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Maintenance and cleaning of wool carpets

Prevention & maintenance

Prevention is better
Place mats in front of the house door to trap the dirt. This will stop outside dirt from getting onto your carpet. Also bear in mind that a dark carpet won’t show dirt and stains as much as a light carpet will.

Vacuuming
Weekly vacuuming is recommended so that soil does not become embedded in the pile causing accelerated wear by finding at the base of the tufts. All types of vacuum are efficient for regular cleaning, particularly dense pile carpet. For loop pile carpets, use a suction only vacuum. The last stroke of the vacuum cleaner should be in the pile direction.

Clean in-depth

If you have taken care to vacuum your carpet regularly and remove spills, you may not need to clean your carpet for a year or more, even if it is a light colour. However, when the carpet does start to look soiled, you can either have it professionally cleaned or do it yourself. If you decide to clean the carpet yourself, make sure you use a good quality cleaning agent and carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Wet shampoo
It is important to use a neutral shampoo on wool carpets – certainly not one that is alkaline, never use household detergents, and don’t use shampoos which smell of ammonia. To check proprietary carpet shampoos, leave a bit in a saucer overnight, pour off excess and allow to dry to see if it leaves a sticky residue to which house dust could cling.

If you use a shampooing machine, follow the instructions carefully. Remove the furniture from the room, if possible, and vacuum thoroughly before shampooing. Allow to dry overnight before vacuuming and putting the furniture back in place. It’s important not to allow the carpet to get too wet in case the pile and backing become distorted.

Absorbent powder
There is a range of cleaning powders available which are either solvent-saturated or detergent-saturated. Check the manufacturer’s instructions. After vacuuming, the powder is sprinkled liberally on the carpet, brushed into the pile and then vacuumed out. It is not necessary to remove all the powder from the pile as it can help minimize future soiling. The powder method is an easy way of freshening up a carpet. It also distorts the pile less and, because the carpet is less wetted, the room is ready for re-use sooner.

Aerosol foam shampoo
For light cleaning of small areas, aerosol foam shampoos can be used. It is advisable to test the shampoo first for sticky residue which may attract dust. Foam is usually sprayed sparingly on the carpet and worked into the pile with a moistened sponge or brush. Vacuum after the carpet is dry. In all cases, check the manufacturer’s instructions.

Spray injection-extraction
With this method, sometimes incorrectly referred to as “steam cleaning,” the carpet pile can be injected with a hot water and detergent solution under pressure so that the soil is suspended in the water which is extracted almost at once by a high suction, wet vacuum system. This method is particularly useful for very dirty carpets as it removes deep-seeded dirt, but it may not clean the surface as well as other methods. It is also useful for removing excess detergents from successive wet shampooings – and together the two methods can restore a very dirty, flattened carpet. Although a machine can be rented, it is best to have this type of cleaning done by a professional cleaner because care needs to be taken not to over-wet the carpet and thus distort the pile and backing.

Factory cleaning
Professional factory cleaning is ideal for rugs and carpet squares because all the dirt can be effectively removed. It is not as suitable for wall-to-wall carpet as on-site cleaning because of the inconvenience and expense of removing and refitting the carpet.

First aid for stains

Prompt action is important in order to avoid the spillage penetrating the pile fibers and becoming fixed.

Stain removal kits can often be obtained from carpet retailers, or you can make up your own which should contain the following items:

  • a carpet shampoo for removing water-based stains
  • a solvent for removing greasy stains
  • a chewing gum remover (freeze or solvent type)
  • special stain removers for ink, fruit juice, coffee, etc.
  • white tissues for mopping up spills
  • small sponges for applying shampoo, solvents, etc.

When spills occur, it is important that they are cleaned up immediately!

Here is a guide to help make your job easier

  1. Scoop up solids with a spoon.
  2. Blot up liquids by applying pressure with white paper towels or tissues.
  3. Determine method of stain removal from the chart.
  4. Before treating stain, test treatments on an inconspicuous part of the carpet for possible colour change.
  5. With blotting or dabbing motion, work inwards from the edge of the stain to prevent it spreading.
  6. Do not rub carpet pile during the stain removal or rinsing stages.
  7. When attempting to remove stains, ensure that the carpet is dry before proceeding to the next step in order of treatment.
  8. Rinse by applying clear, tepid tap water using a clean cloth or sponge.
  9. Once the stain has been removed, blot up moisture by adding pressure with white paper towels or tissues.
  10. Do not walk on carpet until dry.

Woolcare Stain Checklist and treatment for Carpets

  1. Solution of one teaspoon of approved wool detergent (e.g. Softly) with one teaspoon of white vinegar and one litre of warm water.
  2. Dry-cleaning fluid, lighter fuel or mineral turpentine. Caution: Ensure that no flame or lighted cigarette is near, and use in a well-ventilated area.
  3. Mineral turpentine effectiveness is increased if mixed with an equal quantity of dry-cleaning fluid. Caution: Ensure that no flame or lighted cigarette is near, and use in a well-ventilated area.
  4. Methylated spirits. Caution: Ensure that no flame or lighted cigarette is near, and use in a well-ventilated area.
  5. Hydrogen peroxide (20 vol.) Dilute 1 part to 10 parts cold water. 
Caution: Do not use on dark or patterned fabric.
  6. Dye stripper. Dilute 1 part to 50 parts cold water. Caution: Do not use on dark or patterned fabric.
  7. Chewing gum remover (freezing agent.)
  8. Nail polish remover.
  9. Clean warm water.
  10. Cold water.
  11. Weak solution of white vinegar or lemon juice with cold water.
  12. Absorbent powder (e.g. salt or talc.) Sprinkle on spillage, leave overnight and vacuum next day.

Notes:

  • When attempting to remove any stains always ensure that the fabric is dry before proceeding to the next step in the order of treatment.
  • The solvents normally used in dry cleaning are perchlorethylene, white spirit or fluorocarbons.

Note: While this advice is offered in good faith, no responsibility is accepted for claims arising from the treatments proposed. If stains fail to respond to treatments listed, call a professional fabric cleaner immediately.

Type of stain Order of treatment
  1st 2nd 3rd
Beer 1    
Beetroot juice 1    
Bleach 1    
Blood 10 6  
Burn or Scorch Mark 5    
Butter 2 1  
Candlewax 3    
Chewing Gum 7    
Chocolate 1 2  
Cocoa 2 10 1
Coffee (black or white) 2 10 1
Cooking Oils 2 1  
Crayon/Colour Marker 2 1  
Cream 2 1  
Egg 1    
Excrement 1    
Fruit Juice 9 1  
Furniture Polish 2 1  
Grass 4    
Gravy/Sauce 9 1  
Grease 2 1  
Ice Cream 1    
Ink – ballpoint 4 1  
Ink – fountain pen 9 1 6
Lipstick 2 1  
Metal Polish 2 1  
Mildew 1 5  
Milk 9 2 1
Mustard 1    
Nail Polish 8 2  
Oil 2 1  
Paint – emulsion 2 10 1
Paint – oil base 3 2 1
Rust 2 1 11
Salad Dressing 2 1  
Shoe Polish 2 1  
Soft Drinks 9 1 5
Tar 3 2 1
Tea (black or white) 2 10 1
Urine 1    
Vomit 1    
Wine (red) 12 9 6
Wine (white) 1