How to Best Clean Rugs & Furniture

There's nothing more frustrating than discovering a stain on your beautiful new carpet or couch, especially if the object is an investment piece. Luckily, there are a lot of do-it-yourself solutions you can try. Even if your carpet is pristine, you might want to call a rug and furniture cleaning service or do a deep clean yourself every once in a while to really get deep down into the fabric. Here's what you need to know about caring for your rugs and furniture, including the best DIY carpet cleaning agents, tips and tricks, and what to look for in a professional:

Many common household products are great at removing stains.Many common household products are great at removing stains.

Basic DIY Cleaning

Many stains can be cleaned by using simple products found around the house. Most of these rug cleaning tools are eco- and people-friendly, free of harsh chemicals that hurt the environment or irritate children and pets.


  • Water: This isn't the best stain remover per se, but you'll need water to dilute most other cleaning solutions, DIY or otherwise. If purity is a concern, grab a jug of distilled water next time you're at the store.
  • White vinegar: This nearly all-purpose cleaner is a favorite among homeowners, especially those concerned with being eco-friendly. Mix it with water and spray the solution directly on stains. If necessary, follow up with a little baking soda for some extra power.
  • Liquid dish detergent: Dishwashing liquid that removes grease works on more than just pans. Mix a drop or two with a cup of water and apply the solution directly to the stain. Blot the area and repeat if necessary.
  • Rubbing alcohol: A cloth dampened with isopropyl rubbing alcohol removes grass stains, marker stains and acrylic or latex paint. 
  • Hydrogen peroxide: Blood can be tricky to clean, but hydrogen peroxide works wonders. Pour it directly on the stained area, watch it foam, then blot with a clean cloth. 
  • Club soda: Need to get that red wine stain off your ottoman? Reach for a cloth and a bottle of club soda. Dampen the cloth, then blot the area to remove the stain.
  • Ice cubes: The best way to remove a stubborn piece of gum is to freeze it with an ice cube, then scrape it up with a butter knife.
  • Iron or hair dryer: These tools are great for removing candle wax. Take a hair dryer on a low setting and apply it directly to the wax to melt it, then scrape the area clean. If you use an iron, place a white towel down as a barrier between the iron and the fabric. Using white ensures color from the towel won't transfer to the area you're trying to clean. Press the iron down lightly, warming the wax, then scrape it up with a butter knife. Place a piece of paper over the area and iron again to bind and remove any small bits.

Always treat stains as soon as they occur. The longer you let them set, the harder they are to clean. Remove as much of the stain as you can before treating the area with a cleaning solution.

Scrubbing pushes stains deep into fibers.

Always blot the area, starting from the edge of the stain and working inward. Scrubbing pushes the stain deeper into the fibers of your upholstery. Blotting, on the other hand, lifts the particles up and out. Starting from the edge of the stain rather than working inside out helps keep it from spreading. 

Deep Cleaning
You should deep clean your carpet and furniture every 12 to 18 months to remove any deep-set debris, clear out odors and give the area a fresh, new feeling. Deep cleaning uses pressure to force a cleaning solution deep into the fabric, loosening dirt embedded far down, then drawing out the debris. If you're cleaning a rug or carpet, remove any furniture from the area and wait for it to dry completely before moving the objects back. A damp carpet mixed with the metal or finished wood on your furniture can lead to a permanent stain.

Cleaning Specialty Rugs and Fabrics

  • Leather: Don't use water to clean leather, especially if you're attacking a grease stain. The water actually helps the grease absorb into the upholstery. Instead, use a clean, dry cloth to wipe the area and use baking soda to draw the grease out. Rubbing alcohol is great for removing ink, while a paste of lemon juice and cream of tartar is perfect for dark spots.
  • Fur: Shake some unscented talcum power on the rug, then let it sit for several hours. Brush it through the fur, then shake the powder out. You might need to repeat this process several times.
  • Handmade, Antique or Oriental rugs: You want to take a gentle approach with these and use a mild soap instead of a harsh detergent. Vacuum the rug well, then test a liquid soap solution or rug shampoo in a small, inconspicuous area to see if the color changes. If it doesn't, shampoo the rug with the solution and cool water and rinse it thoroughly. Allow both sides to dry completely before putting the rug back in its place.

Every professional service should prep, clean and finish your upholstery.

Calling a Professional

Sometimes the DIY method just doesn't cut it, and you need a professional upholstery cleaning service. As with any job, line up a few candidates before choosing one. Ask these companies how they charge for their services - whether they bill by room, furniture, or area cleaned - and how their process works. Every professional service should prep, clean and finish your upholstery. Ask how much they know about different fabrics and styles - cleaning an area rug is different than cleaning leather furniture, after all. You want to be certain your cleaner knows what he or she is doing before they introduce harsh chemicals to your couch. Additionally, if chemicals are your concern, ask whether the business uses environmentally or family friendly cleaning agents. If you want to be certain the professional you choose is top notch, look for someone licensed by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification.