Can I Steam Clean My Wool Carpet?

Kathryn Pomroy
Written by Kathryn Pomroy
Updated July 12, 2021
Woman enjoying clean carpet
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You can steam clean your wool rugs and carpet, but only every 12 to 18 months, as hot steam can damage the natural fibers of wool

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Wool rugs and wall-to-wall wool carpets are beautiful and durable. But because wool is an all-natural material, it attracts dirt and grime more easily. That calls for thoroughly and professionally steam cleaning your wool rug or carpet every 12 to 18 months to keep it looking its best. But steam-cleaning your wool rug too often can damage the fibers and take years off its life, so we outlined some best practices below.

Wool Carpet Cleaning

You can and should get your expensive wool wall-to-wall carpet cleaned by a local carpet cleaner. Because wool is a natural fiber, it tends to collect dust and dirt easily. Wool can also hide a tremendous amount of dirt before it begins to show. But, soil is very abrasive and will wear down the carpet fibers unless cleaned once or twice a year. 

Wool fibers have a waxy outer coating. That helps wool repel liquids, but only if you dab and soak up spills quickly without letting them soak into the fibers. For larger spills or to thoroughly clean the entire wool rug or carpet, you can use the industry-recommended hot water extraction (steam) cleaning method. This is the most thorough, effective method for removing soil from the base of the carpet.

Professionals recommend steam cleaning your wool carpet every 12 to 18 months to remove the oily, sticky soil that your vacuum can’t remove. Keep in mind that because wool is an organic fiber, it tends to smell a bit like a wet dog when cleaned. Don't worry: This odor will quickly dissipate as the carpet dries.

Average Cost to Professionally Steam Clean Rugs

According to HomeAdvisor, carpet cleaning costs can range from between $100 and $500. However, as wool carpet can be more difficult to clean than many synthetic fibers, you may end up spending another $100 to $150 on top of that price for wool.

Chemical Cleaning Requirements for Wool Carpet

If you rent a carpet cleaning machine, be sure not to use high-alkaline cleaning agents. High-alkaline cleaners include sodium hydroxide, sodium carbonate, and ammonia, which can cause damage to your wool carpet. You must also be very careful not to use an overly hot cleaning solution, and bleach is a huge no-no for carpet because it actually dissolves wool fibers.

An alkaline cleaning agent of somewhere around a pH of 8.5 is the limit for wool rugs. Any more than that, and you risk degrading the organic wool fibers, which causes discoloration and the breakdown of fibers over time.

Cleaning carpet with steamer
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How to Steam Clean a Wool Rug Yourself

Yes, you can steam clean your wool rug yourself. But, just as you shouldn’t wash your wool sweater in hot water, you shouldn’t routinely use a steam cleaner on a genuine wool rug. Before you begin, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Steam cleaning maintains the beauty of your wool rug better than other cleaning methods

  • Wool takes a very long time to dry

  • Hessian or hemp backing on wool rugs encourages mold growth

  • Steam-cleaned wool rugs must be dried very thoroughly

  • Don’t put your furniture back on your wet wool carpet too soon

  • Wood stain on the legs of furniture may bleed back into wool rugs, causing a new brown stain

Different Treatments for Different Stains

Stains from spills, slops, and drops are different from soiling. Soiling happens over time, whereas spills and drips are accidents that should be treated right away. Many sugar-based spills from things like soft drinks, white wine, or coffee can leave a residue, even if spot-cleaned quickly. This residue can attract dirt and grime from muddy shoes and pets. 

It’s best to treat these stains with warm water applied directly to the surgery area. To 4 cups of warm (not hot) water, mix in 1 teaspoon of wool detergent and 1 teaspoon of white vinegar. Pat to dry and retreat if necessary. For things like nail polish, clear nail polish remover without lanolin is your best bet.

Dyeing Wool Carpets

If cleaning fails to remove those nasty stains—like pet urine—in your wool carpet, you might consider dyeing it instead. Wool fibers take to dyes very readily. But, dyeing will also shorten the life of your wool rug. You’ll want to be careful choosing a dye, making sure it is suitable for wool and not synthetic fibers.

Color is also sometimes a concern, as red can end up pink and beige and easily turn brown. Hiring a professional or taking your wool area rug to someone trained in dyeing wool will save you a few headaches.

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