How to Clean a Wool Rug Yourself at Home (Like a Pro)

Updated April 29, 2022
Woman talking on cell phone while vacuuming rug

The colors and variety of wool rugs make them a perfect accessory for your home. But they can be a little tricky to clean. Learn how to clean and wash a wool rug quickly and easily. Get the know-how for spot cleaning a wool rug. Find out when it's time to call a professional.

How Often to Clean a Wool Rug

You want to vacuum or beat your rug to remove dirt regularly, at least every two weeks. This schedule works to keep dirt from accumulating on the rug and extend the life of your rug. However, this schedule can vary based on your rug's traffic.

  • For a high-traffic area, clean the rug weekly or when you notice dirt.
  • If you have pets, clean the rug one to two times a week, because pets shed and bring dirt in on their paws.
  • For a low-traffic area, clean the rug once a month or when it shows signs of being dirty.

And remember, a new wool rug will shed fibers the first few times you clean it. This is a normal part of the process.

How to Clean a Wool Rug Yourself: Materials

You've got the lowdown on when to clean the rug. It's time to check out how you do it at home. The first thing you need to do is gather some materials.

  • Broom or rug beater
  • Vacuum
  • Bucket
  • Gentle cleanser, such as Woolite
  • Sponges
  • Cloth towels
  • Fan (optional)

Step 1: Beat Out the Dirt

Wool rugs tend to collect dirt and dust more than other types because there are more surface areas for it to become trapped in. So, you need to beat that dirt out. A broom works perfectly for this.

  1. For small rugs, you can just give it a good shake yourself by holding it, or flapping it against a railing.
  2. For large rugs, hang the rug from a sturdy clothesline or lay it over the railing of your deck or a piece of deck furniture that can hold the rug's weight.
  3. Use a broom or rug beater to hit the rug, effectively knocking out loose dirt.

Step 2: Vacuum the Rug

Once you've beaten as much dirt from the rug as you can outside, take the rug back inside and lay it on the ground. Now it's time to grab the vacuum.

High Angle View Of Vacuum Cleaner On Rug
  1. Vacuum the rug on both sides and run the vacuum two to three times completely over each side.
  2. For a fringed rug, start in the center and work your way out to the edges, so you don't harm the fringe.
  3. Pay attention to your pile. Ensure the vacuum is at the appropriate setting for your rug, as you don't want to agitate the rug and damage the fibers with beater bars or brushes.
  4. Working with a vacuum that uses suction only is safest for your wool rugs, or you can use handheld tools if turning off the bristles and beater bars isn't an option.

Step 3: How to Wash a Wool Rug

Once the dirt is gone, it's time to refresh your rug with a gentle cleanser. Grab the Woolite or a similar cleaner designed for wool rugs. If this is your first time cleaning the rug, make sure to test an inconspicuous area of the rug to ensure the cleaner doesn't harm it or cause color bleed before giving it a full-out cleaning.

Rug with a sponge and detergent
  1. Fill a bucket with cold water and a cap full of cleanser.
  2. Dip the sponge in the cleaner and wring it out. You want it damp, not dripping.
  3. Work on the rug with the sponge from one end to the other. Some people prefer to start at a corner.
  4. Either way, make sure you move the sponge in the nap direction and not against it.

Step 4: How to Rinse a Wool Rug

Once you've completely scrubbed the rug with a sponge, you will empty your bucket and get to rinsing.

  1. Fill a bucket with cold water.
  2. Dip the sponge in and wring it out, so it's damp.
  3. Run the sponge over the rug to remove any soap and leftover dirt.

Step 5: Drying the Rug

It's essential to ensure the rug is completely dry before putting it back out. You can help it along the way with a few towels.

Rug drying outside
  1. Dry the rug by placing towels on the surface to soak up excess moisture.
  2. Once you've soaked up everything you can, take it outside to finish drying.
  3. If you can't take it outside, another option is to set a large fan up at one end of the rug to help it dry faster and turn on a dehumidifier in the room.
  4. Place some objects underneath the rug, or prop it against a wall, to increase airflow all around the rug's surfaces for faster drying.

