How to Clean a Wool Rug

Wool rug with broom, bucket, towel, sponge and wool wash detergent for cleaning

The Spruce / Olivia Inman

Overview
  • Working Time: 3 - 5 hrs
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

One of the best investments you can make in home decor is a wool rug or carpet. Wool floor coverings are warm underfoot, durable, and work beautifully with any style of home design. As a natural, renewable fiber that deters bacterial growth, wool contains lanolin that naturally repels stains and dust mites. So whether you have a vintage hand-knotted Persian, a contemporary machine-woven wool rug, or wall-to-wall wool carpet, you should care for it correctly to protect your investment.

How Often to Clean a Wool Rug

Regular vacuuming is the key to maintaining the beauty of the fibers. A new wool rug will shed fibers. Don't be alarmed, as it is normal due to the nature of how wool fibers are woven and the rug won't become bare. The majority of the shedding will occur in the first few months. If you vacuum at least twice weekly during the first months, the shedding will quickly diminish.

Use a good vacuum with a beater bar to help lift embedded dust and dirt. If your rug is fringed, start vacuuming in the center of the rug and avoid the edges to prevent damage. Vacuums with beater bars and fringe don't mix well. Use a hand-held vacuum or an upholstery attachment to clean the fringed edges.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Vacuum
  • Broom
  • 2 buckets
  • Sponge
  • Old towels

Materials

  • Cool water
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons gentle wool wash detergent

Instructions

Broom, vacuum, bucket, folded towels, sponge and wool wash detergent materials cleaning wool rug

The Spruce / Olivia Inman

  1. Shake out the Dirt

    Choose a sunny, moderate day to deep clean a smaller wool area rug. Take the rug outside and hang it over a sturdy clothesline, porch railing, or a couple of solid chairs. Use a broom, tennis racket, or rug beater to hit the rug all over to loosen deeply embedded dirt.

    This is also the time to remove the rug pad and give it a good shake outside and clean the flooring under the rug.

    Wool rug hung over patio railing while beating out dirt with broom

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

  2. Vacuum the Rug

    Spread the rug flat on your deck, patio, or a clean tarp with the wrong side up. Vacuum it well. Turn the rug over and vacuum the other side. If you don't have an outside spot, use your kitchen floor, garage, or any dry area.

    Wool rug being vacuumed

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

  3. Mix a Gentle Detergent Solution

    Fill a large bucket with cool water and add one to two tablespoons of a gentle detergent like Woolite, or your homemade wool wash, and mix well. Fill a second bucket with clean cool water.

    Bucket filled with water and mixed with gentle wool wash detergent over wool rug

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

  4. Lightly Scrub

    Dip a sponge into the detergent and water solution and begin sponging at one end of the rug. Work in a grid of about 3 feet by 3 feet and sponge on the cleaning solution using gentle pressure. Rinse out the sponge frequently as the soil is transferred from the rug. Do not over-wet the fibers. Wool is very absorbent and can take a long time to dry.

    Sponge lightly scrubbing wool rug with wool wash detergent solution

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

  5. Rinse Away Suds

    Dip a clean sponge in fresh water to "rinse" the area you've cleaned. Do not skip this step because any detergent left in the fibers will attract more soil.

    Sponge dipped in separate bucket of fresh water to rinse suds

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

  6. Blot the Moisture

    Blot the cleaned area with old towels to absorb any excessive moisture. Move to a new section and repeat the steps until you've blotted the entire surface.

    Blotting wool rug's excess moisture with old towels

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

  7. Allow to Dry

    Allow the rug to dry completely before placing it back on the rug pad. To speed drying time, hang the rug, or elevate it to improve air circulation.

    Wool rug hanging over porch railing to air dry

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

Removing Stains From a Wool Rug

Spills and muddy footprints happen, but prompt treatment is the best thing you can do to protect your wool rug. To remove many other problems, follow the guidelines for specific stains. However, there are some tips you should use each time you tackle a stain on a wool rug:

  • Don't rub: Never rub a fresh stain. Immediately, lift away any solids with a dull edge like a spoon or spatula and blot up liquids with plenty of paper towels. Rubbing only pushes the stain deeper into the fibers.
  • Let mud dry: When it comes to mud, wait until it dries on the rug before cleaning it up. Dry mud stains are easier to remove using a dull edge tool along with vacuuming up the crumbly bits.
  • Dab stain remover: Never pour any type of stain remover directly on wool rugs. Place a dab of the cleaner on a white cloth and test it to make sure that it does not cause the colors to bleed or disappear. This also helps avoid excess soapy residue left in the wool fibers.
  • Go gentle: Always use a stain remover recommended for wool rugs like Emergency Stain Rescue Stain Remover, a gentle cleaner like Woolite, or simple dishwashing liquid and lukewarm water.
  • Avoid bleach: Never apply chlorine bleach, ammonia, or even oxygen-bleach to a wool rug. These chemicals can damage the wool and cause colors to bleed or disappear.

Tips to Keep Your Wool Rug Clean Longer

  • Institute a "no shoes indoors" policy that can help stretch the time between necessary cleanings.
  • Hiring a professional carpet cleaner is the best choice to clean wall-to-wall wool carpeting.
  • If your pet has had an accident on your wool rug, neutralize the odor by dabbing a bit of white distilled vinegar on the area.
  • To freshen your wool carpet in between cleanings, opt for a "dry bath" of dry carpet shampoo formulated for wool rugs.
  • Seasonally, rotate the rug to prevent excessive wear patterns and uneven fading from sunlight. This will help the rug last longer and develop an even patina overall.

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