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Stack of wool rugs

Tips for Cleaning Wool Rugs

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A wool rug is a worthwhile investment and can be a beautiful addition to any home. Since wool rugs are made of natural fibers, maintaining and cleaning wool rugs requires a special technique and extra care. In addition to regular care (including frequent vacuuming and spot cleaning), annual professional cleanings are recommended for this type of carpet. Here are some tips for how to keep your wool rugs clean and in excellent condition.

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 therefore 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. Here are some other tips to ensure superior results.

  • 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.

Professional Cleanings

About once a year, wool rugs should get a thorough cleaning to remove general grime that a vacuum can’t touch. This will brighten the rug, giving it an almost new appearance, and extend its life.

Generally, for both area rugs (including Persian and Oriental rugs) and wall to wall wool carpets, home cleaning is not recommended. Wool fibers can be tricky to clean and work with, which is why professional cleaning is usually the best option. Wool absorbs much more water than synthetic fibers to, which makes them hard to dry and (for area rugs) heavy and difficult to maneuver. In addition, many available carpet cleaners these days are simply too alkaline for wool fibers. Basically, the cleaner used needs to be the proper pH to prevent browning.

Keep in mind that while carpet manufacturers generally recommend professional cleaning of your wool carpets every 12 to 18 months, there are several circumstances that may warrant more frequent cleanings. This includes if you have indoor pets, have young children with a tendency to spill sticky substances on the carpet, or tend to see oily dirt tracked into the house (perhaps from a garage floor).

Cleaning Stains

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.) Due to 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 then vacuuming up the remaining residue.

Cleaners to Avoid

Some cleaners can severely damage a wool rug and should be avoided.

  • Bleach
  • 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.


Do keep in mind that many of today’s higher end carpets, including Oriental and Persian rugs, are actually made from synthetic fibers rather than wool. If you are unsure what type you have, snip a strand of the carpet, hold it over the sink, and put a lit match to it. If it’s wool, the burning carpet fiber will smell like burning hair.

See also: 

Cleaning Silk Rugs Safely 

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