Wool rugs have been around for literally thousands of years and are known to last hundreds of years with proper care. The oldest known surviving carpet is the wall-to-wall carpet, dating from the 4th-5th century. It is only in the last two hundred years that carpets are placed from wall to wall instead of being spread out on the floor like rugs. But over the centuries, the wall-to-wall carpet became more popular, and in the first half of the 20th century, wool fibers completely dominated production.
Nothing beats the quality
Sometime after the 1950s, however, nylon was invented and soon dominated the market, primarily because it was more economical than wool. Wool is still available today and is highly valued for its environmental benefits, ability to “come back”, soil concealment, natural fire-retardant properties, and many other benefits. The downside is that a quality wool rug usually costs 4-10x more than cheaper fibers!
This article primarily concerns cleaning wall-to-wall woolen rugs, not “flat rugs” or “oriental rugs”. Remember that they are very different and must be cleaned in a different way. Always take your rugs to a facility where they can be properly washed and dried in a controlled environment. Try not to clean them the same way you clean a wall-to-wall carpet.
Can you have your expensive wool area rug professionally cleaned?
You definitely and really should. One of the benefits of wool is that it can hide a lot of dirt before it shows up. However, dirt is still present and can cause indoor air quality (IAQ) and odor problems and shorten the life of your carpet.
- Industry Recommended Hot Water (Steam) Extraction Cleaning
The cleaning method will not damage your carpet. This is the most thorough and effective method for removing dirt and dust and fiber-eating soil on the underside of the carpet.
Here are some points to remember when cleaning a wool rug. Note that as an organic fiber, it smells a bit “organic” (wet dog) when cleaning, but this smell will disappear quickly when the rug dries. Drying should not take more than 2-6 hours on average.
One of the advantages of using wool fabric or fibers is that they can easily pick up dyes. One of the disadvantages is that it remains too easy to receive dyes after installation! In other words, removing stains can be a challenging proposition on wool, especially with old stains that have “set in” over time. It can be done with the right products and skills, but don’t expect the Kool-Aid to seep out of your wool rug like your olefin rug. Make sure your cleaner does not use alkaline cleaners.
Somewhere around pH 8.5 is the limit. Alkalinity damages organic fibers can result in yellowing or browning and causes fiber degradation over time. This is probably the most important difference between cleaning conventional carpet and wool. The cleaner must be meticulous not to use too much “hot” cleaning solution. Also, bleach is a big no-no! Bleach can dissolve, so don’t be tempted to bleach stubborn stains and plan to hire a carpet cleaner. Better hire a repairman!
With these few guidelines, you can steam clean your rugs every year for many years to come, and even for many years of your children, without worrying about ruining your wool wall-to-wall carpets. With the right level of knowledge and skill, it is completely safe and it is recommended that you clean your carpets with oil regularly.