How to Clean a Wool Rug

Keep your wool rug looking its best by cleaning it regularly. Here's how to do it yourself, and how to get out stubborn stains.

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Time

A few hours

Complexity

Beginner

Cost

Varies

Introduction

Whenever I search for rugs online, I always favor wool rugs. That's because their natural fibers are stain-resistant and durable. Plus, they deter bacteria growth.

While wool rugs can last for centuries, they require simple maintenance to keep them looking their best. It's critical to avoid bad habits like excessive vacuuming, ignoring spills and stains, and failing to rotate the rug throughout the year. These will result in color bleeding, matting, fiber wear, and eventually tearing or failure of the fibers.

If you're ready to handle the simple task of cleaning your area rug, this guide will walk you through the process.

Tools Required

  • Cleaning rags
  • Paper towels
  • Spatula or butter knife
  • Sponge
  • Spray Bottle
  • Vacuum(preferably with no beater bar)

Materials Required

  • Baking soda
  • Carpet cleaner
  • Dish detergent
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • White vinegar

Project step-by-step (4)

Step 1

Vacuum

vacuum leungchopan/Shutterstock

Start by vacuuming your wool area rug thoroughly. Your best bet is a vacuum without a beater bar, because the bar may be too aggressive for the wool fibers. If your vacuum does have a beater bar, set it high for less abrasion. While you’re at it, you can also explore ways to make your rugs cozy for your comfort.

Lisa Wagner, known as The Rug Chick, advises vacuuming “with the pile direction if it is a pile rug, and run the strokes across the width of the rug with no pile.” Running across a wool rug’s width should be especially done with rugs that have a fringe.

Additionally, every year, take the rug outside, shake out any rug cushion underneath it, and vacuum the back. This will remove any accumulated dirt deep in the fibers. Afterwards, vacuum the top again. If you tap a corner of the wool rug and notice a puff of dust, then it is time to clean it. Learn how to clean a Persian rug.

Step 2

Remove stains

Wine Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

If your wool rug has stains, you’ll need to spot clean them. Determine what types they are and proceed as follows:

Removing red wine stains

Coit Cleaning suggests treating red wine spots this way:

• If it’s a fresh stain, blot up any extra liquid with a white paper towel or cloth.

• Pour a small amount of cold water onto the spot to dilute what remains of the stain.

• Blot with white paper towels or cloths until you notice no more of the stain will come out.

• Make a paste by mixing a three to one ratio of water to baking soda and apply the paste to the stain. Once the paste dries, vacuum the area. If the stain is still noticeable, repeat the paste treatment.

Removing pet stains

For pet stains, grab the white vinegar, which can also help neutralize odor.

• Mix 1/4-cup white vinegar with two cups of water in a spray bottle.

• Spray the mixture on the spot and blot the stain thoroughly with white paper towels or cloths.

Plushrugs.com picks it up from here: “Once you can see that the stain is lifting, start blotting with a dry cloth. You can wait up to 15 minutes with a wet rag on the wool, but longer than that can risk the chance of mold and mildew growth. Be sure that the area is blotted as dry as possible, and then allow your rug to air dry.”

Removing tomato sauce stains

When removing these, you’ll need to:

• Scrape up as much of the spill as you can with a spatula or butter knife.

• If it’s a fresh stain, blot with white paper towels or cloths to absorb as much of the liquid as possible.

• Mix 1/2 tablespoon of mild dish washing liquid with one cup of cold water. Dip a sponge or cloth into the water until it’s damp, not wet.

• Blot the mixture on the stain and let it sit for 10 minutes.

• Repeat this until the stain is gone.

Removing coffee stains

Coit Cleaning recommends:

• Dilute the stain with a little water. Blot with white paper towels or cloths until none of the stain transfers onto the towels or cloth.

• If the stain is still visible, use a small amount of white vinegar (about one tablespoon per cup of water) to dilute the stain and continue blotting.

• Let it air dry.

Removing makeup, ink and nail polish stains

Plushrugs.com suggests:

• Soaking a clean white rag with rubbing alcohol and applying it gently to the stain.

• Repeat until you see the stain lift.

Step 3

Wet cleaning

machine via amazon.com

If you were wondering, yes, it’s safe to wet-clean your wool rug, according to Rug Doctor. But of course read labels for special instructions before you start cleaning.

If you choose to rent or purchase a rug cleaning machine, follow all the manufacturer’s instructions and test on a small area before making your first full pass.

Also, follow these tips:

• Use cool or lukewarm water and the smallest amount of shampoo/cleaner recommended by the manufacturer.

• Don’t saturate your wool rug. If you soak it, it will take a long time to dry, meaning you can’t use it for days. And if the backing of the rug gets wet, any dyes could bleed through to the rug itself.

• Extract as much water as you can with the machine and set up blowers or fans to dry out the rug quickly. Next, learn how to clean a shag rug.

Step 4

When should you hire a professional?

workerNew Africa/Shutterstock

If you’ve tried all the above methods and stubborn stains remain, it’s time to call a professional carpet cleaner. Also call a pro if your rug is an heirloom and you’re worried about wrecking it.

“Your rug specialist will know how to care for your rug without the risk of potentially damaging it,” says plushrugs.com. “The life of your rug will be unmistakably extended by routine cleanings by professionals who know how to care for precious wool rugs and treat the toughest stains. Consider this alternative if all options above have failed you!”