How to Clean an Outdoor Rug (With and Without a Pressure Washer)

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Summer escapes are the highlight of just about anyone’s plans this season, but drowning in all of the little chores and tasks that revolve around the camping and backyard season can get totally overwhelming. Whether you’re someone who likes backyard or outdoor picnics in the sun, or basking in the fruits of the RV lifestyle with your bare feet first, outdoor rugs are probably a part of your setup. Camping, hiking and hunting folks know: letting your gear maintenance get ahead of you creates a whole lot of pre-trip hustling and bustling. If you’re knee-deep in the middle of that crunch, or just want to get ahead of those pesky little tasks, I’ve created a step-by-step guide for how to clean an outdoor rug, (with and without a pressure washer)! 

Before we dive into the nitty gritty, let’s talk a little bit about what these things are for in the first place. Outdoor rugs make a great addition to a simple patio set, outdoor kitchen or yard. They’re quite popular for camping since they can stand up to lots of grass and dirt without the fear of taking on stains.

Personally, I’ve found they’re awesome for keeping dirt, mud and grass out of your camper or tent! To cap it off, why buy an outdoor rug? They’re perfect for creating a warm and welcoming surface for your toes whether you’re hosting a picnic on the grass, or an entrance to your tent or camper. Since they’re almost always made from synthetic fibers, they don’t take on stains and are especially easy to clean. 

How to Keep an Outdoor Rug Clean

I’ll break it down into a few points that can help you prevent your beloved outdoor rug from taking on any more intensive grime like algae, mold or mildew. Since they’re totally synthetic, these rugs are quite easy to clean once you’ve bered of any pesky buildup. As always, the key to keeping an outdoor rug free from these types of muck is to simply prevent it from spending too much time soaked, or in sitting water. For example, these rugs make a great surface for fishermen and boaters to sprawl out on a dock, riverbank or little slice of shore. They keep that wet sticky sand and grass off of your feet, thus keeping your kit and your boat all the more cleaner. Follow these steps to keep your rug from getting too far gone in the first place! 

  • After using an outdoor rug, hang it vertically to allow the day’s moisture to escape by dripping and air drying. 
  • Mold and mildew buildup occurs when the rug is flat on the ground, with one surface not exposed to air and sunlight for an extended period of time. 
  • Remove and wet globs of sand or mud by smacking or shaking out the rug before hanging it up. 
  • Can an outdoor rug get wet? Absolutely! Just as long as you don’t keep it sprawled out on the ground immersed in water for more than a day or so without having a chance to dry. 
  • Can an outdoor rug be left outside? Of course, but hanging it up outside, or draping it over a chair is the best way to prevent mold and mildew from occurring. 
  • Leaving an outdoor rug out on the grass or ground overnight, even if it’s still dry, is inadvisable since morning dew can settle in around dawn

How to Clean an Outdoor Rug Step by Step

First off, figure out how far gone your trusty rug is. In other words, just how dirty is it? Removing loose dirt, some mud, grass and even a little food is no big deal. But mildew and possibly even mold or algae take a little more effort. Do so by looking for obvious signs of discoloration, or darkening in certain spots of the outdoor rug. Mold will of course take hold in the form of black spots which should be fairly obvious to spot on most rugs. If that is the case, take special care not to shake or disturb the mold before you’ve got it outside for cleaning, preferably over gravel or concrete. Mildew can come in a variety of colors, but is most evident by a smell akin to that of stinky socks, or other foul odor. Treat this with as much care as the mold while handling the rug and you shouldn’t have any problems. Lastly, be sure to handle a moldy, or mildew infested rug using disposable or washable cleaning gloves.

Next we’ll talk about how to clean an outdoor rug with and without a pressure washer. Also, we’ll break down some of the most common things you can keep in your cleaning caddy so you can stay well stocked for the summer! 

What Should I Use to Clean an Outdoor Rug?

  • Pure white vinegar 
  • Hard-bristle brush 
  • Bucket 
  • Dish soap 

Steps for How to Clean an Outdoor Rug Without a Pressure Washer 

  1. Use a broom, or smack the dirt, dust and grass off of a dirty outdoor rug by hanging it vertically over a chair outdoors. 
  2. Check for any wear, mold or signs of mildew. 
  3. To clean mold or mildew out of an outdoor rug, immerse the rug in white vinegar for at least an hour. 
  4. Using a bucket with warm water and a splash of white vinegar, brush the rug with a stiff bristle brush while it’s still soaking. 
  5. Rinse the rug thoroughly, discarding the water down the drain. 
  6. Hang the rug out to dry, draped over a laundry line, chair or deck banister. Make sure to shift the rug up and down from time to time, ensuring the part touching the surface it’s hanging on gets a chance to air dry too. Additionally, the sunlight would help kill any bacteria remaining. 

*Note: If there isn’t any mold or suspected mildew present on the rug, you can follow the same steps instead using a mild dish detergent, and scrubbing vigorously soaking wet or submerged if you need to remove some stuck-on mud and/or food.   

Steps for How to Clean an Outdoor Rug With a Pressure Washer 

*Note: A pressure washer with a PSI between aprox 1600 to 1800 is perfectly adequate for cleaning your outdoor rug. Washing with too much pressure, or too closely can cause irreparable damage to your rug. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommended safety precautions and personal protective gear when using a pressure washer. 

  1. Lay the outdoor rug out on gravel, concrete, or a driveway. 
  2. Soak the rug using a bucket of warm water with a few squeezes of dish soap. 
  3. Use a stiff brush to scrub the rug thoroughly, removing any remaining loose particles, dirt and debris. 
  4. Begin rinsing with the pressure washer, use the pressure washer on a low power setting with a wide spray. Hold the nozzle at least 3-4 feet away from your rug, and be sure to test the sprayer on a small corner of the rug to ensure it won’t cause any damage or discoloration. 
  5. Dry in the sun, draped over a chair or deck bannister. 

Hopefully these tips for how to clean an outdoor rug (with and without a pressure washer) have come in handy! Summer is about enjoying the outdoors, so keeping the intense cleaning projects to a minimum, and getting on top of projects as soon as they come up clears up your schedule for more sun bathing, and less toiling! Check out some of our other useful guides and product reviews to learn how to transform your outdoor escape. 

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