Can I Steam Clean My Wool Carpet?
Getting your carpet professionally cleaned every six to 12 months can keep it looking new. (Photo by Patrick Dennison)
So you have wall-to-wall wool carpet in your home? Congratulations on choosing the world's most durable, tried-and-true carpet fiber known to man.
Wool fibers completely dominated the industry when wall-to-wall carpeting became the rage; nothing compared to the quality. Sometime after the 1950s, however, nylon was invented and soon took the dominant position in the market, largely due to its lower cost.
Wool is still available today and is much prized for its environmental perks, its ability to bounce back and hide soil, and its naturally fire-retardant qualities. The drawback is that a quality wool carpet typically costs four to 10 times as much as the cheaper fibers.
Wool carpet cleaning
Now, can you get your expensive wool wall-to-wall carpet professionally cleaned? Absolutely, and you certainly should.
One of the advantages of wool is that it can hide a tremendous amount of dirt before it begins to show. However, this can cause indoor air quality and odor issues and reduce the life of your carpet. Soil is very abrasive and will wear the carpet fibers unless extracted.
The good news is that it will not hurt your wool carpet to clean it using the industry-recommended hot water extraction (steam) cleaning method. This is the most thorough, effective method for removing that greasy, gritty, fiber-eating soil from the base of the carpet.
Being an organic fiber, wool will tend to smell a bit like a wet dog when cleaned. Don't worry: This odor will quickly dissipate as the carpet dries. Drying should take no longer than 2 to 6 hours on average.
Dyeing wool carpets
Wool fibers take dyes very readily.
One of the disadvantages, however, is that it keeps on readily accepting dyes after installation. In other words, stain removal can be a pretty challenging proposition for wool — especially on old stains that have been set with time.
You can remove them with the right products and skill, but don't expect to see that Kool-Aid pop out of your wool carpet like it did on your olefin carpet. Having a cleaning professional apply a high quality wool-safe carpet protector will aid in the removal of potential stains and spots.
RELATED: Is carpet dyeing worth it?
Cleaning chemical requirements
Be sure that your cleaner does not use highly alkaline cleaning agents: Somewhere around a pH of 8.5 is the limit. Alkalinity degrades organic fibers, and causes discoloration and fiber degradation over time. This is possibly the most important difference between cleaning conventional carpet and wool.
The cleaning professional must be very careful that he (or she) does not use overly hot cleaning solution. Bleach is a huge no-no because it will actually dissolve wool. So don't be tempted to remove a tough stain with bleach and hire someone to dye the carpet. You'll be hiring someone to repair the wool carpet instead.
With these few guidelines, you can get your wool carpets steam cleaned every year for many years to come without fear that you are somehow ruining it. If you hire a professional cleaner with the proper level of knowledge and skill, you are greatly extending the life and improving the appearance of your high-end wool carpet.
About this Angie's List Expert: Mahlon Zehr is the owner of Beautiful Carpets and Floors, Inc., a professional carpet cleaning company in the Walla Walla Valley. Mahlon is certified by the Clean Trust (IICRC) as an individual and Beautiful Carpets is a certified company as well.
As of Aug. 22, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally published on May 14, 2013.