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How to Clean a Sheepskin Rug at Home Without Causing Any Damage

There is a common anxiety around washing favourite pieces, especially where a significant amount of well earned money has been outlaid. Often the price tag of lovely things is linked to the fact that these pieces are made of natural fibres, which are often perceived as being more problematic to wash than their synthetic counterparts.

Wool and sheepskin rugs falls into this category but in actual fact they are both very easy to look after. The unique structure of wool gives it a natural durability and robustness, helping it to repel and release dirt easily. This means your sheepskin products don't actually need to be washed as regularly as you might think.

Is sheepskin washable?

Sheepskin bean bag chair

Above: Sheepskin Cushions (Matuki) on a One + Half Sheepskin Rug (Glen Dene)

Sheepskin can be washed, however a water wash should be your last port of call when it comes to approaching dirt or a spill. Firstly giving a sheepskin product a regular, thorough vacuum and a shake outside is the best place to start when giving it a general clean.

If there are specific areas or stains that need to be targeted try a spot clean before anything else. See my stain removal guide for how to remove specific stains. If you feel your sheepskin product still needs further cleaning consider having it dry cleaned.

Washing a sheepskin at home using water will have positive results on the wool fibres, however it will make the suede on the back harden and overtime can become misshapen.

How do you clean a sheepskin rug at home?

Vacuum vacuum vacuum!!! Sheepskin LOVES a regular, thorough vacuum. If you keep up with this routine and team it with a good shake and air outside in the shade you'll find that you'll rarely need to do much else to keep your sheepskin rug clean.

If you do have an unexpected accident as we all sometimes do, the most important thing to remember is to first ‘contain the stain’ so it doesn't spread. Don't throw water or other liquids directly onto a stain, this will spread the stain further and can damage the sheepskin backing. Instead use a clean dry towel or paper towels to firmly blot up the excess liquid prior then use a commercial wet stain remover. This can be purchased from most supermarkets.

If the stain covers a very large area, we recommend putting a towel down and standing on it, to quickly blot up the excess. It is important to take up all the liquid you can in this first step as this will ensure you need to use less of the stain remover and will give the best result. Apply Wet Stain Remover and follow manufacturer’s instructions.

How do you get the smell out of a sheepskin rug?

Sheepskin bean bag chair

Above: Quarto Sheepskin Rug (Minaret)

Sheepskin rugs are odour suppressors by nature. Odour molecules are absorbed into the wool fibre, effectively becoming trapped and less readily detected by the human nose.

If for some reason your sheepskin rug is smelling it could be because it has had something spilled on it or it has become damp. As always try and good vacuum and a firm shake outside first.

Hanging your sheepskin rug in a shady spot on a nice dry day to get some air for a number of hours could also be all it takes to release any odour. If that fails your next tactics could include a commercial dry stain remover over the rug or a dry clean.

Can a rug go in the washing machine?

It's tempting to want to throw your sheepskin rug in the washing machine, but if you want your rug to look lush for years to come take the time to give your sheepskin products a little extra care. Even on a cold, delicate cycle a sheepskin rugs appearance will be impacted by being completely submerged in water.

The wool fibres will come up beautifully but the skin on the underside will harden and can result in your rug losing its original shape. In saying that a sheepskin rug can handle a handful of washes over the span of its life with you, just be aware of the potential for it to gain some extra character in the process.

Can you use bleach on sheepskin?

If your sheepskin rug has a yellow patch suitable for spot cleaning, you can try and remove the stain yourself using a weak solution of hydrogen peroxide and water.

By applying sparingly over the stain and blotting gently, you can significantly whiten a stained patch -- however, if your peroxide solution is too strong it can damage both the wool and leather beneath. White vinegar is a milder alternative, but the smell can be difficult to remove from your rug afterwards.

How do you whiten a yellowed sheepskin rug?

Sheepskin bean bag chair

Above: Quarto Sheepskin Rug (Cardrona)

A sheep's natural wool colour is closer to a grey than a bright white and often have a slight yellowing from long periods spent out under the suns UV rays. Sheepskin Rugs that have been treated or coloured during the tanning process will over time have tendencies to revert back to this natural colouration. This process can be decelerated by reducing exposure to direct sunlight.

If your rug has yellowed as a natural consequence of age and/or sunlight exposure, having the rug professionally cleaned in special wool whitening solutions can reverse some of the staining. However, this kind of yellowing is rarely fully irreversible, so it is better to prevent yellowing for as long as possible.

The best way to do this is by keeping the room your rug is in airy and well ventilated, and by keeping your rug out of direct sunlight shining through windows and doors.

