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How to Clean a Wool Rug: 12 Do’s and Don'ts of Cleaning Persian Rugs

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Wine spill on white wool rug with text-12 do's and don'ts cleaning wool rugs

Have you searched high and low for how to clean a wool area rug? Do you need to know how to vacuum? Spot treat? Deep clean?

close up of wool antique rug lifted up on underside

The video below explains a process professional cleaners use on old 100% wool rugs. Remember, the professionals charge money, but they clean your valuable and genuine wool rugs better than anyone.

Hundreds of people ruin their valuable wool rugs from running standard household vacuums over them or use wrong information from other blogs from places that don't specialize in Persian rugs/oriental rugs. Here at RugKnots, we distribute only the highest quality of hand knotted rugs, so that's why we take time to provide professional insight so you feel confident when cleaning your valuable wool rug!

Our 12 Tips

12. Vacuum it!

vacuum cleaner is ran over the edge of a Persian wool rug

You should be vacuuming your wool rug about twice a month. Yep, you heard us! Twice a month.

Wool rugs have tiny little air pockets where dirt hides. This means your wool rug will look clean for a lot longer than the cheap synthetic alternatives, but will eventually need to be vacuumed to clean out those air pockets.

Synthetic (polypropylene, nylon, acrylic etc...) rug's fibers are plastic and dirt will lay on top.

You want to vacuum your wool rug only twice a monthOver-vacuuming will pull the natural wool fibers out of the rug. Vacuum both sides of the rug every so often to make sure you get all the dirt out.

We recommend vacuuming the underside of the rug every 2 months. Here is a video on how to vacuum a wool rug properly:

The most important thing about vacuuming a rug is what type of vacuum you use.

Determine What Type of Pile You Have

Flat weave kilims and wool pile rugs require slightly different height and suction settings. If you have multiple wool rugs with different pile heights or you're looking to invest in more wool rugs over the years, here is what to look for:

  1. The vacuum suction is adjustable - This way you can adjust for pile height for each of your rugs
  2. The vacuum does not have a beater bar - Beater bars are a HUGE no! Beater bars agitate the dirt deep inside the rug's air pockets and will also pull out your wool fibers rapidly as the head spins, destroying your expensive rug.
  3. Turn the beater bar off - If the vacuum has a beater bar, make sure you can turn it off. 
  4. It has a handled brush add on - This way you don't vacuum a larger area than necessary when a spill occurs and you can safely vacuum the fringe. 

Best Vacuum Cleaners for Wool Rugs

Sebo Felix 1 Premium ($599)

how to clean wool rug Woman vacuuming rug holding a Sebo vacuum

While Sebo may not (yet) be a household name in the US, the German brand is known for delivering brilliantly designed and engineered vacuums with a focus on usability and easy maintenance.

The Felix line of vacuum cleaners is said to be one of the best vacuum cleaners available for pet owners.

Right off the bat, the Felix is perfectly tailored to the needs of area rug owners. A suction control slider is located right on the handle, allowing for quick and easy adjustments when moving from one carpet or rug to another.

The Felix’s roller brush has four manual pile height settings if you choose to use it on your rugs. This is great if you have a flat weave Killim Dhurrie like this...

Flat weave rug color brown
Or an ultra soft double pile Bokhara like this...
Light grey Bokhara style wool rug-white backdrop

You can easily switch between the two rugs with no problem!

The Felix comes in several colors and patterns which please not only the eyes, but the ears and the nose as well. The vacuums feature advance mechanics that serves as a sound insulator and has a hospital-grade filtration system. This keeps every last dust particle inside the vacuum unit and out of your air, but more importantly to NOT land on your rug again!

Miele Dynamic U1 Maverick ($449)

how to clean wool rugs-foot pedal on vacuum being pushed to raise head onto rug fringe.

 

Another German brand, Miele, has earned a reputation among oriental rug enthusiasts as the go-to name for area rug vacuum cleaners.

The Miele Maverick motor is remarkably powerful, allowing it to effectively clean high pile carpets. The rotary dial offers suction control so it can be used to clean shag rugs, Bokhara rugs and even flat weave killims!

clean wool rugs-clean persian rug-Woman running the shark vacuum cleaner across her shag carpet rug

 

Rounding out our vacuum rundown is the Shark Rotator. A significantly more affordable unit that boasts an impressive arsenal of features well-suited to cleaning large area rugs.

Much like the Miele and Sebo vacuum cleaners, Shark’s Rotator has variable suction controls that are suitable for antique rugs, double pile rugs, flat weaves, and shag rugs alike.

The suction control is just below the rotator’s handle for quick adaptation from rug to rug. The rotator’s brush roll can be shut on and off independently, making it ideal for gentle yet thorough cleaning of more sensitive area rugs.

There is no manual pile height adjustment so keep that in mind when working with higher pile carpets.

11. Shake it Out

If the thought of vacuuming twice a month make you cringe, shaking out the rug outside will help clean the rug without vacuuming.

Just take your rug outside and shake!

cleaning a wool rug

If your rug is larger, ask a friend to help you. 

