Care & Cleaning: Naturally Dyed Rugs

Master weaver Federico Chavez Sosa recommends that you turn your rug regularly and vacuum it often with a brushless appliance so that you avoid snagging the fibers and the fringes.  You can also shake the rug, holding it on the long side.

All spills should be blotted immediately with water and a soft cloth.   You can use a soft bristle toothbrush to get out any stubborn spots, but be sure to brush with the grain, not against it.

It is best to avoid direct sunlight for long periods of time.  Identify a professional rug cleaner, if necessary,  for special care and attention.  Store as you would any fine wool garment.

Your rug is made from fine wool shorn from Churro sheep raised in the Oaxaca highlands.  It is meant to last many lifetimes.

30 responses to “Care & Cleaning: Naturally Dyed Rugs

  1. We purchased a Oaxacan rug …a bottle of Mezcal broke & caused the rug to bleed onto some cotton mats we had also purchased in Oaxaca. Because it was alcohol, should we follow your baby shampoo advice on both the rug & table mats?
    Thank yo very much,

    • You can first try Fels Naptha. If it’s not available locally, you can buy it online. If the rug is dyed with aniline/chemical dyes, it will be harder to remove the bleed. But of course give it a try. Cold water. Mild soap. Spot clean by hand.

      I recently washed two 3×5 naturally dyed rugs in a washing machine, cold water, on gentle and hung them to dry. Came out perfectly.

      But your situation is different.

      Sorry this happened.

  2. I have a 200 cm x 294 xm (6.6 foot x 9.8 foot) Oaxaca rug purchased in 2004 from Aida Vasquez in Teotitlan del Valle. Dyes are cochineal yellows, oranges, and browns. It needs edge repairs and new fringe as well as cleaning. From reading the questions and responses, it appears best to repair the damage before cleaning. I will be traveling to the Santa Fe NM area soon. Can you recommend a professional there who could do the repairs and cleaning?

    • Linda, in Santa Fe, take the rug to one of the many dealers who resell Zapotec rugs from Teotitlan del Valle and ask them to recommend a local source for cleaning and repair. FYI, the fringes are part of the weft and if they need repair, a reputable person should do this, otherwise the rug will unravel. The warp is what holds the weft together and makes the textile. Good luck. Norma

  3. Finishing fringed ends? While I love the charm my (tied) fringe gives, they regularly get tangled in our no-brush vacuum and have a way of collecting dust, hair, etc. from our dogs. When we purchased the rug from Demetrio Bautista Lazo he mentioned they could be woven into the rug later. Do you have any recommendations for a US weaver who could do that? We are in Seattle, Wa. Thank you!

    • Sally, I can’t give you a specific recommendation. There are Zapotec rug weavers in the Los Angeles area, living in Santa Ana (Orange County) and Ventura/Oxnard (Ventura County). One name is Porfirio Gutierrez. You could try to do a Google search to see what comes up. Hope you are successful.

  4. I bought a rug that does not have the fringe tied. Could you give me directions for tying them.

  5. I have a rug with a lot of red in it, and when I got the red part wet, it bled into the white part of my rug. Do you think it’s safe to wash this in the machine on cold with baby shampoo? It is about 3 X 5 and wool. Thank you!

    • Marie, I wouldn’t do that first. I’d take a mild solution of baby shampoo and water, and with a toothbrush apply it to the areas that bled to see if it will come out. In the washing machine you risk more red bleeding, I think.

  6. I cleaned two wool rugs that my mother had had made for me in Oaxaca years ago by putting them in the bathtub with lukewarm water and Ecover brand delicate wash liquid and gently swishing and walking on in the tub. For years I had just shaken them but they finally seemed dirty enough for a wash. One of them had a dark teal dye in the pattern at each end that ran and stained the white fringe slightly.

  7. My 5×8 Oaxacan wool rug will certainly fit in my large washer, but how much baby shampoo so I use to clean it. Should I air-dry it outside in the shade?

    • Elizabeth, please wash on gentle in a full load of water. You won’t need to use more than 1/4 c. of baby shampoo. Definitely, line dry in the shade. No automatic dryer. Let us know how it turns out.

  8. Thanks for posting the cleaning method. I think you posted before, but good reminder

  9. I have a Oaxaca rug that needs to be repaired and cleaned. I live in the Monterey peninsula. Who can do this repair and clean

  10. I have a natural wool Oaxacan rug that I successfully cleaned with baby shampoo on a gentle, low setting (in cold water) washing machine which I think I didn’t even need to dry in a machine. I learned of this method through this website I believe.

  11. Can anyone help me with advice for getting soot stains out of my natural dye wool rug from Mexico?

    • Did you try using a soft toothbrush and a neutral soap and water? You want to brush with the grain of the wool. Do not scrub. Do not use bleach. It will weaken the fibers. For soap here in Mexico, we use Zote. Do not use Woolite. It will leech the color. Use a very mild baby shampoo, instead. Or Fels Naptha. Let us know if this works for you. -Norma and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC

  12. I was so happy to see that I could wash my beautiful Oaxacan area
    rug in cold water on gentle with gentle baby shampoo. It came out perfect and saved me from the anxiety of having a cleaning service
    clean it!

    Thanks for great advice,

  13. Best way to wash a very dirty but wonderful, totally natural wool Oaxacan rug, abt 5×9 ft? I gave it to my sonand daughter/law but they were unable to care for it with a busy schedule and 2 cats. Cat hairs and especially dirt from soles of dirty shoes.

    • Tough question because of the size. Too big to put into household washing machine on cold gentle cycle with baby shampoo which is what I would first recommend. So maybe the best option is to send it to a dry cleaner!

  14. Hi Norma,

    Thanks for the informative post. Do you have any recommendations for cleaning cat pee (and smell) from our naturally dyed Oaxacan rug? Spray white vinegar?

    Thanks for your insight.


    • I would use a mild baby shampoo and water solution first and a toothbrush. Brush in the direction of the weave. Don’t use Woolite, it will cause the color to run. You could try adding a little vinegar to the soapy water if the odor and stain doesn’t go away. So sorry this happened. That’s what animals do!

  15. We purchased a rug from Fidel Cruz in Oaxaca a few months ago and it has been folded up in the original packaging that it was placed in at the workshop. It has folds in it that we would like to remove. We think Maria mentioned ironing it but we are not remembering the details and are looking for help. Can you help us with this or can you give us Fidel and Maria Cruz e-mail address so we can contact them directly?
    Thank you,

    • Hi, Rich, glad to help. I would not “iron” it per se, but rather lay it flat and steam out the creases without putting the iron to the surface of the wool. Otherwise, you could run the risk of burning it. Another option is to take it to a drycleaner and ask them to professionally steam out the creases. I have all my rugs from Federico Chavez Sosa master weaver on the floor of my house and walk on them. Over time, any creases just naturally go away. If you are intending it for a wall hanging, then steaming the rug is the better option! Good luck. Norma

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