Did you know that the very best way to clean a handwoven, hooked, Persian or braided wool rug or wool blanket is with fresh snow?
Cleaning wool textiles with snow is an old-fashioned cleaning method that is very safe, gentle and completely non-toxic. It works better than sprays, steam cleaning or dry cleaning. For antique or collectible Persian rugs no method is better or safer.
Here’s how to do it.
You’ll need a stiff corn broom, a winter day that is between 20°F- 30°F and newly fallen snow on the ground.
Old snow won’t do.
The reason that fresh new snow cleans wool is because it contains trace amounts of ammonia (it’s also the reason snow can be used as a slight leavening agent in baked goods or pancakes). It’s the action of ammonia in the snow that actually cleans the wool rug or blanket combined with the cold air that causes any grease or dirt to become solid and fall out of the fibers when gently swept or slapped with a broom.
Two to five inches of fresh snow on the ground is the easiest to work with.
You’ll first need to place the blanket or rug outdoors for about an hour or so to acclimate it to the temperature change. Wool is very sensitive to temperature changes. You don’t want to “shock” the wool and compromise the fibers by a radical temperature change from a warm house to the cold ground. I use a covered porch or rail to hang or lay out rugs and a clothesline for blankets, but you can use a clothesline for both if the clothesline is stout enough and the rug is small.
After an hour or so has passed and the blanket or rug is cold spread it completely flat on the snow covered ground. Use the broom to sweep clean snow over the rug or blanket and completely cover it with snow.
Next take the broom and gently slap the rug or blanket while it is covered in snow. Wait about 10 minutes and then sweep the snow off the rug in sections.
For blankets simply lift the blanket by the corner ends and shake the snow off. Next flip the rug or blanket over to the opposite side and move it to another clean section of fresh snow and repeat the process again.
When you are finished move the blanket and rug back to the clothesline or rail for about 10 minutes so that any remaining snow can sublimate from the rug. Sublimation is the process by which a substance changes from its solid phase (snow) to a gas or vapor (cold air) without going through a liquid phase (water). This can only happen on a cold dry day.
You may be surprised that the rug or blanket is not in the least wet.
Bring your blanket or rug back into the house and prepare to be astonished at how fresh the rug looks and how bright the colors become.