How to Clean a Wool Rug With Household Items

Fiber maintenance by hand and with detergent

How to Clean a Wool Rug

The Spruce / Madelyn Goodnight

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 3 - 5 hrs
  • Total Time: 5 hrs - 1 day
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $10-$20

One of the best investments you can make in home decor is a wool rug or carpet, and like other textiles, you can clean a wool rug at home to maintain its condition. Wool floor coverings are warm underfoot, durable, and work beautifully with any style of home design. As an organic, renewable fiber that deters bacterial growth, wool contains lanolin that naturally repels stains and dust mites. Whether you have a vintage hand-knotted Persian rug, a contemporary machine-woven wool rug, or wall-to-wall wool carpet, you can clean your wool rug with a few simple steps to protect your investment.

Tip

Along with using commercial wool wash detergents, it's also possible to clean a wool rug with baking soda or vinegar. Baking soda is safe for wool rugs and offers a moisture-free option for a quick refresh, while vinegar is best for removing odors like pet urine.

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: This is normal due to the nature of how wool fibers are woven, and your rug won't become bare. The majority of shedding will occur in the first few months. If you vacuum the rug at least twice weekly during this time, 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 can damage fringe, so 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 strong chairs. Use a broom, tennis racket, or rug beater to hit the rug all over and loosen deeply embedded dirt.

    This is also the time to remove the rug pad, 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

    Use a gentle detergent like Woolite to clean your wool rug safely. Fill a large bucket with cool water, then add one to two tablespoons of detergent (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 cleaning 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, then "rinse" the area you've cleaned by dabbing it in each section. 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. You can also use a carpet cleaner on wool carpets to remove moisture; simply use the machine on a vacuum-only setting without applying the cleaning solution, then hang the rug until it dries completely.

    Wool rug hanging over porch railing to air dry

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

Can You Machine-Clean a Wool Rug?

It may seem easier to use a carpet cleaner on your wool rug or rent a carpet extractor from the home improvement store. While carpet extractors can be used to successfully deep-clean this material, it has to be done properly, or it can end in damage.

The key to properly cleaning a wool rug is to not flood it with too much water and to not let it stay wet too long, as wool naturally holds onto water and can cause mold growth readily if not dried properly. Wool is also easily damaged by hot water temperatures and bleach-based soaps offered with some extraction machines.

If you want to use an extraction machine to speed up cleaning your wool rug, you need to follow some key steps:

  1. First, use a carpet extractor with a true upholstery wand—not just a big carpeted floor attachment with scrubbing bristles, as that might be too intense for some rugs, and these units tend to dump more water.
  2. Use cool water and a wool-safe detergent like Woolite, just like with the manual method, as hot water and strong detergents with bleach will shrink and discolor the wool.
  3. Work quickly and evenly as you pull the extraction wand along the carpet so you don't flood any spots.
  4. If your machine allows you to use the suction of the upholstery attachment without spraying solution, run it "dry" over the carpet several times to suck up as much water as possible before allowing it to dry. If your machine won't dry extract, blot the carpet with towels like the manual method.
  5. Finally, dry the carpet with as much airflow as you can create, either by turning on fans, lifting the carpet off the ground, opening windows, or even better, doing all three.

How to Remove 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 clean a stain from 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, a gentle cleaner like Woolite, or simple dishwashing liquid and lukewarm water.
  • Avoid bleach: Never apply chlorine bleach, ammonia, or oxygen bleach to a wool rug. These chemicals can damage the wool and cause colors to bleed or disappear.
  • Try baking soda: Clean a wool rug with baking soda by lightly sprinkling it over the affected area. Let it rest for up to an hour, then vacuum. Repeat as needed until the stain is lifted.

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.
  • When dealing with cat or dog urine, clean a wool rug by neutralizing the odor with vinegar. Mix a few tablespoons of distilled white vinegar into a cup of water, then use it to dampen the affected area. Gently blot it dry with a towel, then repeat as necessary until the odor is removed.
  • To freshen your wool carpet 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.
  • Steam clean your wool rug annually to remove dirt and debris from deep within the carpet. Avoid steaming on a regular basis, as heat can damage wool fibers.

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