How to Distress a Rug

Rugs are a perfect way to add some color and texture to any room. They’re also great for adding warmth under your feet on cold winter days! But what happens when you spill something on your rug, or it starts to look old.

How to Distress a Rug

You need an easy solution that won’t cost you much time or money. If this sounds like the situation you find yourself in, then this blog post is for you! We’ll discuss how to distress a rug so that it looks new again without spending hours scrubbing it with soap and water. Read on below for more information about this process! 

8 Easy Ways on How to Distress a Rug:

1. Water

Lay the rug in a room that can get wet.  Pour water onto the rug until it is soaked thoroughly, then wring out excess water by twisting the rug’s ends. Leave the rug in a dry area for at least two days before continuing with the distressing.

2. Spray paint

Lay the rug out on a covered surface, such as a porch.  Spray the paint onto the rugs until satisfied, then air dry for one day before continuing with distressing. Launder the rug in a washing machine to clean.

3. Stain and Tea Bags

Stain and tea bags go hand-in-hand when it comes to distressing rugs; place tea bags on areas of the rug you want to distress, then blot with stain until satisfied. Allow at least one day for drying before continuing distressing.

4. Salt, Water, and Fabric Softener

Mix equal parts salt with fabric softener to create a paste that can distress rugs by applying with a rag or sponge brush.  Allow the rug to dry overnight in an area where it will not be disturbed, then take out the vacuum cleaner for a quick clean-up.

5. Nail Polish and Toothpaste

Apply multiple coats of nail polish to the rug in areas you would like to distress, then apply whitening toothpaste.  Wipe off excess with a sponge or rag until satisfied; allow at least one day for drying before continuing distressing.

6. Bleach and Water

Pour bleach onto the rug, use a rag to spread evenly, allow the rug to dry completely, which will take at least three days.  Rinse the rug under running water to remove excess bleach; allow at least three days for drying before continuing distressing.

Rinse the Rug to Remove Excess Bleach

7. Staining Solutions

Use a brush or rag to apply oil-based stains, then use steel wool to distress the stained areas until satisfied. Allow the area to dry completely, then use a rag to rub glue into the rug before brushing off excess. Allow at least three days for drying before continuing distressing.

8. Vinegar

Pour vinegar onto the rugs until they are saturated, then air dry for two days before continuing distressing.  Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle to use on stained areas, if desired.

Step by Step Instructions: How to Distress a Rug 

Step 1:

The first thing that needs to be done is to take the rug outside into the sun. This will help fade out all of that stain and make the rug look weathered.

Step 2:

Next, mix up a bucket of warm water with either Oxy Clean or your favorite stain remover. Using an old scrub brush, begin working on all those areas that need it. If you do not have any cleaner, you can mix some bleach with helping fade any stains.

Step 3:

Once you have scrubbed the entire rug, begin rinsing it off, making sure to get all of the soap out of the rug before hanging it up for drying.

Step 4:

After all of the soap is rinsed off, grab a handful of table salt and mix with water to create a paste. Using your fingers, apply the paste to the entire rug. This will begin giving it that aged look like salt stains on sidewalks.

Step 5:

After all of the salt is applied, take a hairdryer and begin the blow drying the area. Once dry, use your fingers to wipe off any excess salt that has not come off onto you.

Paint to Create New Wash

Step 6:

Next, grab a can of black spray paint and begin applying the paint to the corners and edges of your rug. This will give it that dark-aged look like dirt is piling up against those pieces. If there are any other areas that you would like to shade darker, feel free to go ahead and do this as well.

Step 7:

Next, take a spray bottle and fill it with water and a few drops of black paint to create your gray wash. Using this mixture, start spraying the entire rug to give it that misty look. You may have to do multiple coats if you want the look to be gritty.

Step 8:

Finally, hang your rug up to dry and let it sit for a few days. Once you bring the rug inside, please give it a good shake by opening a door in front of the rug, this will help remove any excess salt or paint from your rug.

Some Tips and Suggestions:

  1. When distressing by hand, it helps to have a soft-tipped pencil or ballpoint pen, not sharp.
  2. The end of the ridged handle of your electric toothbrush also works very well for distressing/roughing up the rug’s pile.
  3. Distressing is meant to be random and purposeful, not all in one spot or area.
  4. For a worn and weathered look, you can pour fine sand over the entire surface of the rug and let it sit for 24 hours or more before vacuuming off.
  5. The earlier in the process that you distress (the less that is done to the backing), e.g., before even cutting your rug out, the less noticeable you’re distressing will be.
  6. It is best to allow the rug to flat-dry before distressing it unless it is used in a bathroom.
  7. The more wear and tear an area gets, the more intact (and thus less distressed) that area should look.


A rug will last longer if it’s properly taken care of. Distressing a rug is an easy way to maintain its appearance and extend the life span and help with some damage that has been done over time from spills, pets, or just general wear and tear. The process of distressing a rug is not complicated, but it does take some time and patience.

There are different ways to distress a rug depending on what you have at your disposal, such as sandpaper, chemicals, or steam cleaners. Check out these tips for how to distress a carpet in case you need them! We hope this article has helped get you started on how to distress a rug. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us, and we would be happy to answer them for you!

Jennifer Branett
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