A wool rug is a beautiful, yet costly, addition to any home. Because of the nature of these natural fibers, cleaning wool rugs takes a special technique and extra care. Using the correct products will ensure that your wool rug is not damaged during cleaning.
One way to help keep a wool area rug from getting too dirty in the first place is to ask family members to take their shoes off in the home’s entryway. Shoes worn outdoors carry an amazing amount of dirt, and keeping this dirt off of your valuable rugs will go a long way toward keeping them clean. Even so, wool rugs should be vacuumed frequently and thoroughly cleaned about every 12 to 18 months.
Vacuuming Wool Rugs
Dirt, dust, and other debris rubs against the fibers of a wool rug and can actually damage them. It’s very important to use a quality vacuum to remove this debris on a regular basis, and wool area rugs should be vacuumed at least as often as regular carpeting. In the first few years of a rug’s life, it will shed the excess wool fibers left over from the weaving process. These fibers leave a fuzzy appearance all over the rug and should be vacuumed a few times each week.
- The vacuum’s height should be set to “high” so that the rotating brush does not create excessive agitation on the rug. Too much agitation will damage the wool fibers, lead to pilling, and may even cause shrinkage.
- The brushes on the beater bar should lightly touch the rug during vacuuming. The brushing will help remove deep down dirt without agitating the fibers too much.
- For the greatest suction, the vacuum bag or canister should be kept less than half full.
- The vacuum should be moved in a ‘V’ path instead of back and forth in straight lines. Alternating the direction of the vacuum’s path prevents the fibers from being crushed.
- Wool rugs can be turned upside down and the backside can be vacuumed as well.
About once a year, wool rugs should receive an overall cleaning to remove general grime that a vacuum can’t touch. This will brighten the rug, giving it an almost new appearance, and will extend its life.
To clean a wool rug at home, it should first be vacuumed well on both the front and back sides. The rug should be laid on a clean area outside, such as a porch or patio. A garden hose can be used to wet the rug with water.
Around a quarter cup of a gentle liquid cleanser should be briskly stirred into a bucket of cool water. With a clean cloth, sponge, or even a mop, the sudsy mixture can be spread over the rug. A wool rug should never be scrubbed since intense agitation will damage the natural fibers and could lead to shrinkage.
After soaping up the entire rug, it can be rinsed with the garden hose. All traces of soap suds should be rinsed away. (Eucalan Woolwash does not actually require rinsing.)
Clean white towels can be laid over the rug, and then the whole thing should be rolled up together. The towels will absorb much of the water, and it can help to stand on the rolled-up rug to press out more water. The rug can be rolled up with dry towels again until very little water is absorbed into the towels. A wet/dry vac or a carpet cleaning machine can be used to help pull out excess water if desired.
The cleaned wool rug should be laid flat to dry but should not spend more than a few hours in direct sunlight. The sun’s rays can cause both shrinkage and fading of the rug’s colors. The wool rug must be allowed to dry fully before being placed on a carpeted floor or having furniture placed on it. Remaining moisture can lead to mildew.
Professional Wool Rug Cleaning
Professionals are available to wash wool rugs for anyone who prefers not to take care of it at home. Some professionals offer steam cleaning, while others caution that steam cleaning can actually be harmful for wool rugs. Heat and friction can cause wool to shrink, and steam cleaning involves both. Discuss this option and its risks with a professional if interested.
Stains should be cleaned up immediately to prevent setting in permanently. A clean white towel should be used to absorb as much of the spill as possible. (Colored towels can transfer their dyes to the wool rug and should never be used.) Because of potential damage or shrinkage of fibers, stains should not be scrubbed but should only be blotted and pressed. If a large amount of a more solid matter has been dropped onto the rug, a spoon can be used to gently scoop the matter up.
Dry foam cleaning products make an efficient and safe way to clean up stains on wool area rugs. These products don’t use much water, which means the rug will dry quickly without the risk of developing mildew. The label directions should be followed carefully and usually include working the foam into the rug fibers, allowing it to dry, and them vacuuming up the remaining residue.
Cleaners to Avoid
Some cleaners can severely damage a wool rug and should be avoided.
- Oxygen-based “Oxy” cleaners or hydrogen peroxide
- Alkaline cleaners including soda ash
- Dry Powder cleaners – These can leave a residue that is virtually impossible to remove.
- Cleaning wool rugs can be accomplished with a little time and effort and the right cleaning products. By cleaning spills right away and giving wool rugs a thoroughly yearly cleaning, your wool area rugs can be kept looking their best and brightest for many years.