How to clean an outdoor rug in 6 easy steps

Outdoor rugs may be hardwearing against the elements, but they do need cleaning to keep them looking in tip-top condition

Outdoor patio area with bench seating and outdoor furnishings to support how to clean an outdoor rug
(Image credit: Kukoon Rugs)

Spring is the perfect time to give your outdoor rug a seasonal refresh to ensure it's clean and ready to dress any outdoor space in style. 

Outdoor rugs are the latest garden trend taking over patios and decking, perfect for dressing outdoor living ideas and blurring the lines of indoor and outside space but they can soon become dirty due to the nature of living outside in the elements. 

Thankfully, cleaning an outdoor rug is a simple chore – especially with a little help from experts to ensure optimum care while cleaning.

Follow our easy step-by-step guide to cleaning an outdoor rug to tackle the task with ease.

How to clean an outdoor rug in 6 easy steps

Knowing how to clean an outdoor rug properly will ensure your freshly washed decking or clean patio slabs aren't let down by the presence of a dirty rug placed over the top.

To start the process of cleaning an outdoor rug you will need: 

  • Garden hose
  • Dish soap/mild liquid detergent
  • Soft bristle scrubbing brush
  • (Optional) Vacuum cleaner 
  • White vinegar

1. Remove surface dirt

Like when cleaning outdoor cushions the first step is to remove any dirt and general garden debris from the surface of the rug before you start to apply any cleaning solutions. 

To do this simply give the rug a good shake to loosen up any dirt, encouraging it to work its way free from the rug. "You can also use a vacuum or brush to remove dirt amongst the fibers," suggests Clare Walsh, a brand expert at Kukoon Rugs

"Depending on the size of the rug you may need a helping hand with this part, or you could hang it over a fence or washing line before giving it a good brush. It’s worth noting that you should do both sides."

2. Carry out a pre-clean rinse

Sometimes a thorough rinse is all that is required to restore your outdoor rug to its original clean state. "To give the whole rug an overall clean, water from the garden hose is usually sufficient," says Clare. 

It's best to carry out any water-based cleaning steps on the patio or decking, avoiding grass because it could ruin not only the rug but also your freshly reseeded lawn.

Try to elevate the rug after rinsing it to encourage excess water to run away, preventing it from becoming waterlogged. It's also important to choose a warm, dry day before you start cleaning and rinsing because otherwise, you run the risk that the rug won't dry sufficiently – which could cause mold or moss to form.

3. Scrub surface stains with a cleaning solution

Orange scrubbing brush cleaning an outdoor rug

(Image credit: Getty Images | Far700)

It is only now once the surface dirt is removed and rinsed away that you can clearly see any remaining dirt or stains you need to tackle. 

"If it needs a little more or if it smells, then mix warm water with a mild detergent to make a simple, effective cleaning solution," says Clare. "Using a soft brush, gently scrub the rug all over to remove dirt and refresh the fibers and color hues." 

We recommend mixing a solution of dish soap and warm water, mixing just enough for a soapy lather to form to work into the fabric. When cleaning any carpet it is advisable to carry out a small patch test, even when using a mild detergent or dish soap, to check the solution won't discolor or damage the fibers in any way. 

4. Tackle tougher stains

"For tougher stains that remain, use a gentle, non-abrasive sponge and a mild washing detergent to spot-clean the areas once more," suggests Clare. Similar to cleaning carpet stains indoors she warns: "Try to avoid harsh scrubbing, which can make stains worse, and instead, gently blot to lift the stain from the fibers."

"If moss or algae forms on the rug, the most effective way to remove it is by using diluted bleach or white vinegar." We are most in favor of cleaning with vinegar to avoid using harsh chemicals. 

Simply mix a natural cleaning solution of equal parts white vinegar and warm water to apply directly to the stain. allow the solution to work its magic for 15 minutes or so before rinsing clean. Again, carry out a patch test before using it more liberally to make sure it's suitable for your chosen rug design.

5. Rinse away any residue

When you’re happy that your rug is sufficiently clean, it's time to rinse and remove traces of any cleaning solutions.

To do so Clare suggests: "Using your garden hose again to wash off any detergent or cleaning solutions and rinse the rug thoroughly on both sides." Fear not if you don't have a garden hose, you can use buckets of clean warm water to rinse.

6. Allow it to air dry thoroughly

outdoor living room area with a yellow outdoor rug to support a guide for how to clean an outdoor rug

(Image credit: Future)

Lastly, allow the rug to completely air dry. "To avoid moss and algae forming, ensure your rug is thoroughly dry before placing it down," warns Clare. 

"Try and remove any excess water and then lay it out flat in the sunshine. When the top is dry, flip it over to dry the bottom and leave it drying until you can no longer feel any moisture when you push your fingers into the pile."

An alternative way to do this to ensure the air is able to circulate more efficiently is to hang your rug over a washing line, fence, or decking banister – anywhere that still allows the rug to dry naturally with all sides exposed.

How often should you clean an outdoor rug?

Despite outdoor rugs being hardwearing and robust against the elements, they do still need cleaning frequently to keep them fresh. "Ideally you should clean an outdoor rug every few weeks," says Clare. "Giving it a much-needed spruce up at the end of the summer season. Following these important steps and taking the time to clean it properly will ensure it lasts longer, stays free from moss and algae and the colors stay fresh."

Do you need to store an outdoor rug away in bad weather?

Despite outdoor rugs being made to face the elements it is preferable to store your outdoor rug somewhere dry during spells of bad weather - and most definitely during the colder seasons. 

"Although outdoor rugs fare well in most weather conditions, it is probably best to store them away during rainy, snowy, or icy conditions," says Claire. "You can either bring your outdoor rug inside for home use or store it away until spring."

"When storing away an outdoor rug, it is essential that you roll it up, as opposed to folding it, which will ruin its shape. Outdoor rugs are best stored in a dry, indoor space, such as a garage, however, if this option isn’t available to you, an outdoor rug can be rolled up, wrapped in plastic, and placed under the decking."

Tamara Kelly
Lifestyle Editor

Tamara is a highly experienced homes and interiors journalist, with a career spanning 22 years. Now the Lifestyle Editor of, she has spent the last 17 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, and it’s with these award-winning interiors teams that she gained a wealth of knowledge and honed her skills and passion for styling and writing about every aspect of lifestyle and interiors.

A true homes and interiors expert, Tamara has served as an ambassador for leading interior brands on multiple occasions, including appearing on Matalan’s The Show and presenting at top interior trend forecasting events such as the Autumn Fair and Spring Fair.