How To Wash a Sheepskin Rug and Keep it Looking Great Forever
Being 100% natural, you may be a bit nervous about how your sheepskin rug is going to cope with everyday life in your modern family home. How do you keep it clean and looking good for a lifetime? Actually, its pretty easy - and we have Mother Nature to thank for that.
Is sheepskin washable?
There is a waxy coating on the outer layers of sheepskin fibres called lanolin. Naturally occurring, lanolin makes the fibres slippery, making it harder for dust, dirt, liquid to take hold and inhibiting the growth of allergens.
The upshot is that your sheepskin rug will resist soiling and release dirt easily. Meaning it probably doesn't have to be washed as often as you think.
For the most part you should be able to keep your sheepskin rug in mint condition with these three simple steps:
- Vacuum throughly once a week, using a plain suction unit (no fancy turbo or rotation units)
- Regularly take your rug outside and give it a shake.
- Spot clean any spills or marks as they happen. Blot gently with a damp cloth.
If you establish a regular routine using steps 1 -3 above, then you may not have to
do anything more.
But of course, this is life and accidents happen. If you find spot cleaning isn't enough to remove a particular mark or spill, then try running it under cold water.
- Hold the dirty part of your sheepskin under a running cold tap for a minute or two.
- Then use a towel (paper towels also work well) and press gently to soak up the remaining liquid.
- If the wet area ends up being quite large, try standing on the towel and pressing gently with your feet.
If you encounter a stubborn mark, refer to my stain removal guide . If you feel your sheepskin still needs further cleaning consider having it dry cleaned.
Can you machine wash a sheepskin rug?
Say your sheepskin is looking particularly dirty, should you just bung it in the washing machine? While quick and efficient, machine washing comes with definite risks. It should be your last port of call after exhausting all other options.
Why? Because the sheepskin fibres themselves will come up looking splendid, but the backing will not.
Sheepskin rugs have either a leather pelt backing or a suede backing. If your rug has a suede backing, then dry clean only. You definitely do not want to put suede through the washing machine.
If your rug has a leather pelt backing, then technically you can machine wash. BUT! Be aware that after being fully submerged in water, the backing may harden and lose its original shape (sometimes called 'boarding'). It might never look the same as it did before you washed it.
If you are still determined to throw your rug in the washing machine, then make sure you:
- Wash in warm water (40°C or 104°F).
- Wash on a gentle cycle.
- Use a mild liquid detergent that is suitable for hand washing dishes.
You’ll find more information here.
How do you air dry a sheepskin rug after washing?
OK, so you've given your sheepskin a wash and now you want to get it dry before putting it back in place. Air drying is absolutely the way to go:
- Place your rug outside on a windy day - or inside if you have an 'out-of-the-way' spot.
- Peg it on the line, drape it over a chair or lay it flat on the ground.
- Keep it out of direct sunlight.
- Leave it to dry naturally for a couple of days. Patience is key!
Can I tumble dry a sheepskin rug?
The short answer to this commonly asked question, is NO. Never tumble dry a sheepskin rug. Air drying is the way to go, even though it takes a little longer.
Can I use a heater to dry sheepskin?
You could be tempted to throw your sheepskin over or near a heater to speed up the drying process. This isn't necessary or recommended. While wool is naturally flame resistant, you don't want to risk burning or singeing the wool.
Air drying over a couple of days might take a little longer, but is the best approach to ensure the integrity of your sheepskin - and your safety.
How often should a sheepskin rug be cleaned?
Sheepskin rugs are both durable and robust. You will be amazed at how much living they can absorb. Like anything, if you take proper care of it right from the start, you will extend its life and keep it looking good for longer. This means:
- Vacuuming weekly with a plain suction vacuum cleaner.
- Regularly shaking your rug outside.
- Sponging small spills with a damp cloth - the sooner the better!
- Occasional brushing of a long wool rug (not required for short wool rugs)
- Avoiding exposure to strong direct sunlight.
