Hooked on Hand-Hooked Rugs? Here’s How To Keep Them Gorgeous

Snow on Rug

People talk a lot about spring cleaning – and it’s true, there’s nothing nicer than opening your windows on a luxuriously warm spring day and letting the breeze waft through your house, carrying all remaining traces of winter away with it, as you deep clean, organize, and redecorate to greet the new season in style.

But there are some aspects of domestic cleaning that are actually better suited to the winter. Case in point: Hand-hooked wool rugs.

Why is winter ideal for cleaning hand-hooked rugs? Duh! Because you need snow.

Wait, what? Let’s back up here for just a minute. What exactly is a hand-hooked rug, anyway?

Normal rugs have loops of wool or other materials attached to the backing, right? These days, that looping is usually done by machines. But hand-hooked rugs are just that – hooked by hand. The loops are drawn through tiny holes in the backing by hand, with a little hook.

Hand Hooking

Since they’re so painstakingly made by hand, it’s important to be especially gentle when cleaning them. Think of a hand-knitted wool sweater. OK, yes, scratchy. But also delicate, right? It’s unique, and gorgeous, because it’s made by hand, but it isn’t quite as tough as something made by machine. You have to take extra care when washing it, too – think of what would happen if you tossed it into the washer, set it to “heavy duty,” and then dried it in the dryer, to boot! Are you cringing just thinking of it? So are we!

The same is true of your hand-hooked wool rug – it just needs a little extra love. So cleaning it with harsh chemicals, vacuuming it too vigorously, or even letting it get wet are all big no-nos.

So that brings us back to the original question. Why do you need snow to clean gorgeous hand-hooked rugs, like this one?

Hand Hooked Rug

Because it’s hands down the gentlest way to clean an area rug there is.

You heard right. Of course, there are a few guidelines to follow. You can’t use just any snow. It has to be fresh, newly fallen, clean, dry snow. About two to five inches of it is best. And the temperature outside needs to be between 20–30 degrees Fahrenheit. Think we’re kidding? Here’s how it works.

First, hang the rug outside in the cold for about an hour to get it used to the lower temperature. If you bury it mercilessly in snow right away, it will shock the wool and weaken the fibers.

Next, spread it on the snow and sweep snow over it until it’s completely covered. Slap it gently with the broom for a little while, and then let it sit for about ten minutes. Sweep the snow off, and then pick it up, turn it over, and do the same on the other side. Then hang it up again outside for another ten minutes or so to let the last bits of snow evaporate, and voila! Your rug has been safely cleaned!

We know, we know, it sounds like something out of Little House on the Prairie. “Laura, take the rug that Mary hand hooked out into the snow to sweep it – but watch out for wolves! And don’t get blown away by the blizzard!”

But it really works! One reason is the ammonia in freshly fallen snow. There are only traces, but it’s enough to deep clean and brighten the rug. The other reason is the cold of the snow, which causes dirt and grease to solidify and fall out of the rug’s fibers when it’s slapped with the broom.

Of course, you don’t have to use snow to clean your hand-hooked rug – you can also clean it with more modern methods. But take care, when you do, not to handle it too roughly. Vacuuming is alright, as long as you only use a hand-held vacuum, or the upholstery attachment. Woolite can be used – but only the suds, rubbed gently into a stain with a baby brush. Avoid getting your hand-hooked rug wet at all costs – moisture is one of its worst enemies.

If there is a mishap and the vacuum snags a loop of material and pulls it – or if a pet’s claws do the same thing – think handmade wool sweater once again. Whatever you do, don’t pull the loop out. (Remember what happens when you start pulling one loose thread in a handmade sweater? Pretty soon, there’s no more sweater left!) Snip it off with scissors instead, to keep the rug intact.

So there you have it – the care and keeping of hand-hooked wool rugs. Treat them with love, respect, and a little snow, and they’ll last a lifetime.