“Luster Washed” Wool Hand Woven Rugs

Weaving regions can give wool rugs a “luster wash” to chemically create more sheen to the rug so it shines more like silk. This is similar to highlighting hair, in that the fibers are lightened and smoothed using solutions similar to bleach. 

“Luster washing” done well creates a beautiful effect to the rugs. They have a very dramatic light and dark look from each end. However, this process to add “luster” to the look has a cost. The chemicals REMOVE the natural protective layers of the wool, so they are more susceptible to permanent staining and sun fade.

  • Some rug owners prefer a faded look. If you do not, then your luster washed rugs need to be kept away from sunny rooms, or a UV-protector applied to the rug.
  • Most drink spills and pet accidents will cause permanent damage to the fibers and dyes of these rugs. Immediate clean up is needed.

Luster washed rugs can last for decades if properly cared for. Many shine like silk, but they will take general use and foot traffic much better than most real and artificial silk rugs. You get the high sheen of silk and the better durability of wool.


Regular vacuuming protects the longevity of all rugs, however, with “luster washed” wool rugs this can be a challenge. Strong suction vacuums, as well as rotating brush vacuums, must be avoided. The wool is not as strong due to the chemical treatment. Vacuuming must be done with a handheld vacuum hose with attachment, or an extremely light vacuum specifically designed for delicate surfaces.

Dust and grit will wear down the fibers with regular foot traffic. Use a horsehair upholstery brush to groom the fibers and remove surface dust in open areas. This soft brush can help remove shadows when foot traffic is causing the pile to bend differently and reflect light differently. Always brush WITH the grain of the pile, not against. Vacuum the surface of the fibers with a handheld vacuum tool as often as you need to sweep the nearby floors. 


Chemically washed wool does not repel spills well. Quick clean up is critical. Applying fiber protector to these rugs can help boost repellency so spills can be less likely to cause permanent staining, and protector helps repel soil so vacuuming is more successful. Use corn starch or other absorbent powder (NEVER baking soda) to cover the spill to help absorb it up, then vacuum away the powder when fully dry. With many drink spills or pet accidents, professional cleaning will be needed.

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