Just shake it out for 30 seconds to a minute and all the dirt will come out like a charm.

If the forecast looks clear, go ahead and leave your rug outside for a few hours. If you want to go the extra mile, spritz your rug with a little Febreze before leaving it outside.

Your rug will smell like its fresh off the laundry line!

10. Give it an Old Fashioned Beating

wool area rug cleaning

For those who want to go the extra extra mile...you can beat your rug.

Yes, we are serious!

There was a reason they used to beat their wool rugs in the old days. This method loosens the dirt without pulling out the fibers. Although this is the method used before vacuum cleaners were invented, the method survived as homemakers quickly realized there was less and less wool on their rugs everyday after using beater bar vacuum cleaners.

To do this, set up a laundry line or use a sturdy clothes drying rack, and go to town beating your rug with a rug beater!

I bet you could score an antique one from your local antique or thrift shop!

But if you can't find one, you can grab a new one here from Amazon.

You could also use a wooden spoon.

This method somewhat tedious, but if you're looking for a good work out and a deep clean without a professional cleaner, knock yourself out!

9. Dry Powder

This is a popular trick... but not a good one.
steam clean wool rug

Dry powders will seep into the little air pockets and just create more of a mess plus cause the rug to become fuzzy.

Professional cleaners do use this method but only in particular circumstances and with the proper equipment. We would not recommend trying at home.

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8. Snow Dusting

This is another old fashioned way of cleaning a wool rug.

In Russia, after a heavy snowfall, Russians would take their wool rugs to the park to clean them! The theory is that dry snow would freeze the dirt particles in the rug.

This was done because when dirt particles freeze, they can simply be shaken off, which is much easier than beating the rug!

How do I do it?

Make sure the snow is DRY, powder-y and there is at least 3-5 inches on the ground. Make sure temperatures are to stay below freezing the day you choose to do this.

You do not want the rug to get wet from melting snow.

You also need a broom because the snow causes the rug to become quite heavy.

This process works best with a smaller rug, unless you have a few friends to help you out!

wool area rug cleaning1. Place the rug outside in freezing temperatures to let it acclimate to the temperature change from indoors to outdoors. Hanging the rug over a banister or clothes line works great.

clean a wool rug2. Lay the rug in 3"-5" of snow.

cleaning wool rugs at home

3. With the broom, flip a liberal amount of snow across the entire rug.

how do you clean wool rugs

4. Beat the snow around the entire rug with the flat side of the broom. The trace amounts of ammonia in the snow will react with the cold air and cause any dirt or grime to solidify and fall out of the rug.

5. Let the snow sit on the rug for 15-20 minutes before flipping it over and repeating steps 1-3 on the other side.

6. Shake as much excess snow off the rug as you can and hang the rug back over the banister or clothes line. Let it hang for at least 20-30 minutes to allow the snow to sublimate. The snow will go from it's solid phase to vapor without actually getting the rug wet!

7. Shake the rug a final time to release the frozen dirt and reveal a newly, naturally cleaned rug!

Edited from an original post by Regina Yunghans published on February 16, 2010

We do not necessarily recommend this method but it is one of the more unique ones out there!

If you are going to try this method, be careful and do so at your own risk!

7. Steam Cleaning

DO NOT DO THIS!!!

Some bloggers are reporting that they steam clean there rugs... but everyone here at RugKnots is pulling their hair trying to figure out why someone would do this!

First of all, you should never wet the entirety of your rug at home. You cannot dry it fast enough to prevent mold and mildew.

steam clean wool rugs

Second, the steam is too hot for the wool.

You know how blow drying and straightening your hair can damage it?

Same effect!

Finally, if there is any dust or dirt inside the air pockets in your wool rug, the steam will create mud in your rug. 

Just imagine how difficult that is to get out!

This method is most effective when performed by a professional. There are so many factors that go into cleaning a rug - there is a reason professionals exist.

6. Rotate Your Rug

This simple step is SO important!

Rotating your rug prevents discoloration, matting from frequent foot traffic, and excessive dirt in one spot. 

When a rug is partially covered by a couch, desk, or ottoman, the covered part will inevitably stay cleaner than the exposed portion of the rug.

Simply rotate your rugs once every six months.

Easy peezy!

5. Spot Clean

The biggest thing when it comes to spot cleaning is getting to the stain IMMEDIATELY.

After just 15 minutes, the stain already begins to set, not leaving enough time to find this blog and pull up our instructions so...

 

The steps are categorized by the type of spill:

1. Food, Cosmetic Powders, Modelling Clay, Potting Soil and Skin Ointments

Oriental rug with a close up stain

Spot treat the affected area with:

  • 8 parts water
  • 1 part white vinegar
  • And a small squirt of a mild dish washing detergent

Simply dab the solution on with a white paper towel then with a clean, dry paper towel, dab the wet area until the carpet is bone dry.

2. Red Wine or Dark Fruit & Vegetable Juices

Pour salt over the entire affected area. The salt will absorb the liquid like a sponge.