- Keeping dry - do not store your sheepskin in damp or wet conditions.
You’ll find more information here.
Will daily vacuuming damage my rug?
Weekly vacuuming will keep your sheepskin rug clean and in 'tip top' condition. Working it into your usual cleaning routine is the easiest way to go. If you vacuum your rug too often, like daily, you run the risk of damaging the wool fibres.
How can I make my sheepskin rug soft after washing?
The wool fibres of your sheepskin rug love being washed. They will emerge clean, soft and supple and you shouldn't need to do anything else to soften them up.
However, you might find that the leather pelt backing of your sheepskin has hardened after being washed.
Here's a handy tip - you can soften the pelt after washing by beating the back of the sheepskin with a wooden stick, once it is dry. You might find it easiest to peg it on the clothes line to do this, or you could drape it over a fence.
Beating the leather is actually part of the original tanning process and will help restore that supple leather feel - and give you a good workout to boot!
How do I make my sheepskin fluffy again?
If your sheepskin is getting a lot of love, over time you might find the wool fibres flatten down a bit. This is especially so if you have a long wool sheepskin rug.
Never fear! There are a few simple things you can do to keep the fluff alive:
- Maintain a regular cleaning routine from the start - a weekly vacuum and a regular shake outside. Following these two simple steps will mean your sheepskin rug isn't prone to flattening down.
- Give your sheepskin a brush. Use a metal brush (a wire pet comb works well) to untangle the wool fibres.
- If your sheepskin looks a bit 'frizzy' after brushing, try using a spray bottle of water to lightly spritz the wool fibres and then gently scrunch with your hands.
Should I regularly brush my sheepskin rug?
As long as you are vacuuming weekly and giving your sheepskin a regular shake outside, you shouldn't need to regularly brush as well.
A long wool (unshorn) sheepskin rug will benefit from occasional brushing with a metal brush. There is no need to brush short wool rugs.
How do you maintain a sheepskin rug to make it last a long time?
One of the things I love most about sheepskin is its durability. Provided you properly care for your sheepskin it will be a faithful friend for a lifetime. You can rely on wool's natural ability to resist stains and soiling to help you.
Here are my 5 Golden Rules for maintaining your sheepskin rug:
- Avoid direct sunlight. This stops UV damage and fading.
- Vacuum weekly with a plain suction unit. No revolving/rotating/ turbo/ beater bar attachments.
- Regularly shake outside.
- Blot up spills and stains promptly. Do not rub the wool pile!
- Dyed rugs should be dry-cleaned only.
On the off chance that you do need extra help, refer to my stain removal guide .
How do you care for a sheepskin rug, should I apply conditioning products?
Wool has its own in-built care, conditioning and stain defence system. Naturally occurring oils (like lanolin) make the wool fibres soft and supple, so there is no need to apply anything extra. Mother Nature does it again!
How do I make my sheepskin rug white again over the years?
Above: Octo Sheepskin Rug (Cardrona)
If you have a white sheepskin rug, you might find that over time it starts looking a little bit yellow. This is likely to be a natural consequence of age and/or sunlight exposure.
You could try having the rug professionally cleaned with a special wool whitening solution, but unfortunately even this won't fully reverse the yellowing.
Your best bet is actually prevention.
- Look at the room your sheepskin rug is placed in - is it airy and well ventilated?
- Ensure your rug not exposed to strong direct sunlight.
- Avoid having your rug in high humidity areas (e.g next to air conditioning ducts).
- If you are not using your sheepskin, make sure it is stored in cool, dark, well ventilated cupboard or chest.
Mother Nature gave sheepskin its own in-built cleaning and care system, which is one reason why sheepskin rugs work so well in modern homes. With a little bit of regular love - establishing your 'vacuum and shake' routine and spot cleaning spills as quickly as you can - you will enjoy the beauty of your sheepskin rug for a lifetime.
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