How to Clean a Wool Rug – DIY Steps

Soft, durable and beautiful, a wool rug is no doubt one of the greatest investments one can make in home decor. In addition to being aesthetically appealing, wool rugs add warmth underfoot while accentuating any home design or style. Their natural, renewable fibers contain lanolin whose function is to naturally repel dust mites and deter bacterial growth.

Even so, wool area rugs can get dirty over time and will need to be cleaned and cared for properly to keep them looking beautiful for years. Surprisingly, there are plenty of instructions on the web explaining how to clean rugs and carpets, but only few of them warn against using certain cleaners that can bleach or damage wool fibers. In our exclusive guide, we explain how to clean a wool rug yourself without destroying your precious investment.

What You Need

  • Vacuum (with no beater bar)
  • Cool water
  • Broom or rug beater
  • Spatula
  • Gentle wool wash detergent
  • Buckets
  • Sponge
  • Paper towels
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Rubbing alcohol

How to Clean a Wool Rug – Steps to Follow

  • Whack away with a broom or rug beater

Wool fibers entail grooves and overlaps that are notorious in trapping pounds of dirt. On a sunny, moderate day, take your rug outside and hang it over a deck railing or a sturdy clothesline. Then, using a proper rug beater or a broom, whack it away until no more loose dirt, pet hair or grime flies away.

Try hitting all over to loosen and dislodge any deeply embedded dirt. This is a great old-school way to get rid of any dirt and dust rubbing against wool rug fibers. Make sure the rug is completely dry when you beat with a broom to shake it clean.

  • Run a vacuum over your wool rug

Spread your rug flat on a clean tarp, patio or deck and run a vacuum in a “V” action to prevent the wool fibers from crushing. Vacuum the back and front, making at least three passes on each side to eliminate any dirt particles that refused to come off by beating. Preferably, use a carpet vacuum cleaner without a beater bar – because the bar may be too aggressive and could agitate the fibers leading to piling, shrinkage and overall damage.

If you are using a vacuum with a beater bar, make sure the vacuum has a high height setting to avoid agitating the rug excessively. Expert wool rug cleaners recommend vacuuming the wool rug at least twice a month. Regular vacuuming is crucial for preventing the dirt from building up and getting embedded into a delicate rug.

  • Prepare your wool cleaning detergent

Add 1-2 tablespoons of a gentle wool wash detergent (such as Woolite) into a large bucket filled with cool water. You can also utilize your homemade wool wash and stir to blend. Then, fill another bucket with clean cool water.

The last thing you want is to damage your wool rug fibers while cleaning. In that case, test a small patch of the rug before starting the work. After testing for colorfastness and the colors don’t bleed, proceed to the next step.

  • Gently scrub

Plunge a clean sponge into your cleaning solution in the bucket and lightly scrub your rug starting at one corner of the rug. With gentle pressure, sponge on the detergent and water solution and work in the direction of the nap. Working in a grid of around three feet by 3 feet is a good idea.

Try not to soak the rug or allow it to get too wet, since the wool fibers can hold a lot of water and become extremely heavy to handle.  An exceedingly wet wool rug will also take unusually long time to dry, which can be a recipe for discoloration. Lightly dampen the rug, and rinse out the sponge regularly to prevent it from transferring the dirt into the rug.

  • Dab to rinse away suds

To rinse away suds, dip a clean sponge into a bucket containing fresh water. Then, dab the cleaned section of your wool rug to remove suds. Again, exercise a lot of causing to avoid soaking the rug.

After dabbing with a sponge dipped in clean water, blot the area again with clean, dry absorbent bath towels. You are going to need plenty of absorbent towels to soak up the excess liquid. Once you are done, cross-check your wool rug for any stubborn stains.

  • Remove the stains and spots

Spills and muddy footprints are not strange to a wool rug and will likely happen at any given time. How stains are removed depends on the actual cause of the stain. To remove mud stains, first scrape up caked mud using a spatula. If you are dealing with fresh mud, use a dry paper towel or rag to soap up extra liquid then apply a mixture of dish soap and water to the stain. Blot up with a rag and dry the area.

To remove pet stains from a wool rug, mix 2 cups of water with ¼ cup of white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on the affected spot and use white cloths or paper towels to blot the stain away. To remove a red wine stain, grab a paper towel and blot up the excess liquid. Then, create a solution of white vinegar, water and dish soap. Dab the stain with the mixture until the stain is gone.  

To remove makeup, nail polish and ink stains, dip a clean white rug in rubbing alcohol. Apply it gently to the stain, repeating the process until the stain is lifted. You might also want to spread a liberal amount of baking soda over the stain and let it sit on the spot for about 30 minutes. Then, vacuum up the area to banish the baking soda and any leftover dirt or debris.

  • Absorb any excess moisture

At this point, your wool rug is probably clean except that it may contain excess moisture along with some dirt spots. So, remove the dirt spots by blotting the area with a clean towel and cold water. This should help rinse off your wool rug and remove any grime spots.

After rinsing, remove as much moisture as possible from the wool rug. To do this, place a dry towel on top of the cleaned rug and press it with the full weight of your hands to blot up the moisture. Start from one section of the spot and move your way to another section until the entire surface of the rug is mostly dried. Repeat if necessary.

  • Let it dry

Finally, take your clean wool rug outside and allow it to dry out completely prior to walking on it again. To accelerate the drying time, try hanging your wool rug in an elevated position to improve the air circulation. Instead of letting it sit in one spot, keep flipping it over frequently to prevent the colors and patterns from fading away.

Alternatively, you can dry out your rug indoors if need be. Simply run a fan and open all the windows in the room to speed up the drying process. Make sure the rug is fully dry before you put it back on the rug pad.

Wrap-Up

From the above steps on how to clean a wool rug, it is apparent that cleaning a wool rug is pretty straightforward, with no complex rules and guidelines involved. One vital thing to remember is to vacuum the rug frequently and to steer clear of a beater bar that could destroy the delicate rug fibers. With the above simple rules on how to clean a wool area rug, you will be able to cushion your rug against any damage and maintain it for a very long time.

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