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How to Beat an Area Rug to Clean It and Get Rid of Dust and Dirt

Living room with area rug

The long lost art of rug beating is making a comeback. For optimal cleanliness and a new hobby, try beating out your rug, in addition to or instead of vacuuming!


Before vacuum cleaners, beating rugs was the most popular way to get them clean. You don’t see it done much any more, but if you try it you’ll be surprised to find out how much dirt your vacuum cleaner leaves behind. In addition, if you don’t own a vacuum cleaner, this method is your best bet for a clean rug.

I myself don’t own a rug, but do own a dog. Regular sweeping is never enough, and when I do take my rug out to beat it, the amount of dirt that flies out into the yard is almost horrifying. While it may feel like a little more labour, I must say it is also quite satisfying. Getting outside, doing something with your hands, and connecting with the items you own in this much more visceral way can be actually very invigorating.

Why Beat your Rug?

There is dirt that goes un-touched even with these high-tech tools. The heavy dirt that settles down at the base of the rug acts like sand paper, wearing away at the fibers in the base of the rug, and possibly the finish on the floor . To lengthen the life of the rug, and get that tricky settling dirt out of there, you need to beat it. As an added plus, this is an environmentally friendly cleaning method. In addition, if your rug is adverse to water, this is a great way to do a deep clean without steaming or washing with water. Sure, you can send out a rug to be cleaned off-site by professionals—but it ain’t cheap. If you’re willing to put in a weekend of work, however, it’s eminently possible to do a good job of cleaning a rug on your own at home. As an added benefit, you’ll have peace of mind knowing exactly what types of cleaners are being used on your rugs—knowledge that’s increasingly important to many, especially those with young children or chemical sensitivities. Finally, the real benefit for many will be the reduced noise impact. The screaming whine of the vacuum can be a real menace, especially if you have a pup. For some reason dogs always hate vacuum cleaners, whether they’re terrified or want to fight them. The rug beating method avoids this altogether, potentially reducing stress in your house and keeping everyone calm. In the end, the act of rug beating and the object of the rug beater are figments of nostalgia for many, and that can be appealing in itself.

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How do you know when to clean your rug?

If the rug isn’t visibly dingy (or noticeably foul-smelling), try this test: Simply pick up a corner of the rug and let it flop down onto the floor. If a little cloud of dust floats up, a cleaning is in order. Otherwise, a good rule of thumb is to give some type of cleaning every two weeks. That can be vacuuming, beating, or even just sweeping or brushing depending on the fibre of your rug. IN the end, however, it’s up to you. If you feel it needs a cleaning, go for it, and if not, let it be!

Making a Rug Beater

In addition, if you want to get really crafty with it, you could even make your own carpet beater. It only takes a handful of steps. Start by collecting or sourcing five willow branches, each about two feet in length. Then, bend each of the branches in half and secure them at the ends with loops of heavy twine. Next, cluster all of the bent branches together and bind the ends together using heavy twine. Allow the branches to dry completely, and cut a length of twine three times the length of your wooden tube and tie it to the ends of your cluster of branches. Slide the twine into the tube, and use it to pull the ends of the branches up part of the way into the tube. Only the ends of the branches should be inside the tube, leaving the bent pieces just outside the tube. Pull the length of twine out of the top of the wooden tube and pull it firmly down toward the branches. Finally, Wrap the twine around the branches just below their entrance to the tube. This should secure the handle to the branches and make it easy to use. In the end, you have a beautiful rug beater. If, however, you don’t have the time – you can also really use just about anything, including your hands!

