How To Clean A Jute Rug And Make It Last
They’re cute, but how the heck do you clean a jute rug? Let me tell ya, they’re finicky. Oh, and they shed A TON. We honestly can’t tell which sheds more, our dogs, or jute rugs.
(By the way, if your dog’s shedding a lot, we have a blog post to help.)
So the real question is… how to clean a jute rug without absolutely ruining it within months?
Well, when it comes to jute rug cleaning, we’ve already figured out that you really shouldn’t vacuum them. That only seems to exacerbate the shedding issue.
On our road to discovery of the perfect cleaning process for a jute rug (impossible journey, wouldn’t recommend), we’ve found something passable.
Something that will keep those cute neutral rugs looking fresh just a bit longer.
What Is Jute? (and why is my area rug so smelly?)
The more common name for jute, is burlap (yeah, like the potato sacs).
Jute is just the name of the type of tree that burlap comes from. Fun fact: only cotton is more abundantly produced than jute, as it’s one of the most affordable natural fibers produced.
But why, oh why, does my jute rug get so smelly?
Well, there are a couple of reasons. The first is that it’s a tropical plant that requires A TON of precipitation. We’re not just talking about some Florida rain here. The jute plant needs so much water it’s regularly grown in flood areas and conditions.
It’s super absorbent and holds a lot of moisture. It also traps that moisture in, and you know what happens when you leave, well, basically anything in water for too long? It gets smelly and develops mildew or mold. In the very least, it grows bacteria – and that smells.
Jute does the very same, only a lot easier than most other materials due to that suction ability it needs to survive. (It doesn’t lose that just because we turned it into a rug)
Also, consider that it’s a natural fiber. If you walked into a barn of hay, you’re going to smell the hay. Jute is a plant all the same, and naturally carries a smell.
So, what can you do about it?
Can you wash jute? (like, in the washing machine?)
For those of you asking “how to clean jute rug in washing machine”… yeah, don’t.
Just like a wool rug, a jute rug isn’t a washable rug. It’s a natural carpet, like many other delicate rug materials (you wouldn’t wash a silk rug either).
So you never actually want to wash jute. We’ll get into what to do instead in a second, but let us answer this one question…
What happens if a jute rug gets wet?
Sure, you don’t have to worry about it losing its dye or color, but it’s kind of like washing real goose feather down pillows (if you’ve ever done this, you know you made a huge mistake) – they don’t dry well and they suddenly smell like, well, wet animal.
That’s not to say jute will smell like a wet animal, but as mentioned above, jute really likes to suck up water. It’ll retain it too, for a long, long time.
It’s hard to get that out, and really, the only thing you can do is hang it outside in the beating hot sun for a while. Probably much longer than you think too, because you won’t be able to feel what’s deeper inside the jute fibers.
You can give them an acid side rinse, which will help dry them quickly, but who has that lying around?
Other things that’ll happen to jute if it gets wet:
It’ll turn brown (due to the oil it releases when wet). Ah, discoloration. Not quite the boho look you were going for?
(P.s. If you’re asking, “But what about steam cleaning? Can you steam clean a jute rug?” …You absolutely should not use a steam cleaner or practice hot water extraction type cleaning methods.)
How do you clean a jute rug?
If you can’t wash it, and you can’t get it wet at all, what can you do (besides handing it to a professional cleaning company)? How do you clean a jute rug?
If you ask a professional rug cleaning service, you’ll find that most of them actually clean jute rugs (along with sawgrass, hessian, and other natural fiber rugs) pretty much the same as they do with every other rug.
That’s because they can dry them extremely quickly with the proper chemicals and tools. Some of them use acid rinses, others simply spin it extremely fast with a machine to fling all of the water from it (or as much as possible), then hang it in a drying room with dehumidifiers.
To clean your rug at home is actually pretty simple.
Despite how well jute rugs trap in water, they don’t absorb dirt and dust very easily, meaning shaking these rugs “cleans” them (at least as far as regular cleaning goes).
Of course, if you have pets, kids, or occasionally like to eat your ice cream in the living room (and just happen to drop a bit on your jute rug), that’s another story entirely.
How to clean stains out of a jute rug? (tomato sauce, pet accidents, and worse – like red wine)
Cleaning stains out of any type of rug is an absolute nightmare, but cleaning the stains out of a jute rug just seems impossible. You can’t just vacuum them with a regular vacuum or hose ‘em down, that’ll just cause mold and shedding (can’t have that now).
But, there will be a few times when you spill something (or your kids do), or someone trails through the house with muddy boots (or paws).
In those cases, you’ll want to immediately address the stain with a dry, clean rag. Dab and blot. Don’t rub or you’ll ingrain it in the fabric. If you’re quick, you can likely get it before it does any long-term damage to the rug.
If you can’t get to it before the stain settles in, or it’s just not that kind of opportunity, don’t panic; you won’t have to live with the stain forever.
Let’s talk pet stains
Whether you’re potty training your puppy, have a nervous dog, are gone for long periods of time occasionally, or just have a dog with a small or weak bladder, pet stains are bound to happen.
Beyond urine, there’s muddy paws, bringing in weird animals, vomit after they’ve eaten some grass, and all kinds of fun surprises. You just can’t avoid all of them.
Regardless of what it is, in most cases, you can blot it up with a solution of white vinegar, tepid water, and detergent.
