I don’t know why. I honestly don’t know why!
We’ve been writing about rugs for a long time now. And we’ve never EVER seen a quesion answered wrong so many times than this one: how to clean a wool rug.
I guess someone and somewhen published a first post on how to clean wool rug, and people started using that method… and so other bloggers started recommending the same methods… and it spread all over the internet.
But let me get this straight…
Most of the information out there is wrong.
There’s a right way of cleaning a wool rug and a wrong way. And since the wrong methods are so widespread, we’re going to be talking both about the right method to clean a wool rug (step by step) and the wrong methods.
Let’s get started!
How often should you clean a wool rug?
I want to answer this question before we actually get into the step by step cleaning method, because it’s soooo important!
The sooner you clean your rug, the easier it will be.
This is true for every rug. But it’s especially true for wool rugs. Why? Because wool is a natural fiber. And thus, it has a tendency to collect dust. This is also a common issue with jute rugs for example.
BTW, if you want to know more about the different types of rugs, we wrote a guide about every rug type you can think of. It’s a great buying guide. Check it out here.
Cleaning your rugs often can also increase the lifespan of your rug. And let’s face it… rugs can be quite expensive. So we want to take care of them as much as possible.
But how often is good enough?
Great question! The IICRC is a non-profit institution that sets the industry standards to how much a rug (or carpet) should be cleaned. A couple of years ago they released a (quite expensive) report on how often rugs should be cleaned.
They talk about different scenarios depending on how much the rug is used, how many people live in the house, whether or not you walk on the rug with shoes, whether or not they have pets, etc. But I’ll save you the trouble of reading hundreds of pages…
A household with pets should clean between 4 and 7 times per month. Without pets, between 1 and 2.
That’s quite a lot! But don’t worry, its actually quite easy if you know how. Let’s take a look at the step by step!
How to Clean your Rug Step by Step
Did you know that before this website was called “Carpet and Rug World” it was called “Rug Cleaning World”. That’s right! Rug Cleaning is in our DNA, and we take it very seriously.
We’ve tested many methods to see which one actually was the best and we came up with this simple 3 step method. It really is that simple. But it’s the one that actually works. So, here it goes!
1. Stain Cleaning
The first thing you want to do is to check your rug for stains. Some people don’t find this necessary, but it really is. Especially if you have pets.
Many wool rugs are very colorful and thus, it’s sometimes hard to see a small pee stain.
But trust me… you won’t be able to see it, but you’ll soon be able to smell it! So take a couple of seconds and check for stains.
Found any? Don’t worry about it!
We don’t want to bore you with all the details because we wrote an enormous guide on how to clean 28 different types of stains (wine, blood, gum, vomit, ketchup… you name it!). We came up with 8 methods to clean up every single type of stain you could possibly imagine. So go check it out here and come back when you’re ready!
Once your wool rug is clean of stains, keep reading!
2. Shake it out!
This is a simple, yet important, step.
Take your rug outside and shake it! You might need someone to help you if it’s a big rug.
How long should you shake it for?
Until you can’t see (or smell) any more dirt coming out. And I don’t mean a lot of dirt. If you see a couple of tiny dirt particles floating in the air every time you shake your rug, then you should keep going.
SUNNY DAYS ARE BETTERIt’s easier to see the dirt particles coming out of the rug on a sunny day than a cloudy day. The dirt particles will shine with the sun and it will be easier to tell when you’re done shaking.
What if it’s taking forever?
Some rugs are so dirty that it would take hours to shake off all the dirt. That’s why we recommended at the very beginning to clean your rugs often.
However… it’s happened to all of us. What should you do then? There are two methods that might help you get the dirt out. Although they might not be appropriate depending on the rug you own. Anyway, these are the methods:
1. Place the rug facing down and step on the back of it. You want to take your rug somewhere clean. And face it downwards. You’ll then want to step on it many times with tiny steps all through the rug. That way you’ll help the dust come out. After a couple of minutes, raise the rug carefully and swipe all the dirt that was released. Repeat until no more dirt comes out!
It’s just like grape stomping (but without grapes).
This method works great on many thin and resistant rugs. But won’t work as well on those soft and home rugs. Pressing those against the floor with your weight might not be the greatest idea. So keep that in mind!
2. Beat it up!
I know this sounds quite old fashioned… but people did it back in the day because it works. And it still does!
As a matter of fact, you can still find rug beaters for sale online! And they sell it because it works. BTW… I don’t know when you might be reading this or if they’re up still, but some of the reviews on Amazon are hilarious, you should totally check them out!
Anyway… this method might not work as well when it comes to bigger rugs, but it should work on most rugs. And you’ll be surprised at how well it works!
3. Vacuum thoroughly
Last but not least, you should vacuum thoroughly.
This is kind of obvious, but let me point out something that some people get wrong. You must vacuum after shaking out the rug, not before! That way you’ll be able to vacuum all the dirt that is about to fall off, but hasn’t fallen yet.