How to Spot Clean Wool Rugs

Sometimes your rug doesn't need an all-over cleaning. For example, if you dropped something on the rug or had a spill on a small area, you can just do a spot clean. This takes less time and means your rug isn't out of commission for too long. You need to grab a few additional items from your pantry for a quick spot clean.

  • Paper towels
  • White vinegar
  • White terry cloth or microfiber towel

Instructions for a Quick Spot Cleaning

Now that you've got your materials at hand, get down to work. While your first instinct might be to rub at the stain, don't. This will sink the stain further into the fibers and spread it. Now it's time for the steps.

Woman with cleaning agent and brush cleaning the rug
  1. Pick up any debris immediately, such as solid food bits from a spilled food dish or pet vomit.
  2. Grab some paper towels.
  3. Blot the stain. Do not rub.
  4. Create a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and cold water.
  5. Dampen a microfiber cloth in the mixture.
  6. Gently blot the stain by pressing down firmly and lifting up.
  7. If you use a cloth or towel, make sure they are white, as you don't want any colors to bleed onto the rug.

You can use the same method for an older stain too. However, the longer the spots have settled in, the longer it may take to remove it. If you struggle with white vinegar, you can also mix water and wool cleaner. Follow the same procedure.

How to Choose the Right Cleaner for Rugs

When using a commercial cleaning product for your wool rug, it's essential to use a brand that won't damage the rug. Jotham Hatch, Vice President of Training and Business Development with the Chem-Dry franchise, advises, "Avoid any cleaners that have a pH higher than 7 (neutral)." Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, President of ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, agrees, noting as well that, "High pH solutions may cause your rug to brown."

In general, Hatch states, "acidic cleaning products will do better on wool carpet." Wool rug owners should check the label to see if they are "Wool Safe certified products" which "are specifically tested and certified to be safe on wool fibers." Hatch also advises avoiding "spotting products with any oxidizers added and any products with heavy surfactants or soaps."

Tips for Cleaning a Wool Rug

Wool rugs can come in several construction styles, including braided wool rugs, hooked wool rugs, and woven wool rugs. While the cleaning methods overall are the same, Hatch notes that, "it's wise to distinguish the difference between the construction style of the rug and the fiber type of the rug." Additionally, keep these tips in mind to keep your rug clean longer.

  • Let mud stains dry before trying to clean them.
  • Keep shoes off rugs.
  • Rotate your rugs to avoid wear patterns
  • Keep food and drinks off rugs
  • Limit pets on rugs or clean paws.
  • Avoid messy projects on the rug.
  • Consider protecting your rug with a runner or mat.

Do Not Steam Clean Wool Rugs

Steam cleaning or using hot water of any kind should never be used with wool rugs. According to Rodriguez-Zaba, "Using hot water can cause the rug to shrink." Wool rugs tend to hold moisture and are difficult to dry, so you want to avoid any method involving soaking the rug. A wet rug that takes a long time to dry is also at risk of developing mold and mildew.

How to Know When to Know When to Call a Professional

While do-it-yourself spot and mild cleaning are possible, you can't do a deep cleaning like a professional. If you have stains you can't remove or notice discoloration, it's time to call a professional. They will be able to formulate a cleaning method with their advanced cleaning equipment that will bring your rug back to life. Additionally, if your rug is large or covers a vast area, consider calling a professional.

How to Wash a Wool Rug With Ease

Wool rugs are popular for their beauty and quality. However, your wool rug's potential lifetime will be shortened without proper care and cleaning. Take care to use the right cleaners, water temperatures, and methods to clean your wool rug, or seek out a professional carpet cleaning company when in doubt to protect your investment. The rug you care for today could become a cherished family heirloom! Now learn how to clean a shag rug.

How to Clean a Wool Rug Yourself at Home (Like a Pro)