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How to Clean a Wool Rug Yourself at Home (Like a Pro)

Persian wool rugs

Wool rugs are loved by homeowners for their durability and beauty. However, they do need to be cleaned properly to last a long time. You may feel more comfortable having a professional company clean your wool rugs, but there's a lot you can do on your own to keep them looking fresh and in good condition.

How to Clean a Wool Rug

Following these steps on a regular basis with your wool rugs will help keep them from collecting an excess of dirt and grime. A few supplies you'll need to get started include:

  • Rug beater, optional
  • Vacuum
  • 2 buckets
  • Cold water
  • Gentle cleanser, such as Woolite
  • 2 sponges
  • Paper towels or cloth towels
  • Fan (optional)

Remove Excess Dirt

Wool rugs tend to collect dirt and dust more than other types because there are more surface areas for it to become trapped in.

  • Take your rug outside to remove as much loose dirt as possible. You can do this by hanging the rug from a sturdy clothesline or laying it over the railing of your deck or a piece of deck furniture that can hold the rug's weight.
  • If the rug is small enough, you can just give it a good shake yourself by holding it, or flapping it against a railing.
  • With a larger rug, get a rug beater and use this to hit the rug to shake dirt loose. If you don't have a rug beater, you can use anything that looks similar like a broom, carpet rake, or mop.

Vacuum the Rug

Once you've beaten as much dirt from the rug as you can outside, take the rug back inside and lay it on the ground. Vacuum the rug on both sides and run the vacuum at least two to three times completely over each side. Make sure the vacuum is at the appropriate setting for your rug, as you don't want to agitate the rug and damage the fibers with beater bars or brushes. Working with a vacuum that uses suction only is safest for your wool rugs, or you can use handheld tools if turning off the bristles and beater bars isn't an option.

Woman vacuuming shag rug with dog watching

Begin Damp Cleaning

Now you can begin washing the rug with soap and water. It's important to observe these steps and use the right products for your wool rug.

  1. You will want to get two buckets of cold water ready. One of the buckets should be just water and the other should be a solution of water and about one capful of a gentle cleaner.
  2. If this is your first time cleaning the rug with this type of soap, test the solution with a sponge on a small section of the rug first. You want to make sure the colors stay fast and there's no bleeding.
  3. If your color test works out well, take the sponge dipped in the cleaning solution and wring it out so that it is damp but not excessively wet. The rug should become damp from the cleaning but not wet, which can make drying it difficult and damage the colors.
  4. Work on the rug with the sponge from one end to the other. Some people prefer to start at a corner. Either way, make sure you are moving the sponge in the direction of the nap and not against it.
  5. Once you have sponged the entire surface, repeat the process with the bucket of plain water and a new soap-free sponge. This will be to remove any excess soap on the rug.

Drying the Rug

Once you are done with the sponge cleaning, you can help to dry the rug by placing paper towels on the surface to soak up excess moisture. You can also use regular towels to save paper. You can place the rug outside to dry if the climate is warm enough. If you can't take it outside, another option is to set a large fan up at one end of the rug to help it dry faster, and turn on a dehumidifier in the room. If you can, place some objects underneath the rug, or prop it against a wall, in order to increase airflow all around the rug's surfaces for faster drying.

Choosing Cleaners for Wool Rugs

When using a commercial cleaning product for your wool rug, it's important to use a brand that won't damage the rug. Jotham Hatch, Vice President of Training and Business Development with the Chem-Dry franchise, advises, "Avoid any cleaners that have a pH higher than 7 (neutral)." Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, President of ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, agrees, noting as well that "high pH solutions may cause your rug to brown." In general Hatch states, "Acidic cleaning products will do better on wool carpet." Wool rug owners should check the label to see if they are "Wool Safe certified products" which "are specifically tested and certified to be safe on wool fibers." Hatch also advises avoiding "spotting products with any oxidizers added and any products with heavy surfactants or soaps."

Spot Cleaning Wool Rugs

If you accidentally spill something on your rug, the best thing to do is take action quickly before the stain sets in. There are a couple of important steps to follow to avoid damaging the wool rug.

