How to Clean Wool Rugs

How to Clean Wool Rugs

Wool rugs are the ideal flooring covering for many. They're a popular, natural fiber that is warm, stylish, and resilient. They also naturally contain lanolin, a byproduct of wool-producing animals, that helps their wool stay waterproof, repel dust, and fight stains. 

Despite their many benefits, wool rugs require regular maintenance to maintain longevity. Just like with any floor covering, they get dirty. When that happens, they need to be cleaned. Today we’ll walk you through the right—and wrong—ways to clean your wool rugs.

Cleaning Wool Rugs

The best way to clean a wool rug is carefully. While a very enduring material, it’s also sold at a premium price point. That’s because wool is worth it for it’s long standing title as one of the most classically durable and stylish natural fibers on the market. Long story short: when you buy one, you’re making an investment. You don’t want to lose that investment by not taking proper care of it. 

One thing to remember about wool rugs is that they contain a lot of interconnected fibers. That weaving is an easy place for dust and dirt to accumulate. Slow down the accumulation by adopting a “no shoes indoors” policy in your home. Remove the dust that gets in anyhow by taking the rug outside, hanging it somewhere safe like a railing or clothesline, and beating it up. You can use a traditional rug beater, but brooms, fists, cricket bats, or any other solid, strong, wieldable item will work. You’ll be surprised how much dust, grime, and other debris will fly free. 

If you’re looking for more how-to direction for cleaning your wool rugs, read on to find answers to commonly asked questions.

Can You Wash a Wool Rug?

No. You should never toss a wool rug into the washing machine or hand wash it in a tub or sink. Wool is a very porous material. That means that when it gets wet, it holds onto that moisture for a long time. This can lead to your rug developing mold or a lingering, unpleasant scent. That said, wool is tough. It can get wet, but to avoid problems you want to keep moisture to a minimum. Avoid steam cleaning and wet shampoo. Never fully saturate your wool rug. When you’re cleaning it, you should be using a spot cleaning method.

How Do You Spot Clean a Wool Rug?

Spot cleaning is a rug cleaning methodology developed to help preserve natural fiber rugs long term. Here's how it works: 

  • Gather your materials. You're going to want clean, white paper or cloth towels. If your spill involves solids, you'll want something they can be scraped up with. This could be a spoon, nail file, butter knife, or similar item. If your stain involves notably pigmented material (tomato sauce, red wine, etc.), have club soda on hand. Otherwise, the last - and arguably most important - item you will need is spot cleaner. We highly recommend Sisal Life Cleaner for it's consistent quality and reliability.
  • Remove all excess material. This includes both solids and liquids. Use the paper or cloth towels to press down into the stain. Work from the outside of the spill inward to avoid spreading. If a towel becomes saturated, replace it with another. Blot the stain until you have no more moisture transfer. If there are solids to be picked up, do that now as well.
  • Use club soda if needed. Use an additional cloth to dab club soda onto any especially pigmented stains. This will help neutralize the spill and keep it from setting.
  • Apply spot cleaner. You want a spot cleaner that doesn't water spot and applies additional protection as it cleans. We've already made our recommendation, but - whatever product you use - apply delicately. Spray until the stain is just covered. Don’t oversaturate.
  • Dab at the stain. Some cleaners might ask you to wait a short while to let them “do their work.” Dab (don’t rub) at the stain with another clean cloth or towel to pick up any excess material loosened by the cleaner.
  • Let it dry. You can speed this part of the process along using a fan or hair dryer. With especially wet spills, drying can take overnight. Once everything is dry, though, you should have the fresh, stain free rug you’re looking for.
  • Never use stain removers that aren't specifically made for wool rugs. Harsh chemical cleaners can damage your natural fiber rugs. They can cause fibers to become brittle, and colors to bleed and pull. Bleach in particular can actually dissolve wool.
  • Don't rub stains - always blot or dab. Remember when we said that wool rugs are porous? That means they aren’t only absorbent when it comes to moisture. They’ll suck up stain-causing liquids as well. You want to limit the amount of spreading any spill does by gently blotting excess up before additional cleaning.
  • Don’t over-vacuum. All rugs, synthetic or natural, need to be vacuumed. Wool rugs, however, are especially prone to shedding. Because of this you don’t want to vacuum them more than once every other week. If absolutely necessary, you can vacuum weekly, but no more often than that. Also: never use a vacuum with a beater bar on a wool rug. They're fine for synthetic fibers, but can wreak havoc on shed-able wool.

How Do You Remove Pet Stains From Wool Rugs?

Accidents happen. When those accidents involve your furry friends relieving themselves on your wool rug, what do you do? Ask them to clean it up, of course. If their paws can’t handle the roll of paper towels, however, you can do it for them. Just follow these steps: 

  • For Urine Stains: The first thing you'll want to do is to blot up all the excess. Do this by pressing down firmly on the puddle with clean cloths or paper towels. As the cloths or towels get saturated, swap them out for new ones until no more liquid can be absorbed. Work from the outside in to avoid spreading the spill. There's a chance of getting urine on your hands during this process, so we highly recommend wearing gloves. Once that step is done, you want to neutralize the odor. If pets can smell urine on your rug, they're more likely to repeat accidents. Mix one quarter cup white vinegar with one quarter cup water. Use a towel or cloth and dip it in the mixture, dabbing it onto the stain. After that, follow the spot cleaning instructions listed above.
  • For “Other” Stains: Urine is the most common pet stain most homeowners encounter. It isn't, however, the only one. Sometimes feces or vomit stains happen. When they do, make sure to safely scrape up as much as you can from the carpet before doing anything else. Once you've removed all excess material, follow the steps regarding spot cleaning listed above.

How Do I Clean the Borders of My Wool Rug?

It’s easy to vacuum or spot clean a rug. It’s even easier to forget that the borders of that rug are frequently overlooked during the cleaning process. When you vacuum the borders of wool rugs, do so in the direction the binding is sewn. That will help maintain its integrity.

Is a Wool Rug Right For You?

Wool rugs are naturally easy to clean and maintain, making them an ideal addition to any home or business. If you’re interested in finding a perfect, elegant new rug for your space, explore our vast collection of 100% wool area rugs.

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