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Can You Steam Clean an Area Rug? The Pros and Cons

Updated: May 9, 2023


Steam cleaning is a popular and effective method for cleaning carpets, upholstery, and other household items. Many homeowners wonder whether they can steam clean their area rugs to refresh and sanitize them. In this article, we'll explore the pros and cons of steam cleaning area rugs, and provide guidance on when and how to use this method.

Pros of Steam Cleaning Area Rugs

  1. Deep Cleaning: Steam cleaning uses hot water vapor to penetrate deep into the rug's fibers, loosening dirt, grime, and allergens. This results in a thorough and effective cleaning that can leave your rug looking refreshed and revitalized.

  2. Chemical-Free: Since steam cleaning relies primarily on hot water vapor to clean, it eliminates the need for harsh chemicals that can be harmful to your family, pets, and the environment.

  3. Eliminates Odors and Allergens: The high temperatures of steam cleaning can kill bacteria, mold, and dust mites, effectively neutralizing unpleasant odors and reducing allergens in your rug.

  4. Quick Drying: Steam cleaning uses less water than traditional carpet cleaning methods, which means your area rug will typically dry more quickly and be ready for use sooner.

Cons of Steam Cleaning Area Rugs

  1. Not Suitable for All Materials: Some delicate or sensitive rug materials, such as silk or certain natural fibers, can be damaged by the heat and moisture of steam cleaning. Always check the manufacturer's care instructions or consult with a professional rug cleaner before attempting to steam clean your rug.

  2. Risk of Color Bleeding: Some dyes used in area rugs may not be colorfast and can bleed when exposed to moisture during steam cleaning. This can lead to discoloration and damage to the rug's appearance.

  3. Potential for Shrinkage: Steam cleaning can cause some rug materials to shrink or become misshapen. It's crucial to ensure that your rug is compatible with steam cleaning to avoid any damage.

  4. Requires Specialized Equipment: Steam cleaning your area rug requires a steam cleaner or a carpet cleaner with a steam-cleaning attachment. Renting or purchasing this equipment can be costly if you do not already own it.

When and How to Steam Clean Your Area Rug

If you've determined that your area rug is suitable for steam cleaning, follow these steps to ensure a successful cleaning process:

  1. Vacuum: Thoroughly vacuum your area rug to remove loose dirt and debris before steam cleaning.

  2. Test for Colorfastness: Test a small, inconspicuous area of your rug with the steam cleaner to ensure that the dyes are colorfast and that the material can withstand the heat and moisture.

  3. Pre-treat Stains: Pre-treat any stains or heavily soiled areas with a carpet cleaner or stain remover that is compatible with your rug's material.

  4. Steam Clean: Follow the manufacturer's instructions for your steam cleaner, making sure to work in sections and overlap slightly to ensure even cleaning. Avoid over-saturating the rug with water.

  5. Dry: Allow your rug to dry completely before walking on it or placing furniture on it. Use fans or open windows to promote air circulation and speed up the drying process.


Steam cleaning can be an effective method for refreshing and sanitizing area rugs when used correctly and with caution. Before attempting to steam clean your area rug, ensure that the rug's material is compatible with steam cleaning and test a small, inconspicuous area for colorfastness. By following the proper steps and precautions, you can enjoy the benefits of steam cleaning your area rug while protecting its beauty and longevity.

Contact us if you need help with your rug or visit our homepage to learn more.

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