How to Clean a Wool Rug, Including Set-In Stains

In addition to regular vacuuming and spot treating, wool rugs should be deep cleaned once a year.

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Photo: John Granen
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Wool rugs are sturdy floor coverings that can last a lifetime. Regular vacuuming and spot-treating stains as they happen will keep a wool rug looking its best, but on a yearly basis, it's a good idea to treat your wool rug to a deep cleaning. This guide provides all the steps needed to clean a wool rug, including how to spot-treat stains as they happen and after they've set in.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Broom or other long-handled tool
  • Vacuum
  • Soft-bristled carpet and upholstery brush
  • Large non-abrasive sponge


  • Dry carpet shampoo granules
  • Large tarp
  • 2 Utility buckets
  • Wool-safe cleaning solution
  • Light-colored cloth
  • 2 Towels
  • Fan


How to Clean a Wool Rug

  1. Shake the Rug

    If the size of the rug and your outdoor space allow for it, take the rug outside and shake it vigorously to dislodge dust, dirt, hair, and other soils embedded in the fibers. Then, drape the rug over something sturdy, like a porch railing or a set of chair backs, and use a broom handle to beat the rug.

  2. Vacuum Both Sides of Rug

    Bring the rug back indoors and vacuum it on both sides. Routine vacuuming, which should take place once a week in heavily trafficked areas and once a month in rooms and spaces that are less frequently used, only focuses on the top of the rug, but taking the time to flip the rug and vacuum its underside will result in a deeper clean.

  3. Use a Dry Rug Shampoo

    After beating and vacuuming both sides of the rug, assess what more needs to be done. If the rug has stains or an all-over dingy appearance, you will want to spot-treat and/or shampoo it. If the rug just needs some freshening up, use a dry carpet shampoo.

    Consult the manufacturer's instructions for the appropriate amount of dry carpet shampoo granules to use on wool rugs, and apply it to the carpet. Then, using a soft-bristled brush, work the granules into the rug's fibers and allow them to sit undisturbed for the recommended amount of time. Then, vacuum both sides of the rug to remove all of the dry shampoo residue. If the rug is small enough to allow, you can also take it outside and shake it or beat the dry shampoo out of it.

  4. Spot-Treat Stains (Optional)

    If there are small stains on the rug, use a wool-safe detergent or stain remover to eliminate them. Apply the stain remover to a damp light-colored cloth and gently dab at the stain until it's gone. Take care not to scrub, as friction can cause the wool to fray and pill. When the stain has been successfully removed, gently dab the area with a cloth dipped in clean water to remove residual detergent. Allow the rug to dry; if needed, use a vacuum to restore the nap of the rug.

  5. Deep-Clean Rug (Optional)

    Wool rugs that have extensive stains or large areas of dinginess from foot traffic should be given an all-over deep clean. This can be done using a carpet cleaning machine, or by hand using the method outlined in the step-by-step instructions, below.

How to Deep-Clean a Wool Rug to Remove Set-In Stains

  1. Prep Room and Cleaning Solution

    If you will be deep-cleaning a wool rug indoors, lay down a tarp to protect the flooring. In a bucket, mix wool-safe detergent with water, using the manufacturer's instructions on dosage and dilution ratios. Fill another bucket about halfway up with clean water.

  2. Wash Wool Rug

    Dip a sponge into the cleaning solution and wring it out well, so that it is damp but not dripping. Wool is highly absorbent and can be slow to dry, so its fibers should not be saturated with liquid. Starting at one end of the rug and working in sections, wash the rug using a firm but gentle touch, rinsing and wringing out the sponge as you go. Do not scrub the fibers, as this can cause them to fray or break.

  3. Rinse Rug

    After deep cleaning one section of the rug, rinse the sponge well, dip it in the bucket of clean water, wring it out, and go over the area to remove the detergent residue. It is important to remove all soap residue to avoid leaving the rug with a dull appearance. Additionally, leaving behind soap residue will attract and trap dirt more than clean fibers.

  4. Blot with Towels

    Once the section has been rinsed, use clean, dry towels to blot it dry. Lay the towel over the area and press down firmly to extrude water from the rug. 

  5. Air-Dry Rug

    Allow the rug to air dry completely; this can take up to 24 hours. Depending on its size and your available outdoor space, it can be hung or laid outside to dry. Placing a fan or fans near the rug will help speed up indoor drying time.

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