How to Wash Moroccan Wool Rugs

It’s 2021 already and we are here in Morocco, still weaving and like the rest of the world we are ready to emerge from 2020 with fresh ideas and creative solutions.

This week Mushmina weavers had the pleasure of being part of a training on how to wash ‘tasbeeh’ Moroccan wool rugs. This is a process that is done post weaving that cleans and prepares a wool rug for its forever home. Follow with us below.

We arrive in sunny Boujad and share couscous with a local family. (IE my family). My mother in law makes the best couscous so that is an added bonus to a Friday workshop in the quaint artisan town of Boujad. After the couscous and fresh fruit dessert we pile into my car and head to the Ensemble Artisinal building. This is a lovely functioning training center where women learn new skills in sewing, literacy, and other skills offered in workshops like the one we are attending today.

The wool rug washing process seems to have originated with Morocco’s middlemen as a way to soften and lighten high pile wool rugs so this is the first time our skillful weavers were exposed to this kind of washing. Women of course know how to wash their own rugs but this extensive washing process was new to them and to me. Some cooperatives in Morocco that sell mostly for export are already doing this and the ladies in Boujad are ready to improve their quality and prepare for more orders inshalla. So here we go!

Step 1. Find an outdoor area or a large space with a drain. Comb your dry rug with an iron tool that looks similar to a shovel. This removed the excess wool.

Step 2. Brush the dry rug with something that looks like a broom, but has much stiffer bristles.

Step 3. Put on some rubber boots. Fill a large watering can with water and approx 1 cup of bleech.

Step 4. Pour the mixture generously over the entire rug. Brush the wet rug in both directions rug. See video.

Step 5. Pour clean water to rinse the rug and then roll up the rug slowly while jumping on the rolled part to remove excess water. Use a jfef (squeegie) if necessary. Put on music and have fun.

Step 6. Melt a kind of yellow solid soap over heat. When it is liquid, add this to your watering can. Repeat steps 4 and 5 above.

Step 7. Next lather sabon bildi generously over the entire rug (this is a yellowish soap used at Moroccan hamams. Repeat steps 4 and 5.

Step 8. The last soap used is a colored liquid soap similar to a dish soap that trucks sell on the drive by in Morocco. Just as we were leaving this training magically soap truck drove by. We flagged him down and bought a 5liter bidoon (recycled plastic bottle) of lavender soap for our next rugs.

Step 9. Repeat steps 4 and 5 and then roll the rug up and prop it up on something to drop the excess water out.

Step 10. Find a sunny rooftop and hang the newly washed rug out to dry for a few days.

This is a ‘professional’ and quirky process for how rugs are cleaned in Morocco. The whole process to wash one rug took about 1.5 hrs and some serious effort. If you are attempting to clean your Moroccan rug after use you can simplify and modify this method. Perhaps grab some nice smelling laundry soap and skip ahead to step 8. One thing to note is the dyes need to be colorfast and not run. Beware of reds and do a spot test first.

I’ve come to learn that tasbeeh washing is considered a blessing in Islam, so consider these beautiful Moroccan rugs both washed and blessed.

We wanted to say thank you to Association Beni Zemmour of Bouajd and the Ensemble Artisinal for hosting us and for always being so generous with their time and knowledge. Thank you also to the women-led team at St Frank textiles for their support of artisan skill-building trainings.

Please do reach out to us with any comments or questions. We are happy to help.

Heather, heather@mushmina.com

Mushmina, Made with love in Morocco. www.mushmina.com

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