A carpet beater, also known as a rug beater, is a tool used to clean carpets and rugs. The carpet beater consists of a long handle with a broad, flat head, which often has a pleated or knot-like design. To make use of a carpet beater, the user hangs a carpet or rug from a laundry line or over a fence and vigorously strikes it repeatedly with the carpet beater, loosening dust and dirt.
Carpet beaters are usually made of wood, rattan, wicker, or cane. Some models, particularly those manufactured in the late 20th century, may also be made of wire, metal, or plastic. They became common in the 19th century, as mass production lowered the prices of carpets and rugs enough so that many families could afford them. Carpet beaters were common household tools even into the middle of the 20th century, when they began to be replaced by carpet sweepers and increasingly affordable vacuum cleaners.
As a cleaning tool, carpet beaters are inexpensive and environmentally friendly. Compared to vacuum cleaners, however, they have some drawbacks. For example, rugs must be taken outdoors to be beaten. In Britain and the Netherlands, carpet beating was traditionally done in the back yard of a house, so cleaning could only be done in good weather. In the case of houses without yards, carpets were hung out of windows to be beaten, which could be unpleasant for passers-by, who would have to walk through a cloud of dust and dirt.
Although they are no longer commonly used for their original purpose, antique rug beaters can be collectors' items. Some carpet beaters have intricately patterned heads, and these became popular ornaments in the late 20th century, often hung on walls in pairs or groups. Some carpet beaters designed for the collectors' market have decorative heads shaped like animals, hearts, or other designs. These are popular for decoration, but were not common in functional carpet beaters. Replica carpet beaters can be found online and in many stores, and authentic carpet beaters, which were once ubiquitous in households, are comparatively affordable antiques.
In the Netherlands, the carpet beater (known as a 'mattenklopper') was customarily used for corporal punishment. Children were spanked using the carpet beater's broad, flat, paddle-like head. Carpet beaters and punishment are so associated in Dutch culture that the carpet beater remains a symbol of discipline, authority, and traditional values. It is associated with the stereotypical figure of a controlling, efficient mother and housewife.