Red wine spill on white carpet

Once the salt has absorbed the stains, use a rounded spoon to lift off the residue, sprinkle on cold water with a spoon or syringe and finally blot dry the area dry.

3. Pet Messes, Perfume & Alkaline Spills

Use either the vinegar solution mentioned above, or an ammonia solution of 1 teaspoon of household ammonia to 1 cup of water.

Puppy with its nose in soiled rug

Dab the solution on with a white paper towel, rinse well with cold water on a spoon or syringe, and finally blot dry.

4. Paint, Oil & Grease

Remove paint, oil, and grease with nail polish remover, or use a spot removal/dry cleaning solvent.

Lipstick stain on wool rug

Other solutions:

  • Vinegar solution
  • The Ammonia solution listed under PET MESSES

Rinse well with a spoon or syringe, blot dry.

Many of these solvents and solutions will leave the affected area more prone to dirt that the rest of the rug. Rinsing well with cold water and blotting help alleviate the problem.

5. Peroxide Bleach & Other Harsh Chemical Spills

Use cold water on the affected area and immediately contact a professional rug cleaner.

***Never use an "oxygen" or "oxy" cleaning solution on a wool rug. This may bleach the rug and/or damage the fibers!***

4. Always Be Cautious

To avoid having to spot clean at all, always be cautious!

Wool rugs can take a beating, but they need to be taken care of. Would you smoke around the Mona Lisa? Drink red wine after getting your teeth bleached?

Of course not!

Here are a few tips to avoid accidents:

1. Have friends and family remove shoes

This is a good practice even if you don't have any wool rugs.

Your shoes step on public bathroom floors, dirt, asphalt, and who knows what else!

2. Limit pets around a wool rug

Make sure their paws are clean and that they aren't lounging on the rug. 

Trust me, they will want to - wool rugs are just so soft!

how to clean oriental wool rugs

 

3. Be Careful with Red Wine

You don't have to become a white wine drinker, but be careful!

4. Make Sure Kids Do Not Use Art Supplies On or Near the Rug

Hate to break it to you, but a crayon ground into the rug will need a professional clean....

5. Avoid Smoking Around the Rug

Smoke odors embed themselves in the rug and could cause discoloration of light colored rugs. 

Just as smoking causes damage to lungs, teeth, and ceilings, it will harm a wool rug too..

cleaning a wool rug at home

Wool rugs are flame resistant and will not burn, but they will char. Avoid open flames to avoid any damages to your piece. 

3. Do NOT Try to Bypass Professional Cleaning

No matter how many Youtube videos you watch, you will never be able to clean a wool rug like a professional.

They have advanced equipment that seems easy to replicate, but it's not.

Here is How You Should NOT Clean You Wool Rug:

Vacuuming and spot cleaning are one thing, but trying to deep clean on your own is a huge mistake. Why?

1. NEVER get your wool rug soaking wet

Once wool is wet it's very hard to dry on your own. The top layer of each individual wool fiber is hydrophobic, meaning it repels water, but the bottom layer is hydrophillic, meaning it attracts and retains water. 

If the rug does not become bone dry fast, your rug may produce mold and mildew, which is irreversible.

Just don't do it.

how to clean a shaggy wool rug

 

Learn more about mold from Rug Chick!

2. Do Not Use Colored Soap For the cleaning described above, you'll want to use a clear soap. The dye in the soap could stain light patterns on a rug.

2. Professional Cleaning

Ugh, we know... but you have to do it.

By following the steps above, you will be able to stretch out the time in between professional cleans, but you should have your wool rug cleaned every 1-2 years depending on how hard you are on your rug.

However, if you have a deep set in stain, you absolutely need to head to a professional cleaner. 

As we mentioned earlier, don't try to by pass professional cleaning.  It may be expensive but if you try to do it at home. You may end up ruining your heirloom wool rug. 

1. Be Kind To Your One-of-A-Kind Piece

Simply be kind! There are many different styles and colors out there but one thing remain the same...

Wool rugs are truly pieces of are and deserve to be taken care of.

The most wonderful thing about wool rugs is that they are functional pieces of art that, when taken care of properly, will be an heirloom  you can pass down to your children and they will pass it down to their children and so on!

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4 comments


  • If possible, designate an area where you can hang a clothesline and hang the wool rug like that. Beat against the rug with a broom to help shake it clean.

    Mixkino on

  • Hi, can you please provide a recommendation for cleaning in the Houston area? Houston is HUGE so to be specific, The Woodlands or South Conroe 77385. Also, once we clean it, is it safe to put into non climate controlled storage for a couple of months? Temperatures in Texas are high 90s with 90% humidity this time of year. We’re moving into an AirBNB while our house is being built.

    Maranda Harris on

  • Hi Bg! We’re located in Hagerstown, Maryland but don’t actually clean rugs. If you provide your location, we’ll be glad to provide you with a recommended professional Oriental rug cleaner in your area or you can see our list of recommended cleaners here —> https://www.rugknots.com/blogs/professional-cleaners

    Rugknots Oriental Rugs on

  • Hi where is your location. How i can bring my rug there?

    Bg on

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