Can You Steam Clean a Wool Rug?

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Wool rugs are popular in many homes thanks to their longevity and durability. As a material for rugs, wool is a natural insulator that keeps your floors cool in summer and warm in winter. However, since they are laid on the floors that are exposed to debris, dirt, dust, and spilled liquids, wool rugs need regular maintenance to keep clean. Although you can keep your rugs tidy with regular vacuuming, can you really steam clean a wool rug?

You can steam clean a wool rug to keep it fresh and stain-free. While light steaming your wool rug, keep the steam cleaner approximately 0.5 feet away from the rug. In full-motion, pass the steam cleaner over the rug moving methodically and staying on the same spot for not more than 6 seconds. Once done, leave the rug in the sun for a couple of days to dry out the moisture.

Apart from the steam cleaning option, there are many alternative ways to clean wool area rugs such as cleaning with detergent, vinegar, and ammonia. I have explained the steps of each of these alternatives below.

Can You Steam Clean A Wool Area Rug?

You can steam clean a wool rug to keep it looking fresh and stain-free. Before you steam clean your wool rug, give it a good shake, vacuum it properly, condition your rug using powder-based conditioner and use a soft stain remover to remove stubborn stains. Extensive steam cleaning is not advised because it can unravel the fibers or damage the lanolin in the wool.

How To Steam Clean Wool Rugs

Some of the basic things you will need include a vacuum, steam cleaner, air conditioner, detergent, water, and broom. Once you have the things ready, here is what you need to do:

1. Shake the rug thoroughly

Take your wool rug outdoor and shake it toughly to remove dust, dirt, debris, and any loose elements that might be hanging on it. Hang the rug on a patio beam or laundry line and use a rug beater or broom to beat the dirt and other elements out.

2. Vacuum the rug

Rugs placed in high traffic areas are exposed to household pets and other elements. Use a suction-only vacuum for wool carpet to gently clean your wool rug. Don’t use a vacuum with beater bars as they may unravel the fibers. Use a broom to clean fringes after vacuuming.

3. Use a rug conditioner

Once the rug is dust-free and vacuumed properly, use a powder-based conditioner to clean it before you steam cleaning. This is what you need to do:

  • Spread the wool rug flat on the round
  • Apply a thin layer of the powder-based conditioner on the rug.
  • Use your hands to make sure the powder is rubbed into the rug evenly
  • Vacuum up the powder and shake the rough vigorously to remove excess powder.
  • Avoid dampening the rug or using water-based conditioners as moisture can lead to the accumulation of molds.

4. Remove stubborn stains

Use a soft stain remover to remove stubborn stains from the wool rug. Mix one teaspoon of white vinegar, one teaspoon of wool laundry detergent, and few drops of water to form a paste. Rub the paste on the rug in a circular motion until no stain is evident.

5. Steam clean the rug

Over steaming is not recommended as it can damage your wool rug. Light steaming will clean the rug and also remove any odor from the rug. This is what you need to do:

  • Keep the steam cleaner approximately 0.5 feet away from the rug.
  • In full-motion, pass the steam cleaner over the rug moving methodically.
  • Don’t stay on the same spot of the wool rug for more than 6 seconds
  • Once done, leave the rug in the sun for a couple of days to dry out the moisture.

Does Steam Damage Wool Rugs?

Wool is textile material obtained from sheep and other animals such as goats, qiviut, bison, and rabbits. Some types of wool are delicate when exposed to hot steams. While rugs made from wool can be lightly steamed, over steaming can unravel the fibers, damage the lanolin in the wool and take years off its life.

Besides taking precautionary measures when steaming your wool rugs, it’s also advisable to use steam cleaners designed for wool rug cleaning. For instance, McCulloch MC1275 Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner is a versatile steam cleaner that uses pressured steam to eliminate stains, grime, and grease from a wide range of surfaces including wool rugs, grills, ceramic floors, and more. It comes with a 48-ounce water tank that heats up in less than eight minutes and provides up to 45 minutes of controlled steam.

Alternative Ways to Clean Wool Area Rugs

1. Clean the wool area with detergent

Wool rugs require a deep cleaning treatment that can’t achieve with a steam cleaner or vacuum cleaner. While the vacuum for wool rugs collects loose elements such as dust, dirt, and debris, it does not clean the wool fibers. This is where laundry detergent comes in. The detergent will remove dirt from the wool, leaving it fresh and free from stains.

  • Spread the rug on the floor
  • In a fluid canister, mix 1/2 cup white vinegar with 1 capful of your regular laundry detergent. You can add a disinfectant if you wish.
  • Add some water to the canister
  • Fit the canister into the steam cleaning equipment and heat the solution for at least five minutes.
  • Move the vacuuming equipment across the wool rug as though you were vacuuming. Remember to move the vacuum cleaner more slowly than you would when doing normal vacuuming.

2. Clean the wool area with vinegar

You need 2 cups of water, 1/2 teaspoon dish soap, 1/2 cup white vinegar, a bucket, sponge, and towels. Here are a few steps you need to follow:

  • Combine water, dish soap, and white vinegar in a bucket and mix thoroughly.   
  • Dip a sponge or soft cloth into the mixture and use it to rub the wool rug inwards. Don’t rub the wool outwards as it may spread the stain further.
  • If there is piling on your wool rug, rub it gently into the wool rea to maintain its original appearance.
  • Rinse the sponge or cloth under cold water and rub the wool area again to remove the remaining cleaning solution.
  • Hang the rug on the hanging line to dry.

3. Clean the wool area with ammonia

Ammonium solution is also a good remedy for cleaning wool area rugs. The substance loosens grime and breaks down stains on the area.  Follow the steps below when using this remedy:

  • Mix 1/2 cup ammonia, 1/2 teaspoon dish detergent, and 2 cups of water in a bowl.
  • Apply the solution to the wool stains and rub the solution using inward motion, circular motions. Use a sponge or cotton cloth to apply the solution.
  • Rinse the sponge or cloth under cold water and rub the wool area again to remove the remaining cleaning solution.
  • Use a dry towel to remove excess solution

For stubborn stains such as blood stains and grease, add a little hydrogen peroxide to the remedies you are using to clean your wool area rug.

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Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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