How to Clean a Wool Rug 

Oriental and Persian wool area rugs are sought after for their beauty. These rugs are often dyed with eye-catching colors and woven with intricate designs, making them valuable works of art. With that in mind, it’s essential that these delicate rugs receive the proper care to prolong their appearance and integrity. 

Wool is an extremely absorbent material, and because it’s also frail under any sort of high pressure, it can be challenging to clean. Equally important are knowing the things to avoid when cleaning a wool rug. The methods and products that may be suitable for other types of rugs can damage wool severely. 

In this guide, we’ll outline the do’s and don’ts of cleaning Oriental and Persian wool rugs, including what to avoid and how to properly clean natural wool without damaging the delicate wool fiber. 

Wool and Oriental Rugs 

Oriental and Persian rugs are handmade wool carpets that are either knotted with a pile or woven without. No matter which you’re working with, these two types can be treated similarly.

How Often Should Wool Rugs Be Cleaned? 

All wool rugs should receive regular, thorough vacuuming on the front and back to eliminate loose dirt, dust and debris. Wool rugs require periodic professional carpet cleaning to keep them looking their best — especially rugs in high-traffic areas.  

When cleaning with detergents, shampoos or pre-sprays, extreme care must be taken to ensure colors don’t bleed and delicate wool fibers aren’t damaged. Because the colors on wool rugs are highly susceptible to bleeding, it’s important to ALWAYS test each for colorfastness, with each cleaning chemical diluted per label instructions you plan to use. Some colors and dyes bleed more than others, while some don’t bleed at all. 

How Can You Tell if an Area Rug Is Made of Wool?  

If the carpet tag has been removed, and the client isn’t sure if their area rug is made of wool or not, you can perform one of two tests: 

Test #1: Burn Test: 

  1. Remove a few fibers from an inconspicuous area. 
  2. Place the fibers in a cup or ashtray. 
  3. Use a butane lighter to ignite the fibers.  


Wool carpet fibers will burn an orange flame and sputter, smell similar to burning hair and the ashes will be black and crumbly. Do not use matches, as the sulfur smell can interfere with the test. 

Test #2: Chlorine Bleach Test: 

  1. Remove a few fibers from an inconspicuous area. 
  2. Place the fibers in a cup containing chlorine bleach. 

Wool carpet fibers will dissolve in bleach (so it’s a good reminder NEVER to use bleach on wool, as it will cause permanent damage). 

Things to Avoid When Cleaning Wool Rugs 

While many modern carpets can withstand most cleaning products and methods, wool rugs are the exception. To prevent permanent damage to a wool rug, avoid the following while cleaning: 

  • Getting the rug soaking wet: Since wool is extremely absorbent, leaving it wet for long periods of time can cause damage to the rug and the floor underneath. 
  • Using hot water and steam cleaning: Hot water can damage the fibers of Persian and Oriental wool rugs, and it can also cause the color to bleed. 
  • Using chlorine bleach, ammonia or oxygen bleach: Do not use bleach on a Persian or Oriental rug as this will remove the dyes in the fibers, leaving the rug dull, faded or with unsightly patches. Chlorine bleach will also dissolve wool fibers and cause permanent damage. 
  • Brushing too hard: Using a soft-bristled brush on a wool rug is fine, but it’s important to not apply too much pressure while brushing, as it may tear, damage or snag the wool fibers. 

Expert tip: pH guidelines for wool rug cleaning products have changed over the years. The safest way to choose a product is to look for the Wool Safe label, which shows an image of a sheep.

How to Properly Clean Natural Wool Rugs 

Whichever method you use to clean a wool rug, all dry soil and loose dirt should be removed first. We recommend vacuuming both the front and back of the wool rug three (3) times each before applying any products, and testing each color for colorfastness with properly diluted solutions. Once these steps have been completed you can get started with the rug cleaning process. 