You should also keep your rug away from high humidity areas such as under air conditioning ducts, and when not in use a sheepskin should be stored in cool, dark, well ventilated cupboard or chest.

How do you soften sheepskin after washing?

When you wash a sheepskin rug using water the leather will never feel as soft as it did straight from the tannery. There are many variables that can impact how your sheepskin dries after a wash including the age of your sheepskin, the tanning process used, what you used to wash it with and how you dry it. Depending on the tanning process used some sheepskins can come out of the wash looking great.

Tips for achieving the best results when washing your sheepskin rug:

  1. Use a specialist sheepskin/wool detergent, it needs to non-bio and also pH neutral to ensure the rug doesn’t get ruined. To avoid any mishaps, it may wise to test the product on a small, discreet area first.
  2. Drying slowly in the shade. Lay flat on the floor away from direct sunlight.
  3. Beat the back of the sheepskin with a wooden stick once it is dry. Peg it onto the clothes line and wack the leather side. This is part of the original tanning process and helps to achieve a supple leather feel.

    Can you tumble dry a sheepskin rug?

    Never put a sheepskin in the tumble dryer. The natural leather of the sheepskin will dry out, warp and could develop cracking overtime. Think of the leather side of your sheepskin like you would your own skin, if it dries out too much it will crease and crack. For best results hang your sheepskin to dry out of direct sunlight or lay flat on a towel in the shade until completely dry.

    How do you keep a sheepskin rug Fluffy?

    Sheepskin bean bag chair

    Above: Quarto Sheepskin Rug (Gladstone)

    There is absolutely nothing as lush as a brand new sheepskin rug. Silky, soft and luxurious. As durable as sheepskin is, the more committed you are to maintaining it the longer it will look and feel brand new.

    The most important thing to remember in the pursuit of your sheepskin fluffy is regular vacuuming. If you keep on top of this from the start you will find your sheepskin isn't as prone to flattening down. It doesn't have to be another chore to add to your weekly list, just run over it when you have the vacuum out to do your floors and you are good to go. Giving your rug a regular shake outside is another key to keeping the fluff alive!

    The level of use your rug is getting on a regular basis has a big part to play in how often you will need to shake it out and how quickly the fibres will flatten down. Over time you may need to give the fibres some extra help. This is when a metal bristled brush can come in handy. A metal brush can help to untangle the fibres however it can leave you with a 'fizzy' look, give it a test on a corner to make sure you are happy with the look before brushing your whole rug. Try using a spray bottle of water and a scrunching action with your hands after a light brush to help lessen the 'fizz'.

    How do I make my sheepskin soft again?

    Sheepskin bean bag chair

    Above: Quarto Sheepskin Rug (Matuki)

    If your sheepskin rug has lost its lovely lofty, light feeling, chances are it has been a well loved part of your family for a number of years. If you have tried vacuuming, shaking and airing your rug and still feel like your rug needs a some extra love and attention it might be worth taking it into your local dry cleaners to breath some new life into it.

    Alternatively, finding a sheepskin specific shampoo and giving it a wash at home following the instructions on the product may help bring the softness back.

    Can you waterproof sheepskin?

    There a protective sprays on the market that are designed to create a water resistant layer on the suede side of sheepskin. These protective products are primarily designed to be used on sheepskin footwear, where the wool is on the inside of the shoe or boot, however these products could also work on the bottom side of a sheepskin rug.

    The wool fibres of a sheepkin are naturally water resistant, liquids will sit on the top of the fibres and can be shaken off without staining.

    How do you store sheepskin?

    The glory of sheepskin is you don't need to be precious with it. The golden rules of storing any sheepskin product is to make sure is it completely dry before you put it away and that you are storing it in a dry place.

    Sheepskin Rugs roll up really neatly, if you roll them with the suede on the outside this will protect the wool fibres and keep them looking lush for longer.

    With a small amount of regular love and attention you can keep your sheepskin rug looking brand new for years.


    • mahalo. very helpful. i will try all the above

      Alice Levy on
    • Hi, your rugs are gorgeous, do you have a stockist in the UK?

      Liz on
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      Evan Jr. Wilson on
    • I accidentally left my rug out in the rain, then stupidly tumble dried for a bit. Now the fur is sharp and spiky, and of course the leather is stiff. Basically ruined. Any point in re-soaking and laying to dry? I don’t care if the leather is stiff, but it’s almost as if glue seeped out and made the fur hard, and I’ld love to change that if possible. Any hope?

      judy marshak on
    • Thank you so much for sharing this amazing article.
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