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History of Rug Beating

Rug beating also has a long history: 19th century coal and wood burning stoves constantly spewed debris on  carpets, so that rug beating would have been a necessary chore. Usually made of wood, rattan, cane, wicker, spring steel or coiled wire, rug beaters were commonly used for this task. The item’s flexibility depends on the number of woven switches it has in its paddle, a two-switch beater being more flexible than a three- or four-switch one. In 1895, woven cane carpet beaters, three feet long, sold for 18 cents and were advertised to “last a lifetme.” Perhaps that’s why so many survive. Homemade primitive rug beaters can be found, too. They were devised by attaching long pieces of looped wire to broomsticks or similar handles. Sometimes strong hickory switches or simple wooden boards were used to do the job. Introduced in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, carpet sweepers and vacuum cleaners allowed for higher standards of cleanliness and more frequent cleaning.

Now, let’s get into the step by step instructions on how to make it happen.

Project Step-By-Step

Step 1. Buy or make a Rug Beater

They’re inexpensive, and beautiful objects in themselves that you can hang on your wall. These traditional ones have a long history, but there are many other designs on the market. I myself just use a combination of my hands, and a small thistle brush – being able to remove dirt from the surface, and deep in the rug is key! Whatever tools you choose to do so, just make sure you’re able to do both.

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Carpet and Rug Beater - Durable Hand Made Quality - Must Have For Pet Owners - Will Last Long

Step 2. Take your rug outside

Take your rug outside, give it a breath of fresh air. It sits on your floor all day every day for years on end. It could use a little sunshine and a breeze. Before beating it, giving it a solid shake can also be a great way to get dust and debris out from it’s crevices. Hopefully, perform this task on a nice sunny day. Some of us live in climates where it is cold and snowy half the year, in which case you just choose the sunniest day, and bundle up!

Step 3. Hang your rug

Hang your rug, fuzzy side out, on a sturdy line, railing, or anything that will hold it in the air and allow you to beat the centre of it. Using two trees, and tying a large bungee chord between can be a great solution. For a large room sized rug, a standard clothes line probably won’t be strong enough. Use heavy rope. Some rugs are heavier than others, depending on the materials. If you can’t completely lift it yourself, enlist help!

Step 4. Beat it!

Take your stick and start swinging at the rug. For an ideal swing, you want the entire length of the stick to hit the rug at once. The old fashioned carpet beaters had flat grill work on the end of the stick to increase the surface area coming in contact with the carpet when it hit. What you’re doing is moving the rug in the direction the stick is moving so fast that the dirt doesn’t have time to move with it. You should start to see dirt fall out of the rug. How do you know when to stop? Well, if dust keeps coming out, you can keep beating. It can be tiring, so that may be a limiting factor, but ultimately you want to get to the point when a solid whack doesn’t produce a cloud of dust.

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Step 5. Enjoy

Finally, enjoy the fresh feeling of a crisp, clean and fresh smelling rug in your living area. It really does make the world of difference, and anybody in your household with allergies will really thank you for it. The dust and debris that is stored in rugs can really have an adverse effect on people with allergies. It is a kindness to them, and ensures clean air in your home.

Rugs can be really big investment pieces, a large handmade rug can cost an arm and a leg, but can also be very worth it. The tradition of making rugs goes way back: Archeologists have uncovered evidence of rugs in Egyptian and Mesopotamian tombs dating back more than 4,000 years. The oldest known surviving rug is the Pazyryk Carpet, which dates back to 500 BC. It was discovered in Siberia in 1949. In common use, however, the first rugs were created by nomadic peoples of central Asia thousands of years ago for utilitarian purposes. They herded sheep, meaning there was plenty of wool on hand to make rugs. The cold environment also made it necessary to have woolen products, which were appealing for the warmth and comfort they provided.

On the other hand, there are plenty of cheap rugs out there nowadays. Either way, you do want it to stay clean, and hopefully last as long as possible. Both vacuums and water treatments can deteriorate the fibres more quickly. While once in a while they may be necessary, beating a rug is really a sustainable way to clean, making your carpet live its longest life possible. If there are stains, using baking soda and water is a great way to remove them with no toxic chemicals. If it still doesn’t come out, you can resort to some sprays, or even end up getting it professionally cleaned. For your day-to-day cleaning, however, a good rug beating is really all it needs.

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