Basic Method: 

  1. Thoroughly vacuum the wool area rug to remove dry dust and debris.[Text Wrapping Break] 
  2. Using a trigger sprayer, apply Matrix® Radiant Fine Fabric Shampoo diluted at 5 oz per gallon of warm (not hot) water.[Text Wrapping Break] 
  3. Using a Grandi-Groom, sponge or horsehair brush, gently groom the pile downward with the nap. 
  4. Rinse and extract with Matrix® Complete Rinse diluted at 2-4 oz per gallon of water. Use low temperature (100–120°F) and low pressure (100–150 PSI). 
  5. Speed dry with air movers to avoid browning.

Fringe Cleaning 

The fringes on Oriental rugs are often brown out and need to be cleaned. Care needs to be taken that no other parts of the rug are touched with these cleaning suggestions, as it may bleach out the color of the rug itself. Chlorine bleaching agents can dissolve wool or silk. 

To remove browning on the white or colored fringe: In a bucket, combine equal parts of Matrix® Target Tannin Stain Remover and warm water and apply to the fringe. Gently scrub the fringe using a detail brush or sponge. Rinse with water. 

To clean white fringe: Applying Chemspec® Rx for Fringe diluted at 1/3 of a cup to 1 gallon of water. Brush lightly in an outward motion and on fringes only. Allow to dwell for 3-5 minutes then rinse with a hand tool. Use minimal moisture to avoid browning. 

Immersion Rug Cleaning: 

  1. Thoroughly vacuum the rug to remove dry dust and debris.[Text Wrapping Break] 
  2. Gently agitate a tested preconditioner, such as Matrix® Accomplish, into the wool fibers and let dwell per label instructions. 
  3. Use an in-plant automated machine with Chemspec Double Strength InPlant or Chemspec Liquid InPlant followed by extraction or compression rolling, or centrifuge. 
  4. If in-plant equipment is not available, you may create your own immersion cleaning tub with plastic and PVC pipe. Extraction can be done with a wand, roller, or sub-surface drying tool. This also is an excellent way to treat a stubborn stain caused by a pet and urine contamination using Pro’s Choice Rug Restorer
  5. Speed dry with an air mover. For multiple rugs, a dehumidifier may be used in conjunction with one or more air movers to enhance drying results. 

Warning: Always test material for colorfastness, follow label directions, and never mix products unless specified in the label directions. Each situation reacts differently and results may vary. 

The Best Products For Cleaning Natural Wool Rugs 

For professional results, we recommend these products for cleaning Oriental and Persian wool rugs: 

Shampoos: 
Matrix® Radiant Fine Fabric Shampoo 

Chemspec® Oriental Rug Shampoo 

Chemspec® Professional Carpet Shampoo 

Carolyn X‑TOL: Carpet and Upholstery Shampoo Concentrate 

Pre-sprays: 
Matrix® Accomplish Fine Fabric Pre‑Spray 

Rinses and restorers: 
Matrix® Complete Rinse 

Matrix® All Fiber Rinse 

Pro's Choice Rug Restorer 

Pro's Choice Last Step Textile Rinse 

Color stabilizers and souring agents: 
Pro's Choice Color Stabilizer & Souring Agent 

Fringe Cleaning:  
Matrix® Target Tannin Stain Remover 

Chemspec® Rx for Fringe 

In-plant detergents: 
Chemspec® Double Strength In‑Plant Detergent 

Chemspec® Liquid In‑Plant Detergent (5 GL) 

MasterBlend Inplant Liquid (5 GL) 

Tools: 
Grandi Groom Carpet Brush 

Dri‑Eaz Dri‑Pod Floor Dryer 

For more expert tips, training, and wool carpet cleaning guidance, check out our carpet and upholstery cleaning seminars. These courses are geared towards technicians, owners, and managers of carpet cleaning companies to help you learn new skills and earn IICRC certifications, ensuring your clients receive the best service possible. 

Chemspec® Double Strength In‑Plant Detergent, 50 lb.
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