How to Care for Outdoor Rugs

The steps you can take to prevent damage and make them last longer

An outdoor table set for a meal sits on top of an outdoor rug Photo: Tim Abramowitz/iStock

If you own an outdoor rug, chances are it has been exposed to moisture or condensation, which can cause it to deteriorate. But there are a handful of steps you can take to preserve the life of your rug. Here’s what you should know. 

Washing and Drying

In an ideal world, you’d have the time and energy to stow away a rug before it rains to prolong its life and prevent damage to outdoor surfaces due to mold or mildew building up under the rug. Of course, that’s not always realistic. The next best thing is to routinely care for your rug. 

More on Outdoor Spaces

Most outdoor rugs will be mold- and mildew-resistant, but you’ll still want to ensure that they’re cleaned often, says Carmen Barbee, merchandise buyer at Ballard Designs and a board member of the International Textile Alliance. Exactly how often depends on the level of foot traffic where it’s placed and how often it gets wet.

Check with brands or retailers for specific washing instructions because they can vary by manufacturer. For example, Sunbrella textiles can be cleaned with a mixture of ¼ cup mild soap or dishwashing liquid per gallon of lukewarm water, Barbee says.

Power-washing or hosing down a rug with shampoo and sanitizing solutions can often fix and protect against common mildew problems. Once your rug is washed, air-dry it in a sunny spot, and be sure to hang it in a way that promotes a healthy amount of circulation. 

According to Lisa Wagner, National Institute of Rug Cleaners certified rug specialist and founder of RugChick.com, synthetic rugs can be steam-cleaned by the pros, but you may just as easily clean them on your own because they don’t have dyes that bleed or other structural concerns that would otherwise require professional care. 

If your rug needs a more intensive wash, consider a carpet cleaning company, especially if you require a deep-sanitizing treatment for an expensive rug that you intend to keep for a while. 

For city dwellers who might not have access to a hose, much less a power washer, occasionally airing out the rug by hanging it over a balcony, a fence, or even a set of outdoor chairs can help prolong its life. If possible, kick it old school and use a bucket of water, soap, and a brush to wash it out in between seasons—just be mindful of where and how you’ll be able to dispose of the waste. And if all else fails, swap in a new rug when the one you have is getting tattered or you just want a fresh look. A rug is meant to be walked on and to have people and pets move all over it, and eventually, the rug will need replacing.

“I advise my clients if they love the look of their outdoor rug choice—they should be affordably priced, if synthetic—to buy two of each, and regularly clean/sanitize and rotate them,” Wagner says. This will not only extend the life of the rug but also protect your outdoor surfaces

Off-Season Storage

Those who live in temperate climates should store rugs in the off-season to avoid unnecessarily exposing them to the elements in the winter months. Thoroughly dry the rugs, then roll them up and stow them in an enclosed space that protects the piece from rain or excessive moisture. These steps can significantly prolong the life of your landing pad. 

If your outdoor space is relatively enclosed (think stacked apartment balconies), there is a little more leeway in terms of how long the rug can be left out. That said, periodically hang the rug and allow it to air out—just like with wet towels, good circulation can help prevent mold and mildew. 

If your deck is exposed to the elements, a polypropylene rug will be better suited for your setting. If you’re looking for more tips on choosing a new outdoor rug, CR has you covered there, too.


Headshot of CRO shopping editor Anna Kocharian

Anna Kocharian

Based in New York City, I'm a shopping editor for Consumer Reports, writing about home, tech, and everything in between. Previously, I covered interior design and market trends as the digital editor of Domino, which shaped my multidisciplinary background in lifestyle journalism. When I'm not seeking out the everyday essentials worth investing in, you may find me perusing my favorite bookstores, cooking, or wandering around the city.