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Yay! You came to Morocco (or you bought a Berber rug at home) but now it’s time to face the music. Your Moroccan rug needs to be cleaned. Of course one of the safest ways to get it cleaned is to bring it to a professional carpet cleaner. But this can be VERY expensive, especially if you have it done regularly. You also will want to be aware of any chemicals they use in the cleaning process as this can strip the natural dyes out of Moroccan rugs and cause a lot of damage.
Cleaning a wool rug is a lot easier than you might think. Learning how to do it yourself can save you a lot of money and hassle. We went through the process of cleaning a Beni Ourani rug so that I could share with you the steps. First, you need to know which type of rug you have. If it’s a flat weave rug or a rug that has a low pile it will be fairly easy and straight forward. If however you have a boucherite rug or one that has a higher pile, it can be a little more complicated.
Cleaning Flat Kilm Rugs or Low Pile Rugs
If your rug has gotten wet, perhaps from a spill or a pet stain, begin the clean up by applying paper towels to the spot. immediately put baking soda on the spot to soak up as much of the liquid as possible. After a few minutes you can vacuum this spot. But, what if it doesn’t work or you’ve got a tougher stain. A mixture of vinegar and baking soda can do the trick.
For pet stains mix distilled vinegar and cold water in a 1-to-1 ratio. Add to a spray bottle and make sure to soak the rug. You will need to use quite a bit of water to really saturate the wool. Then use a soft bristle brush to work the mixture into the fibers of the rug. Let it sit for a minimum of 10 minutes. Blot out any excess liquid with paper towels after it has had a chance to sit and then dry completely. This will help neutralize any smells.
Now it’s time for the deep cleaning. Beni Ourani rugs are some of the easiest to clean. Why? They’re made using natural colors. The black and white on the rug are the colors of the sheep wool so there is no additional dying. This means there’s no risk of colors running or bleeding – that is if you’ve purchased an authentic rug.
A few things I recommend having before you start cleaning;
- a space that is high enough you can hang the rug vertically to dry
- sunshine. The rug needs to have warm sunshine to dry!
- a vacuum that has a low and high setting
- a good scrub brush
- a water source, ideally apower washer
The first thing you need to do is get out any excess dirt from your rug. Take it outside and shake or bang it well. Next, lay it down flat near your vacuum. Using the “high” height setting on your vacuum you’ll want to pull up any more dirt. When you do begin to vacuum do so the short width of the rug, not the length of the rug. Go back and forth slowly. You can also use the hand attachment to pull out any dirt on the edges, this can sometimes be more effective. This process can take some time, BUT the more dirt you can remove before the washing the better!
Arrange your rug so that the water can run off. We used a tall ladder to drape the rug over. This allows for dirty water to run off easily and is much easier on the arms. When these rugs are wet they are very heavy! I have washed rugs both with and without a power washer and if you have one, or can borrow one, a power washer is the way to go! We used it to spray the rug starting at the top to the bottom on both sides of the rug. It will take time to soak the rug and you want to make sure it is completely soaked. Spray downwards and trust me, you’ll be shocked at the dirt coming off!
You can use the scrub brush to really work out any dark spots. We also used the scrub brush on the back, flat side of the rug to loosen up anything that was stuck. Then keep spraying! If you don’t have a power washer you could use a hose with a spray attachment.
If your rug is really dirty you can use a gentle soap like Dreft to clean it. I would be very cautious using soaps on rugs that were dyed as you can never be completely sure how the color dye will react with the soap of choice. If you have certain spots that are dirty, I would try to spot treat vs, using soap on the entire rug.
Once you feel comfortable you’ve removed as much as possible it’s time to dry your rug. If you’re using a ladder like we did, you may want to let some of the excess water run off first. Let it hang for 20-30 minutes to do this. Then you’ll want to squeeze it. Lay the rug out on a table and roll it as tightly as you can. You won’t squeeze out everything but the point is just to get out as much water as possible. This will speed up the drying time. Once this is done, hang it back up in direct sunlight. Your rug will need to dry completely before it’s ready to go back in your home. If it doesn’t, you will know it – wet wool has a very specific smell; imagine a wet dog but worse. Depending on how warm it is, you should leave it to dry 12-24 hours minimum.
You might notice that the rug looks a bit matted after washing. You can use the vacuum again to perk up the pile and make it fluffy.
Cleaning your rug can be time consuming but if your rug isn’t in a high traffic area, you should only need to go through this in depth process once a year. During the rest of the time rely on spot cleaning and regularly shaking out the rug.
Cleaning Shaggy Rugs
What if you bought a shaggy rug like a boucherite rag rug? These are a little different to clean. Because of the nature of the rug you’ll want to be a little more gentle with them. The higher pile also means there’s more chance to pull out a piece of the rug and unravel a portion.
For rag rugs, a regular beating of the rug is a must. To clean it, you can clean it as you would any other fabric – they’re mostly made of fabric materials and not wool. Spot treat using the same formula as listed above and then use a soft detergent to wash the material. Rinse it out really well and squeeze as much water out as you can before hanging it up to dry. Don’t forget to wash the back, flat side first to loosen up anything stuck.
**This advice is based on my own experience cleaning Moroccan rugs. If you are unsure you should always call or consult with a professional cleaner.