Here are some short steps to clean up pet messes on your jute rug:
- Blot up the mess as much as you can with cloth towels. It’s usually best to work from the outside of the spot inward so it doesn’t spread or get pressed in. (Remember not to rub, and don’t use anything abrasive like a brush.)
- Slightly dampen a clean towel in the mixture of vinegar, detergent, and water and work it in by dabbing the spot.
- For pet odor removal (or if it’s still smelling after the initial clean), you can sprinkle the spot with baking soda to sit overnight, and shake it off really well in the morning.
If it’s poop or vomit, just scrape up as much of it as you can and follow the directions above.
What about liquid spills?
If anyone spills liquid on your jute rug, immediately panic because your jute rug is now ruined (kinda).
While it’s best to keep liquids away from your jute rugs, it’s just sometimes unavoidable. Spills happen. If you can, blot up the spill immediately with a paper towel or clean rag so the jute doesn’t absorb the liquid into the rug fibers.
If it’s more like a paste than a liquid, it might actually be better to just let it dry first. Things like dry mud are far easier to remove (you can use a spoon or spatula. Sounds weird but it works) than liquid and less likely to set in.
You can then use that same mixture of detergent with vinegar and water, and blot out the stain (without rubbing!) then dry the rug with a hairdryer.
For things like tomato sauce, that can really stain, you can use stronger cleaning products and stain removers than vinegar and detergent – maybe a carpet cleaning care product specifically designed for the toughest stains on natural fibers – but it’s generally unnecessary.
You can almost always get the stain out with the vinegar and detergent, or sometimes even club soda.
If the stain doesn’t disappear after it’s dry, some mild soaps can lift up any grease and help you avoid any long-term staining.
Just remember: after using any liquids on your jute rug, dry it with a hair dryer or air dry out in the sun if you live in a dry climate.
And what about dry, solid spills?
Scrape off the spot of build-up (if it’s stuck) with a butter knife, spoon, or spatula (or anything flat, really). Use a slightly stiff bristle brush to loosen up the particles from the fabric. Follow up a good shake outside or over the balcony.
Jute rugs stand up fairly well to solid messes, and usually won’t retain any scent or stain afterward.
Maintenance: Keeping my indoor and outdoor rugs pretty
In most cases, you’ll never have to deep clean your jute carpet or rug (and if you do, DIY might not cut it. Please, let the professional cleaners handle the deep cleans for your jute).
But you do need to perform a little bit of regular maintenance (and the occasional spot clean) to keep your jute area rug looking fab for years to come – and smelling good too.
What’s included in regular maintenance? Here’s the short list:
- If you live in a very dry area, you can use a spray bottle to add a light bit of clean water. Yes, it sounds contradictory to everything we’ve said about jute so far, but if it’s too dry, the jute can bubble and loosen. Just don’t drench it. Light spray, light spray.
- Apply a fabric protector designed to reduce absorption. There are several brands that have lines designed for jute, seagrass, and sisal rugs. It’ll help it repel water and keep from absorbing spills and dirt.
- Lay something flat and heavy along any curled edges until they’re flat again. Things like regular foot traffic can cause them to turn up at the sides of the rug, and it’s just an ugly tripping hazard.
What should I do about shedding? (the rug, not the dog)
Nearly every rug will shed, in time (ever have a 20 year old rug on stairs? Yeah, nightmare fur), but because jute is a plant fiber, it’s likely to shed easier, earlier, and far more often.
Our favorite tools for cleaning a jute rug
You can’t just use any brushes, tools, or cleaning solutions on a jute rug. And, frankly, the majority of the care tags on jute rugs advise “do not engage beater bars”, meaning you can’t use a vacuum cleaner. (Please don’t. Even with a Roomba® robot vacuum, we advise you program it to go around the jute rug)
Honestly, the best way to deep clean your rug, is to send it to a professional cleaner. If you really want to use a vacuum on it, use suction only, as bristles will only damage the rug.
- Baking soda or a dry-cleaning powder deodorize the rug
- A fine bristled brush for the occasional dry mess (but don’t vigorously scrub)
- Detergent (the kind made for natural fibers)
- Microfiber cloths
Disclaimer: iRobot would not compensate for any damage done to a jute rug, as the owner’s guide states ‘Before running your robot on carpets or rugs, ensure that the carpets or rugs are compatible with vacuums using bars or brushes. Using your robot on a carpet or rug that is not compatible could result in damage to your carpet or rug. Contact your carpet or rug manufacturer with questions on compatibility.’
Cleaning a jute rug with dry cleaning powder or baking soda
The processes for cleaning a jute rug, both with dry cleaning power or baking soda, is simple, in the fact that you practically just layer the powder, let it set, and shake off.
Here’s the step by step:
- Shake the dry carpet cleaner or baking soda over the rug, either covering the whole rug or just the area needing a clean.
- Lightly brush the powder over the rug.
- Pack the area with a handful of dry carpet cleaner (if spot cleaning).
- Wait until the rug is dry (if it’s a wet spill you’re cleaning up)
- Let sit overnight and shake off in the morning.
Yeah, cleaning a jute rug isn’t as simple as running a vacuum over it, or a steam cleaner (definitely don’t), and a professional rug cleaner is likely the only one to have the right tools to deep clean it… but they sure are pretty.
If you love those jute rugs, we hope these cleaning and maintenance tips can help you keep them looking mighty fine for years to come.