How to Steam Clean a Wool Rug (The Best Ways)

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how to steam clean a wool rug

A wool rug of any sizes makes for a luxurious and aesthetic addition to living rooms and entrance ways. These rugs are often heavily textured or patterned to enhance their appearance. Because of these design details, wool rugs are notoriously difficult to clean.

But it’s still possible to keep your wool rug (or rugs) looking fresh and stain-free. And steaming can help with that.

Here is how you can steam clean a wool rug in your home.

Key Takeaways:

Start by giving the rug a good shake to remove loose dirt, then vacuum it down. Then, use a powder-based rug cleaner or rug conditioner to give it a good clean, and apply a steam cleaner. Always keep it about six inches away from the rug as you steam, keeping it moving, before letting the rug dry completely before replacing it.

Spot cleaning is simple with eight parts water, one part white vinegar, and a dash of dishwasher detergent. Dab onto a paper towel, rub stains in a circle and dry with a fresh towel.

Step 1: Give it a Good Old-Fashioned Shake

beating the wool rug

Wool rugs can harbor large amounts of dust, pollen, and loose dirt in their weaves. By taking it outside and shaking it out, you can force a large number of them out. Here’s how to correctly shake out a wool rug:

  1. On a clear and sunny day, take the wool rug outside.
  2. Hang the rug on a laundry over a laundry line, patio beam, etc.
  3. To get more embedded dirt out, grab a wooden kitchen spoon or comparable gadget
  4. Beat the rug till the dust inside the rug is gone.
If you have allergies to indoor pollutants, consider wearing a mask or covering your face. This barrier will prevent you from breathing in those beaten-off pollutants.

Step Two: Vacuum the Rug

Before you go about removing any stains or steaming the wool rug itself, you’ll want to vacuum it. By giving your wool a rug a good vacuuming, you’ll help lift the various dirt and debris lying beneath the surface. Also, it’s important to know your rug’s pile type before vacuuming.

For more flat and dense piles, which are known as “short pile rugs,” a traditional brush vacuum can be used. However, if you have a “shaggy” wool rug, you’ll want to use a suction-only vacuum or brush-less attachment. Check out our list of the best vacuums for shag carpets for more advice.

Step Three: Use a Powder-based Carpet or Rug Conditioner

vacuum the wool rug

There are two things you should never do to your wool rug: wet it down with a cleanser or use a standard rug shampooer to clean it. Excess moisture is one of a wool rug’s worst enemies and can cause it to mold quickly. To clean your wool rug thoroughly without damaging it, use powder-based conditioners. Here’s how to condition your rug with a powder-based conditioner:

  1. Make sure the rug is already vacuumed and dusted.
  2. Lay the rug flat in an open area.
  3. With the powder container, sprinkle it across the rug.
  4. You only need a thin layer of the powder, less is more here.
  5. Rub the powder into the rug with your hands or soft-bristle brush.
  6. Let the powder sit for three to five minutes.
  7. Vacuum up any excess powder.
  8. Give the rug a shake to get rid of any excess powder.

These powdered conditions can work just as effective as their water-based alternatives. Follow the instructions above, and your rug will look and smell like new.

Step Four: Spot Treat Certain Areas

For those stubborn stains, you’ll need to treat them. Because wool rugs are susceptible to water stains, use a gentle stain remover. Consider making the following homemade stain remover to use on your wool rugs:

  • Eight parts water
  • One-part white vinegar
  • A small amount of a mild dishwashing detergent

To apply, dab the mixed solution onto a clean paper towel. Afterward, rub into the stained area in a circular motion till it’s gone. Use a new and dry paper towel to absorb any leftover moisture.

Step Five: Give Your Wool Rug a Light Steaming to Freshen it Up

Wool rugs can be damaged when steaming. Wool, itself, likes to hold onto moisture and become susceptible to mold. However, a light steaming can help decrease certain odors.

  1. When steaming a wool rug, hold the steam cleaner about six inches away.
  2. Going in quick motions, steam the entire rug.
  3. Make sure you don’t spend more than five seconds in the same spot.
  4. Over steaming will cause the lanolin in the wool to deteriorate and fibers to unravel, so repeat only as needed.

Once done, place the wool rug in a sunny spot of the house to let dry completely. If that’s not an option, allow the rug to dry overnight.

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Treat Your Rug Well, and it Will Last for Years to Come

Wool rugs can last many years, as long as they’re cared for and cleaned properly. Follow these cleaning steps to leave your wool rug clean and stain free, without doing any damage.

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Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

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