A moldy looking, smelly patio rug can tarnish an otherwise spotless patio area, so like everything else in your outdoor living space it’s important to keep them clean.
Patio rugs do go moldy, but not the synthetic fibers of the rug itself. What goes moldy is the small particles of dirt, grass, plant matter and old food crumbs between the fibers.
In this article we’re going to look in more depth at why patio rugs go moldy, how to clean them effectively with organic products, and also consider how to stop them going moldy in the first place.
Why Outdoor Rugs Go Moldy (It’s Not Why You Think)
We’ve talked a few times about how easy it is for outdoor furnishings to go moldy, especially in rainy climates. To avoid this, we buy special patio rugs that are designed to be water resistant and live outdoors happily. Synthetic outdoor rugs are also specially made to prevent mold growth. So why do we still see mold developing on our rugs?
The answer is unexpected. It’s not the rug itself that goes moldy: it’s the dirt trapped between the synthetic fibers that causes the problem. Dirt, grass and bits of plant get trodden into the outdoor rug, and because they can get moldy, they do. Spillages and food crumbs are another common cause of mold growth in outdoor rugs and furniture.
Moist outdoor conditions encourage mold, so while the synthetic fibers themselves are water and mold resistant, the foreign bodies trapped within them aren’t. Unless we keep on top of shaking, sweeping and cleaning our rugs, they will continue to attract mold growth, whatever they’re made from.
Synthetic materials don’t guard against other unwelcome visitors, such as moss and algae. Again, if the conditions are right (i.e. damp), these two will also invite themselves into your outdoor rug. This doesn’t have to be rain: it can also be humidity, dew, water from tending to your plants, drinks spillages…
Prevention is definitely easier than cure (and we’ll come to this in a moment); however, if you’ve noticed unsightly green areas starting to develop on the rug, there are a few things you can do to get rid of it.
How Do You Get Mold Out of an Outdoor Rug? (Cleaning Tips)
If you spot mold on your outdoor rug, there are a few different ways you can clean it. The first step with all methods is to get rid of any loose dirt and crumbs. The easiest way to do this is to simply vacuum it, like it’s your indoor area rug.
You’ll need to make sure the rug is dry first, so if it’s a bit damp, hang it to dry for a while before vacuuming. Then, suck up all those bits of dirt, grit, plant material and crumbs, otherwise you’ll just be rubbing them in further when you wash it later.
There are various ways to get rid of mold. A bleach solution will work; however it’s not ideal if there are young kids, pets and plants in the vicinity. If you are using bleach, choose an area of your yard where the bleach solution can run off safely into a drain and you can easily hose down the floor afterwards.
Also make sure the bleach won’t damage the colors of the rug or the surface of your pavers. Test a small section of both before diving in with the spray bottle. A paint spray type device is the easiest and safest way to wash your rug with bleach, and you should also wear gloves. Afterward, rinse it with clean water (a hosepipe is easiest) and then hang it up to dry in the sun.
This will definitely kill any mold and moss, and you may as well continue and bleach clean your concrete yard floor while you’re at it. However, bleach is not the nicest of substances to introduce into your yard, and we have a great natural alternative…
Will Vinegar Get Rid of Mold On Outdoor Rugs?
We’re asked this a lot, and the answer is yes, vinegar will get rid of mold on outdoor rugs. As you may have gathered from our previous blogs, we’re big fans of white vinegar as a yard cleaner.
For outdoor rugs, we add another magic ingredient from our kitchen store cupboard: baking soda. When this is mixed with the vinegar, it forms a bubbling super-cleaner that gets right to the heart of those fibers and destroys those pesky spores. There are two ways of doing this.
One method is to mix both ingredients with water, and pour the resulting fizzy mix over the rug. Leave for a few minutes then rinse thoroughly. Hang the rug in a warm, sunny spot, and make sure that both sides are completely dry before returning it to your patio.
Or, you can sprinkle the dry, vacuumed rug with baking soda, then spray it with water from a paint sprayer or spritz bottle. The next step is to spray white vinegar over the damp rug. Leave it for a few minutes, then hose the whole thing down.
If you don’t have any baking soda, you can simply use a solution of vinegar and water. Spray it all over the rug, leave, rinse, dry – you know the drill by now. Washing the rug periodically with white vinegar will help to keep unwelcome mold, moss and algae at bay.
How To Stop Your Patio Rug Getting Mildew & Mold In The First Place
As ever, prevention is better than cure, and a regular cleaning routine should prevent mold, mildew and moss in the first place. We wouldn’t dream of not vacuuming our dining room area rug regularly, but seldom think to clean the one under our yard patio table. We all simply treat our outdoor furnishings differently to our indoor ones.
So, the first thing to do is change that mindset: our outdoor “rooms” need housekeeping too. The most important thing to prevent mold is to keep its hosts away, and we can do that by shaking or vacuuming all those bits of dirt, plant and crumbs out of the fibers. A smaller rug can be picked up and shaken, or hung over the line and beaten, like our grandmas would have done.
When it’s being used frequently (in the warmer months), give it a good vacuum once or twice a week, making sure it’s dry first. Then, every month or so, give it a wash with vinegar and water, or even vinegar, water and baking soda for an extra-good clean. Make sure you spot-clean spillages and stains: soapy water for grease and a salt and water scrub for coloured stains.
If your rug gets wet, don’t leave it on the patio or porch floor to dry, but loop it across the fence or washing line to let both sides dry. This will prevent moss and algae developing. If you don’t have anywhere to hang it, lay it flat on sunny concrete or pavers, turning it so both sides get dry. Don’t dry it with any form of drying appliance, as that can damage synthetic fibres.
Finally, when you’re not using your rug, store it away. Vacuum it, wash it, dry it then roll it, and cover it with a piece of plastic or tarp. Tie it up with bungee cord or rope to keep out the bugs and mice who are looking for a winter nest.
Ideally, store the rolled rug in a garage, out building or shed; however if it isn’t possible to keep it indoors, make sure the cover is waterproof, and stand it upright in a sheltered corner of your yard. It could also be repurposed as an indoor rug for your hallway or sun room over the winter.
Keeping your patio area clean is important if you’re regularly eating with family or entertaining guests. We think about the table, seats and outdoor furniture first as they’re the center of attention – but sometimes we neglect what’s right under our feet.
Keeping your patio rug clean is crucial if you want to avoid it going moldy and smelly. And while the synthetic fibers of the rug itself won’t go moldy, all those crumbs of food, dirt and grass particles will eventually start to decay.
That’s why we recommend hoovering your outdoor rug after a big meal or event, and cleaning between the fibers with an organic product such as white vinegar. Then you’ll keep your rug nice and clean and won’t harm any plants or pets in your yard.
Homeowner and property investor Larry Jones founded Take a Yard in 2020 to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >