While outdoor rugs are made to withstand the elements, they are not 100% impervious to the whims of Mother Nature. Leaves and dirt can cause stains, and rain and snow can lead to mildew and mold growth within their fibers. So, it’s important to do regular maintenance on your outdoor rug to keep it looking fresh and to keep your outdoor space clean. But what happens when mold does appear? Here’s what to do when your outdoor rugs grow mold and mildew—and how to care for them to mitigate future growth.
What is an outdoor rug?
First things first: What does it mean when a rug is an outdoor rug? These styles are specifically crafted to live outdoors, and are made with fibers (typically synthetic materials like polypropylene, polyester, or nylon) designed to be extra durable, resist fading from sunlight, resist mold and mildew, and be easily cleanable—all on top of being soft and maintaining a luxe look and feel.
Generally, outdoor rugs require very little maintenance. But this doesn’t mean you can simply leave them outside and forget about them! Luckily, caring for them is easy. And by incorporating a few easy-care cleaning steps every few weeks or once a month, you’ll only need to do a big, thorough washing a couple times a year. Keep reading—we’ll help you figure out your outdoor rug care plan in a bit!
Why do outdoor rugs grow mold and mildew?
Mildew and mold can grow within the fibers of your outdoor rug if the rug is exposed to water or humidity over extended periods of time. This is because wet environments create the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. You’ll know your outdoor rugs have mold growing on them if you see circular stains of brown, green, or black within the fibers, or if you detect a pungent, musty smell.
You’ll want to get rid of the mold or mildew for a number of reasons beyond the fact that it stains the rugs and leaves a smell. If left uncleaned, mold can eat away at your rug’s fibers, causing the rug to break down and deteriorate over time. Mold and mildew can also adversely affect pets, kids, and adults who have allergies to mold.
How to Clean Outdoor Rugs
Before you master the art of removing mold from your outdoor rug, it’s important to know how to clean up dirt and get more basic messes out of your rug. Note that cleaning guidelines vary by material, so we recommend checking with your manufacturer’s instructions before cleaning your rug. But in general, consider this your guide to regular outdoor rug maintenance.
For light dirt and dust: Because your outdoor rug lives outside, dirt and dust will accumulate in its fibers. Getting them out is easy—simply give your rug a good shake! We recommend doing this once a month or every few weeks, depending on where it’s placed and where you live. You can also use a vacuum on your outdoor rug. Regular vacuuming and shaking out of your rug will help prevent dirt becoming deep-set within the fibers.
For caked-on dirt and mud: Break out the big guns! Aka, your hose and/or power washer. Before you get started, use a dull knife or a spoon to scrape as much of the dried mud off as possible. Then, give your outdoor rug a rinse down with water, preferably on a sloped surface like a driveway so the dirty water flows away from the rug. If the dirt is extra stubborn, try scrubbing the rug with a large nylon brush and a mixture of water and gentle dish soap. Rinse with water one more time, then gently squeeze out the excess moisture and hang or let it dry in the sun.
For stains: It’s time for a spot treatment! Using a mixture of warm water and gentle soap, gently dab at the area with a clean cloth, working from the outside to the middle. And while scrubbing works to remove dirt, the number one rule for getting out stains is to dab, not scrub. Scrubbing a stain will push it further into the fibers of the rug.
How to Remove Mold from Outdoor Rugs
What happens when outdoor rugs grow mold? How do you clean it? We’ve got a few different techniques for killing off the mold and getting your rug back in good shape.
The bleach method: First, sweep, vacuum, or shake the rug to remove excess dust. Make a solution of water and bleach, and use a spray bottle to wet the moldy areas. Rinse the rug thoroughly with clean water to remove the bleach and mold.
Bleach can be harmful for plants and grass, so do this in an area where water won’t runoff and contaminate your plants. Also, before trying this out, be sure to spot test a small patch in the corner to make sure the bleach won’t discolor your rug.
The baking soda and vinegar method: Just like above, give the rug a good sweep, vacuum, or shake before getting started. Fill a spray bottle with a mixture of roughly one part vinegar and three parts water. Pour baking soda on the stained moldy spots, then spray the vinegar mixture liberally on top. You’ll see little bubbles forming on the surface of the rug—and that’s a good thing! It’s the vinegar and baking soda working together to clean and kill off the mold. Rinse with clean water thoroughly, then allow the rug to hang dry or dry in the sun.
How do you prevent mold from growing on outdoor rugs?
There are a few things you can do to lessen the chance that mold will grow on your outdoor rug. First: whenever your rug is exposed to water, be sure to hang it up to dry or let it dry in the sun to ensure it’s not exposed to moisture over long periods of time. If you let it dry on the ground in the sun, be sure to flip it over and let it dry thoroughly on both sides to make sure all the water evaporates out.
We also recommend bringing your rug inside when you’re not using your outdoor area, or if you’re expecting a big snow or rainstorm. Carefully roll it up and store it in your home in an area where it won’t get damp.