If you do it the other way around, you will shake out a lot of dirt that will simply be sitting on the top layer of your rug after you’ve shaken it.
Are all vacuums good enough?
No. Plain and simple. Vacuums (like any other piece of electronic) gets old and loses power.
– Can you send us the model number of the vacuum cleaner you’re using?
And 99% of the time, that simple question solves the problem. You don’t need the latest or the most expensive model. But you do need a decent vacuum if you want to have your rugs clean.
At Carpet and Rug World we test all the vacuum cleaners and come up with the best for each year. Check out the best vacuum cleaners of 2022 in this post. Or if you’d like to check out the best vacuum robots, we have another buying guide here.
Repeat, repeat and repeat!
This isn’t an extra step. But in case you skipped the first section of the post, I’ll insist.
You must clean your wool rug often. It will make it so much easier to clean and it will increase your rug’s lifespan.
Believe me! The rug I chose for my living room is wool and if I don’t clean it every week I always regret it.
When to hire a professional
This is a question we get all of the time.
– If I clean my rugs myself regularly… do I still have to call a professional cleaner every now and then?
Well, according to the IICRC (we talked about them earlier), you have to call a professional to clean your wool rugs at least once a year.
In my experience, though, this is only necessary under certain circumstances. It’s not that I don’t agree with the IICRC… but in my experience the “once a year” rule doesn’t apply on every scenario.
I would say to call a professional at least once a year if:
1. Oriental wool rugs or very expensive rugs. These rugs are often hand made and are too wonderful to risk ruining it. They aren’t necessarily harder to clean at home, but they sometimes do take longer. So, chances are, your rug should be cleaner than it is (and you don’t even know it!)
2. Pet owners. If you’re a dog or cat owner, there’s usually no way around having your rugs cleaned by a professional every year. But aren’t pets the best? I think it’s totally worth it!
3. Someone is allergic or there are small kids in the house. If someone living in your house is allergic, not cleaning your rugs every year might be a problem. Health issues are not something you should deal with lightly! And the same applies to small children. They spend tons of time close to the rug or carpet, and you don’t want them breathing dirt. It’s just safer to clean it.
Methods that Will NOT work to clean your wool rug
Getting it wet
Many bloggers recommend using water to clean wool rugs. And that’s such a terrible mistake… Let me explain why.
If you go to buy a rug at a store, you’ll probably see that many wool rugs are “hydrophobic”. That means that they repel water. This is very useful because wool naturally attracts and retains water.
So… if the rug repels water… what’s the big deal of cleaning it with water?
It actually is a big deal because only the top layer of each fiber is hydrophobic. The rest of the fiber isn’t. The manufacturers make the top layer hydrophobic in order to repel possible stains in the rug. Not to soak it with water!
If your rug gets wet, it will take for ever to dry! Because wool is naturally hydrophilic (attracts and retains water). And what’s worse… mold could start growing inside.
We wrote a whole post about the different types of mold, but you don’t have to read it if you want… The bottom line is… You don’t want mold on your carpet!
Using Dry Powder
This was very popular a couple of years ago. Although thankfully, not many people seem to be doing it now.
I think it became popular because professionals use it sometimes. The IICRC describes it as a maintenance method (not even a proper cleaning method).
Anyway, if you hear someone that tells you to pour dry powder and then vacuum… you should probably know that you’re simply making your wool rug dirtier. Since you don’t have the right equipment to get the powder out, it will remain inside your rug until a professional cleaner takes care of it.
This method comes from Russia (apparently).
And this is how it works… you take your rug outside when it’s literally freezing and leave your wool rug there over night.
The idea is that the dirt will freeze during the night. And once it’s frozen, it’s a lot easier to shake it off.
I honestly haven’t tried this… but I think it’s not a good idea. Why? Because your risk getting your carpet wet. And honestly… it seems like a lot of work (especially if you have pets and have to clean your rugs often). I’d rather just buy a good vacuum cleaner.
Carpet Steam Cleaners have become extremely popular! And for a good reason. They’re amazing to clean carpets.
As a matter of fact, we’ve told our readers many times that owning a carpet steam cleaner is the wisest thing a carpet owner can buy. BTW, we also have a post on the best carpet steam cleaners of 2022 in case you’re interested.
The only problem is that “Steam Cleaning” is just a nice way of calling the “Hot Water Extraction” method. That’s the real name! And it’s also the right name because you’re not really cleaning with steam. Not even when professional carpet cleaners bring their big “Steam Cleaning trucks” use steam. It’s hot pressured water.
And although it works great on carpets, you see why this might be a problem with wool rugs, right?
Hot water extraction (aka steam cleaning) would get your carpet wet. And again, that’s something we must avoid at all costs.
Thanks for reading our guide! I am truly passionate about rugs and wool rugs are one of my favorites!
It’s great to finally have the opportunity to explain what the right way of cleaning your wool rug actually is. First, you have to clean all the stains, then you have to shake it out until no more dirt is coming out, and you finally have to vacuum thoroughly.
And that’s it!