Wool carpets provide a soft feel, pleasing look and depth of colour that can’t truly be replicated by synthetic fibres. Wool carpets are also highly durable, naturally dirt and static-resistant, and flame-retardant.
A high-quality wool carpet may last generations while a synthetic one endures just for a few years – making synthetic carpet less cheap than it first appears.
Last but not least, wool is an environmentally friendly choice. Whereas synthetic fibres like polypropylene, polyester and acrylic are derived from petroleum, wool is a fully biodegradable natural material that grows back year after year.
Why wool carpets need extra care
The slightly waxy coating on wool naturally resists dirt and spills, so a wool carpet will take more “abuse” than a synthetic carpet before it starts to appear grimy. However, wool has some disadvantages too:
- heat or an overly long drying period can cause it to shrink
- exposure to bleaching or brightening agents (including ones that are completely safe for synthetic carpets) can cause colour loss and damage wool fibres
- wool carpets naturally absorb a lot of water, making them difficult to move and resulting in overly slow drying, which in turn can leave an unpleasant smell and cause shrinking.
Maintaining a wool carpet
General consensus is that the best way to keep a wool carpet in good nick is to vacuum it regularly, ideally at least once a week and more often in high-traffic areas. This will make it unnecessary to wash the carpet more than once every one to two years.
If your vacuum has a beater brush and the carpet you need to clean is a pile carpet, set the brush to pile height and then use it to help beat dirt out of the carpet fibres. In the case of a Berber rug, which includes woolen loops, avoid using a beater brush, which can damage the wool.
In either case, give your wool carpet multiple passes in different directions to lift out all dirt and dust. It’s a good idea to replace the vacuum bag once it’s two-thirds full or the vacuum won’t function as effectively.
Treating stains on a wool carpet
As for all stains, the faster you act, the more easily they’ll come out. So treat any spill on a woollen carpet as soon as possible.
With wool, it’s important to avoid strong cleaning products like ammonia. Also don’t use “oxi”, or oxygen, cleaners, which typically break down to form oxygen, hydrogen peroxide and soda ash, which is highly alkaline. These cleaners may damage wool fibres.
To remove stains from a wool carpet, the safest approach is to mist with water or a diluted vinegar and water solution, and then use paper towel to blot, essentially “lifting up” the stain. Repeat this process until the stain has been completely removed.
Alternatively, buy a carpet-cleaning product that specifies it’s safe for wool and follow the instructions on the label. However, note that dry carpet-cleaning powders aren’t recommended for pile carpets. The powder insinuates itself deep in the fibres and isn’t easy to remove.
Washing a wool carpet
When it comes to washing a wool carpet, the best option is to leave the job to professionals. A company that specialises in carpet cleaning has the equipment and know-how to clean a wool carpet properly, without damaging its fibres or causing it to shrink or fade.
However, if you do plan on washing a wool carpet or rug at home, follow these guidelines:
- first vacuum thoroughly to remove dirt
- if the carpet is removable, take it outside, hose it down with a mild, soapy solution, sponge gently and then rinse
- if the carpet is fitted, use a wool-approved carpet shampoo, following the directions on the product label
- to ensure that the carpet dries as quickly as possible (and so to prevent it from shrinking), use towels to blot out excess moisture and then ensure that there’s plenty of air flow.