How to Clean a Wool Rug

How to Clean Wool Rugs

Vstock/ Getty Images

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 maintain your investment.

Get a Rug Pad

Since wool fibers are so durable and bounce back even under heavy foot-traffic, a wool rug is perfect for entry areas and living spaces. After you make your design and size choice, the other essential is a good rug pad.

The rug pad provides traction to helps hold the wool rug in place. The padding also adds a bit of cushion, additional insulation from cold floors, and prevents wear from abrasion if the rug slips and slides. The padding should be at least one-fourth inch thick and about two inches smaller than the shape of the rug.

The 7 Best Rug Pads to Buy in 2019

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, 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 and become less and less. 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 has fringe, start the vacuuming in the center of the rug and avoid the edges. Vacuums with beater bars and fringe don't mix well. Use a hand-held vacuum or an upholstery attachment to clean the fringed edges.

Seasonally, rotate the rug to prevent excessive wear patterns and uneven fading from sunlight. This will help the rug last longer and develop an overall even patina.

What You Need

Supplies

  • Vacuum
  • Broom
  • Two buckets
  • Cool water
  • Gentle wool wash detergent
  • Sponge

How to Deep Clean a Wool Rug in 7 Steps

Eventually, your wool rug or carpet will need to be cleaned due to normal home use. Instituting a "no shoes on inside" will help stretch the time between necessary cleanings. Depending on the value and size of the rug, you can hire a professional or do it yourself. For wall-to-wall wool carpeting, a professional carpet cleaner is the best choice.

  1. Shake Out the Dirt

    To deep clean a smaller wool area rug, choose a sunny, good weather day. 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 the time to remove the rug pad and give it a good shake outside and clean the flooring under the rug.

  2. Vacuum

    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 area that moisture will not damage.

  3. Mix a Gentle Detergent

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

  4. Lightly Scrub

    Starting at one end of the rug, dip a sponge into the detergent and water solution. Work in a grid of about three feet by three 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 or saturate the fibers. Wool is very absorbent and can take a long time to dry.

  5. Rinse

    Use the sponge to "rinse" the area you've cleaned with the plain water. Do not skip this step because any detergent left in the fibers will actually attract more soil.

  6. Blot

    Blot the cleaned area with old towels to absorb any excessive moisture. Move to a new section and repeat the steps until the entire surface of the rug has been cleaned.

  7. Let Dry

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

Tips for Removing Stains on Wool Rugs

Spills and muddy footprints are going to happen and prompt treatment is the best thing you can do to protect your wool rug. How you remove any prominent stains depends on what caused the problem and you should follow the guidelines for specific stains.

However, there are some tips you should use each time you tackle a stain on a wool rug:

Tips

  • NEVER rub a stain. It will only drive it deeper into the wool fibers. Immediately, lift away any solids with a dull edge like a spoon or spatula and blot up liquids with plenty of paper towels. The one exception is mud. It may be easier to remove the stains after the mud has dried.
  • Never pour any type of stain remover directly on wool rugs. Place a dab on a white cloth and test it to make sure that it does not cause the colors to bleed. This also helps avoid over-usage leaving residue in the wool fibers.
  • Always use a stain remover recommended for wool rugs like ESR Emergency Stain Rescue, a gentle cleaner like Woolite or simple dishwashing soap and lukewarm water. Add a bit of white distilled vinegar to help neutralize pet odors. Never apply chlorine bleach, ammonia, or even oxygen-bleach to a wool rug. Harsh chemicals can damage the wool and cause colors to bleed.