Can You Wash a Rug at the Car Wash? We Find Out

published Oct 11, 2017
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(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

When my friend Emily and I first met, I knew we were meant to be BFF’s after hearing all her wonderful tales of growing up in a big old victorian home. I was just 18, but already desperately in love with great big old houses, so of course I gravitated toward people who lived in them. One tale in particular she told, was the story of how each year her entire family would load up all the carpets in the house and take them to the carwash to be cleaned.

In my mind it was this charming, choreographed dance of beautiful people and children in muted colors rolling down the road in a mustard yellow Volvo station wagon. The roof of the car would be piled high with gorgeous rugs, little hands reaching out from inside the car to steady them..But in reality, it was probably some sort of conversion van from the ’80s, full of bummed out kids who were missing Saturday morning cartoons to do chores.

I recalled the story, years later when I found myself staring at our disgusting food-stained Ikea dining room rug, and decided to see just how useful a carwash+crusty-rug relationship might be. So I vacuumed it best as I could, rolled it up, stuck it on top of my very boring color (I honestly don’t even know if it is a color…) Ford, and headed to the car wash.

*When I say “I” in reference to an action, I actually mean my husband (the very excited participant in the photos). I’m more of the director/producer/writer.

Here’s how it went:

First, I washed the car. You always want a clean workspace! Be sure to rinse it very well if you use soap, you don’t want any of that getting on your rug because who really knows what’s in it — it’s pink for crying out loud! My car was relatively clean already, so I just gave it a quick once over with the dial turned to “rinse”. It cleared away any dust or debris, and also worked out any soap or wax that may have been in the nozzle from the previous user because you really don’t want that getting on your rug. Pro-Tip: If you skip the car wash step and go straight to rug wash, hold the sprayer away from the rug for a while before letting loose to clear out the nozzle.

Then, we rolled the rug out over the top of the car, taking note of any super gross stained areas. We positioned the grossest part of the rug on the hood of the car so we could see it and reach it.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

After that we just went at it, soaking the whole entire thing. It probably would have been a good idea to bring something like baking soda along. That wasn’t a part of the story, so I didn’t bring any along. If you, dear reader, try this yourself, I encourage you to bring a box of baking soda and give the rug a generous sprinkle after you soak the whole thing. Dump extra baking soda over stained areas.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

The pre-soak was great, but it didn’t get rid of any stains. No, for those we did an extreme close up with the spray gun.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

We got right up in that business, holding the nozzle no farther than an inch away and holy crap, I felt like I was watching an infomercial! The stains disappeared before my very eyes!

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

It’s safe to assume every stain you see is a smushed blueberry, courtesy of a blueberry-obsessed toddler who likes to share with her fur brother.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

The stains disappeared one by one and it was so satisfying. I mean, I had paint stains on this rug that I just assumed were there to stay and low and behold they came out, too! (Stupidly, I didn’t not photograph them because I truly didn’t think they’d wash out.)

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

After depositing two rounds of $1.25 in the meter, cleaning the entire rug, and then spraying out the wheel wells on the car, we decided there was nothing more we could do. The rug didn’t need any more washing. So we rolled it back up.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

The rug was much heavier wet than dry (duh!), but we were able to easily pick it up and prop it against the side of the bay to let excess water drain off.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

We let it drain for about five minutes, then popped it back on the roof of the car and drove home. We were really boring and used bungee cords to keep it from falling off the roof, not little hands as I originally imagined in my Wes Anderson-esque film fantasy.

So as it turns out, my account of a story told long ago (16 years if you really want to know) actually ended up being a useful tidbit for my money conscious adult self. The process was so easy and satisfying, I’m definitely considering adding it to my list of spring and fall cleaning chores.

Disclaimer: The rug used in this post is made of polypropylene and the instructions say “do not wash”. So definitely proceed at your own risk! I have no idea how a wool rug would fare. If anyone has tried it before please let us know in the comments!