just a few minutes to sweep off the outdoor rug. Keep a broom handy near your outdoor rug so as to remind yourself.

Try to sweep off the outdoor rug at least once a week. Depending on the season and weather, you may have to increase the number of times you sweep. For example, you might have to sweep more frequently if:

  • The spring season comes with pollen dropping, which can stain your outdoor rug.
  • Leaves are falling during the spring season.
  • Your outdoor rug is being used more frequently, increasing its foot traffic.

Again, it usually will only take a few minutes to sweep off an outdoor rug, but it can make a big difference in how deep you have to clean it otherwise.

Shake or Beat Debris Off the Outdoor Rug

Another way to clean your outdoor rug is to remove debris by shaking it out or using a rug beater. Make sure your clothesline is legal. For a smaller outdoor rug, such as a doormat, you can shake out the rug by yourself. Just grip the corners firmly and shake the rug until debris stops coming out. 

Be careful when you are shaking out a rug. Wear goggles or a face covering to prevent any debris from blowing up into your face. This is especially important to remember if you tend to suffer from seasonal or outdoor allergies. Turn your face away while you shake out the rug. 

For larger outdoor rugs, you may need another set of hands to shake out the rug. Sometimes, it is easier and more efficient to beat out debris:

  • Hang your outdoor rug over a clothesline, fence, or railing.
  • Using a broom, rug beater, or other strong stick, hit the rug until debris stops falling out.
  • Be sure to flip the outdoor rug over to hit the other side as well. 

This is a great way to get a deeper removal of debris than simply sweeping off your outdoor rug. 

Spot Clean the Outdoor Rug to Remove Stains

Outdoor rugs might only require a spot treatment here or there to remove stains. It is best to work on removing the stains as soon as you can to prevent them from setting in. Sometimes, though, stains go unnoticed for a little while. 

Thoroughly Remove Debris and Excess Moisture

Before you start to do any spot cleaning, you need to remove debris and excess moisture from the outdoor rug. Dry debris can be removed by sweeping, shaking, or vacuuming out the rug as already discussed. 

For wet areas, such as areas where something has spilled recently, use a clean towel to blot up excess moisture. Do not rub out the moisture as this can push the stain further into the rug.

Add Water and a Mild Detergent

After debris and excess moisture have been removed, you can move on to actually beginning the spot treatment. 

You will need:

  • Mild soap, detergent, or rug cleaner
  • Water
  • Sponge and/or scrub brush
  • Club soda for stubborn stains

Try to test a small area first to make sure that the detergent will not affect the color of your rug. Mix a small amount of the cleaner with water and apply a little to the rug. Wait a few minutes before rinsing to make sure that you can use that solution on the rest of the rug.

Use a bucket or hose to thoroughly wet the area with water. With a little bit of your cleaner mixed with water in a bucket, dip your sponge into the solution before blotting the stained area. You may have to rinse and repeat several times for stubborn stains. Club soda can also help to remove stains.

Rinse and Let Dry

Be sure to thoroughly rinse out the areas that you spot treat. You may have to rinse both sides of the rug, depending on how thick your outdoor rug is and what materials it is made of.

Lay the rug out to let it dry completely. Either lay the rug flat on a dry surface, or, preferably, drape it over a railing or fence for more airflow. Be sure to check that both sides of the rug are dry to help prevent mildew or mold growth. 

Pressure Washing Your Outdoor Rug

In wet environments some outdoor rugs can start to grow mildew or mold. Here in Florida, this is a fact of life for our outdoor rug. Luckily this is pretty easy to remove with a pressure washer and cleaner fluid. It took a little over 15 minutes to setup the pressure washer, fill it with cleaner and wash the entire rug.

Make sure your rug is color safe since the mildew cleaner I used had traces of bleach. You may need to use the soaker pressure washer nozzle if your mildew is really bad and let it soak into the rug for 10-15 minutes.

Set the outdoor rug out to dry, preferably hanging to increase airflow. Because of their materials, some outdoor rugs will have dirt come to the surface after the rug dries. Rinse again and let dry. 

Keep Up with Regular Outdoor Rug Maintenance

Naturally, outdoor rugs are going to get dirty and need a cleaning every once in a while. You can make the cleaning process easier on yourself if you regularly care for the outdoor rug and pressure washing it in the Spring before pressure washing your deck.

Always be sure to test any soap solutions on small areas before you clean the entire rug. Make sure to let the rug completely dry before putting back out. 

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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