How to Clean Bathroom Rugs to Remove Stinky Odors

Don't leave this essential task out of your bathroom cleaning routine.

coral bathroom

You've already scrubbed your shower, sink, and toilet. So what's next? You're walking on it!

Bathroom rugs are a magnet for hair and dust, and depending on how well-ventilated your space is, they can also be a haven for mold and mildew. (Ew!) Not to mention, they pick up anything your shoes track in on the way to those last-minute mirror checks. All the more reason to clean your rugs and bath mats at least every three to four weeks. To learn how, follow our step-by-step guide for the best way to clean bathroom rugs and mats.

coral bathroom

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

How to Machine-Wash Bathroom Rugs

  • Vacuum cleaner

How to Hand-Wash Bathroom Rugs

  • Rubber gloves
  • Drop cloth (optional)
  • Towel (optional)
  • Sponge

How to Dry Bathroom Rugs

  • Dryer
  • Drying rack
  • Shower rod (optional)
  • Clothesline (optional)


How to Machine-Wash Bathroom Rugs

  • Detergent
  • Vinegar

How to Hand-Wash Bathroom Rugs

  • Warm water
  • Laundry detergent

How to Clean Plastic Bath Mats

  • Vinegar
  • Detergent
  • Tea tree oil
  • Water


How to Machine-Wash Bathroom Rugs

Follow these steps to get your machine-washable bathroom rug as clean as can be. Machine-washable bathroom rug materials include cotton, polyester, nylon, chenille, memory foam, and plastic.

  1. Shake It Out

    The first step to cleaning bath mats and rugs is to give them a little shake. Take yours outside to shake loose any dirt and debris. A quick vacuum will also do the trick.

  2. Check the Care Tag

    Pay extra attention to the care tag on the back of your rug so you don't miss any important instructions. Although most are machine-washable, proper care varies by material and certain cleaning methods could save your rug from wearing down faster.

  3. Add Rug to Washing Machine

    If you have a few bath towels lying around, toss them into the load, too. This helps prevent your washing machine from off-balancing and making those thunderous noises mid-cycle. Just be careful not to overload.

  4. Choose the Correct Setting

    High heat is best for killing any bacteria or mold. Select a warm or hot temperature for cotton, polyester, nylon, and plastic rugs. Washing a memory foam bath mat is a different story; those must be washed at a cooler temperature to keep the synthetic material intact. You'll also want to avoid using any bleach on memory foam.

    Choose a gentle cycle setting for all rugs. This setting is key, especially for cleaning large rubber-backed rugs, as it keeps the sticky, slip-resistant surface from deteriorating.

How to Hand-Wash Bathroom Rugs

Hand-wash only materials include bamboo, jute, and other natural fibers. Not only does hand-washing a bathroom rug help maintain its materials, but it extends the overall lifetime.

  1. Prepare Sink or Tub

    To get started, grab some rubber gloves and fill your kitchen sink or a large tub with warm water and a few tablespoons of laundry detergent. If cleaning inside, consider laying down a plastic drop cloth or towel to protect your floor.

  2. Add Rug, Scrub, and Rinse

    Add the bathroom rug to the mix and use a sponge to gently scrub it. Empty the sink or tub and rinse with cool water until the soap is completely washed away.

    For bathroom rugs made with bamboo or other natural fiber rugs, you'll want to avoid soaking completely. Instead, dip a sponge into a bucket of warm, soapy water to spot clean. (This applies to area rugs, too!)

How to Clean Plastic Bath Mats

Dealing with an all-plastic mat, like the one in your shower? Look to vinegar, a natural cleaning ingredient, for a truly clean bath mat.

Pour 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar right in with the detergent to give it the ultimate sanitation treatment. Add a few drops of tea tree oil along with it to help rid your rug or mat of any unwanted smells. Plus, the fresh fragrance will leave your bathroom smelling like a spa!

How to Dry Bathroom Rugs

Drying bathroom rugs is simple. Chances are if you can machine-wash the rug, you can machine-dry it as well. (Again, check the care tag!) One exception: memory foam. For the others, stick to a low tumble dry on a cooler temperature setting to avoid any shrinking, especially if it's cotton.

Any bathroom rug can use the hang-dry method. To do so, simply hang it in your laundry room over a drying rack, on a shower rod, or outside on a clothesline. Just be sure to keep it away from the sun to avoid any discoloration. Most bath mats require the hang-dry method because the plastic underside could melt in the dryer. Once completely dry, place the mat or rug back in the bathroom.

How to Choose a New Bathroom Rug

In the market for a new bathroom rug altogether? Remember these tips before you select your material:

While cotton is cozy and can easily be thrown in the wash, it's thin and more susceptible to wear and tear the longer it sits on a wet bathroom floor. Bamboo is a step above, but you sacrifice comfort for durability. For higher-traffic bathrooms, count on polyester and nylon as they're longer-lasting and more slip-resistant.

Prefer to make your own bathroom rug rather than buy a new one? Check out how to DIY your own textured rug or revamp an old one using colorful dye.

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