Cleaning wool rugs and blankets with snow

I woke up to a cool -17°C today with a light dusting of fresh snow and the clearest skies we've seen in a while. Perfect weather for rug cleaning!

I discovered snow cleaning very recently. Growing up in Canada, where we have the white stuff on the ground for almost half the year, I was surprised to have never heard about this. My introduction to this ancient method came from Finland where it appears to be quite common.

I'm sure this used to be common here too, but that it somehow went out of fashion. It's about time it made a comeback. Cleaning large wool rugs and blankets is never an easy task and most cleaning products will strip the natural oil from the fibers. The solution from generations of people before us: take them outside. Our backyards are filled with fresh, clean snow which is about as natural and free as you can get.

So there I went, armed with a broom and three wool rugs that needed a bit of freshening up. From the bird feeders, the squirrels gave me an inquisitive look...

You will need:

  • A cold winter's day - the colder the better;
  • Fresh powdery snow;
  • A broom or stick.

I would also recommend some proper winter clothing and avoiding rushing outside in your pajamas because it's just soooo gorgeous! 

For wool rugs, you'll want to vacuum them first. For wool blankets, a good shake outside will do.

Cleaning wool rugs and blankets with snow

Take your rugs or blankets outside and leave them to acclimate for about an hour. This is very important as the wool must be frozen prior to cleaning. Otherwise it could melt the snow and turn the whole experience into a soggy and icy adventure. Freezing your textiles will also allow bits of grease that may have accumulated on the fabric to harden and break up. 

Cleaning wool rugs and blankets with snow

Once frozen, lay them in the powdery snow face down and beat them with a broom or a stick until you've covered the entire surface. You can then pick them up, give them a little shake, admire the new patch of grey snow in your backyard and flip them over into a new pristine patch. 

Cleaning wool rugs and blankets with snow

Repeat the process on the other side. If they're very dirty, some sources recommend leaving them to "bathe" in snow for up to 20 minutes.

Once you're done, give the rugs a good brushing and take them back to a balcony or patio where you can hang them for a few hours. This will allow the remaining snow to sublimate, going directly from snow to water vapour without making the wool wet. Once dry, you will be left with fresh, clean rugs and blankets that will bring some of the outdoors in. Don't you just love that cold, clean smell in the house?