Supplies

  • Paper towels
  • White vinegar
  • Cold water
  • Bucket
  • White terry cloth or microfiber towel

Directions

  1. Do not rub the stain! This will make it worse and harder to get out. It can also damage the fibers of the rug.
  2. Pick up any debris that you can immediately, such as solid food bits from a spilled food dish or pet vomit.
  3. Grab some paper towels and use them to soak up the excess liquid, but remember, do not rub!
  4. Next, Rodriguez-Zaba advises to "use a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and cold water on a damp, but not wet, cloth or sponge to blot the stain. Do not use hot water as this can shrink the carpet." Mix the solution in the bucket.
  5. Rodriguez-Zaba says to, "blot gently, not abrasively, to prevent damaging your rug. Abrasively rubbing the rug can cause the fibers to become distorted and permanently damaged."
  6. Hatch suggests you can use "a clean terry cloth or microfiber towel. Press down on the towel firmly and give it a slight twist but avoid rubbing back and forth on the fibers. Being too aggressive can cause the fibers to fuzz." If you use a cloth or towel, make sure they are white as you don't want any colors to bleed onto the rug.
  7. You can use the same method for an older stain. The longer the spots have settled in, the longer it may take you to remove it, but remember not to rub the stain as this will hurt the carpet. If you find you cannot remove it, calling a professional cleaning company is your next step.

Dealing With Specific Stain Types

Rodriguez-Zaba recommends the water and white vinegar solution for coffee and pet urine stains. For grease and oil spots, she recommends using odorless mineral spirits instead. Hatch explains that, "water-based spots should be removed with water-based spot removal products. Solvent based spots should be removed with solvent based spot removal products."

Different Types of Wool Rugs and Cleaning Tips

Wool rugs can come in several construction styles, including braided wool rugs, hooked wool rugs and woven wool rugs. While the cleaning methods overall are the same, Hatch notes that, "It's wise to distinguish the difference between the construction style of the rug and the fiber type of the rug." This is because the type of construction can make a difference in how much rubbing and agitation it will be able to handle. Says Hatch, "when dragged around or rolled up and bent, a braided rug could tear along the seams. Likewise a hooked rug can catch on cleaning tools and unravel." He explains that the sturdiest type of wool rug construction is the woven style, or "hand knotted rug," which also tends to be the most expensive type but also the one most likely to last you the longest.

Cleaning Fine Wool Rugs

Andrew Rohr, President of MSS Cleaning, advises owners of high-end fine rugs (such as Oriental or Navajo) to use a professional cleaner. At a rug plant designed to care for these types of rugs, the rugs will be cleaned using a water bath that will not let the colors bleed and then "dried in a humidity and heat controlled environment." While this is more expensive, Rohr advises that "trying to clean fine rugs on your own is usually a recipe for disaster" and will ruin a rug that was a substantial financial investment.

Regular Wool Rug Care

You should also vacuum wool rugs at least once a week to help prevent excess dirt buildup. If the rug is in an area with a lot of regular traffic and/or if you have pets, vacuuming at least twice a week is ideal. In addition to a regular weekly vacuum schedule, another way to keep your wool rugs looking their best is regular rotation. Approximately once or twice a year, move the rug in position 180 degrees. This helps to even out the areas that get stepped on more than others.

Do Not Steam Clean Wool Rugs

Steam cleaning or using hot water of any kind should never be used with wool rugs. This is because, according to Rodriguez-Zaba, "using hot water can cause the rug to shrink." Wool rugs tend to hold moisture and are difficult to dry as well, so you want to avoid any method that involves soaking the rug. A wet rug that takes a long time to dry is also at risk of developing mold and mildew.

Caring for Your Wool Rugs

Wool rugs are popular for their beauty and quality. Rohr notes that, "Wool is a durable textile and makes for rugs that can last generations." However, without proper care and cleaning, your wool rug's potential lifetime will definitely be shortened. Take care to use the right cleaners, water temperatures and methods to clean your wool rug, or seek out a professional carpet cleaning company when in doubt to protect your investment. The rug you care for today could become a cherished family heirloom!

How to Clean a Wool Rug Yourself at Home (Like a Pro)