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Sheepskin Throw: All You Need to Know

Draped over your bed, your couch or over your favourite wooden chair, Sheepskin Throws are perhaps the easiest way to add warmth and character to your home, creating warm and inviting spaces to relax with your kids, family and friends.

How good is sheepskin leather?

Sometimes it's worth pointing out the obvious; it's imperative to remember that sheepskin is the hide of a sheep. Unlike common leather (from a cowhide for example), sheepskin is tanned with the fleece intact. This is called a 'pelt'. Sometimes sheepskin throws or rugs are referred to as 'sheepskin pelt rugs'.

So when we talk about 'sheepskin' we are talking about the naturally occurring soft, luscious wool fibres. We have been using sheepskin to clothe ourselves, decorate our homes and upholster our furniture for centuries.

Sheepskin has many inherent qualities that set it apart from the rest and make it a popular choice. I could espouse its virtues for hours, but here's a brief list as a starter for ten:

Sheepskin is:

  • soft and smooth to touch
  • lightweight and supple
  • hypoallergenic
  • flame retardant, and
  • has anti-bacterial qualities to boot.

    You can learn more about the unique properties of wool here.

    What does sheepskin feel like?

    sheepskin rug

    Running your hands through a sheepskin rug is like, well almost like, a gentle massage for your hands. There's nothing harsh or abrasive about sheepskin. The naturally occurring oils in the fleece keep it feeling soft and silky - even a little little springy. In contrast to synthetic products, sheepskin products do not hold any static charge.

    Is sheepskin breathable?

    sheepskin rug

    Wool is designed by Mother Nature and she designed well! Wool has a complex structure including hollow fibres that literally allow the wool to breathe. Wool's fibres are 'active', which means they can heat up and cool down in response to the environment. How clever is that?

    Sheepskin also keeps itself clean. There is a thin waxy coating on every wool fibre, called lanolin. Naturally occurring, lanolin contains fatty acids that repel water, dust and dirt. This in turn inhibits the growth of allergy inducing bacteria, mould, mildew and dust mites.

    How can I tell if my sheepskin is real?

    Real sheepskin looks , smells and feels different to synthetic materials. Once you have enjoyed the lusciousness of sheepskin, you won't settle for anything else.

    Looks - your real sheepskin will have an organic look with variations in tightness of the curl and colour across the product. Colour will look different in certain lights, you'll notice the texture of wool changes as the lighting changes in your room. Synthetic fibres will look the same across the entire product, but real sheepskin will have inherent variations and seem more 'alive'.

    Smell - real sheepskin will smell like wool - a natural, earthy smell.

    Feel - super soft to touch, real sheepskin feels silky whereas synthetic fibres will feel slippery. Real sheepskin does not have a static charge like synthetics.

    Wilson & Dorset sheepskin is sourced from New Zealand farmed sheep, and carry the Woolmark NZ seal of approval. If you want to ensure you are getting the best quality sheepskin product, look out for the Woolmark NZ Seal.

    How long does sheep leather last?

    The unique structure of wool gives it a durability and robustness. It can handle heavy foot traffic in your living room, for example. If you follow the recommended care guide and look after your sheepskin, it will retain its good looks for longer and should last you a lifetime.

    How do you care for sheepskin leather?

    sheepskin rug

    Sheepskin is very easy to look after. The thin waxy coating of a wool fibre, contains fatty acids that inhibit the growth of bacteria, resist soiling and release dirt easily. Here are my 5 Golden Rules for keeping your sheepskin products looking top notch:

    1. Avoid direct sunlight. This stops UV damage or fading
    2. Shake regularly - if it can handle a shake, liven it up!
    3. Vacuum regularly with a plain suction unit. No revolving/rotating/ turbo/ beater bar attachments
    4. Blot up spills and stains as promptly as possible, do not rub the wool pile
    5. Dyed product should be dry-cleaned only.

    Most sheepskin throws come with a recommended care routine, such as the ones for Wilson & Dorset here.

    Can I machine wash a sheepskin throw?

    What if regular shaking and spot cleaning aren't enough? If your throw has seen a lot of love and looks a bit worse for wear, you might be tempted to throw it in the washing machine. By and large, sheepskin products can be hand or machine-washed.

    • Wash in warm water (40°C/104°F) on a gentle wash cycle
    • Use a mild liquid detergent that is suitable for hand washing dishes
    • Hang it on a line, or lay it out flat, to air-dry - out of direct sunlight
    • Stretching it while it is drying will help retain its shape and avoid excessive shrinkage
    • Do not tumble dry, iron or bleach your sheepskin.

    A word of warning - using the washing machine to clean your sheepskin throw may change the appearance of the wool fibres and the leather pelt. For long wool throws, the wool fibres will likely revert back to their usual curly state after washing. If you like the 'au naturale' look, all good! If you want to restore the fluffy appearance and natural 'loft' of the fibres, then brush your throw with a wire wool comb when it is wet.

    Before you start, check the backing of your sheepskin throw. If it has a suede backing, or any backing material other than it's pelt, then it's probably not suitable for machine or hand washing. Dry clean only in this instance.

    Dyed sheepskin products should always be dry cleaned as the colours may bleed.

    Can you wash sheepskin with Woolite?

    If you are hand or machine washing your sheepskin, its best to use a liquid detergent. We recommend using a mild dish washing detergent.

    Can I tumble dry a sheepskin throw?

    To preserve the integrity of your sheepskin throw, you should never put it in the dryer. Air drying is best - either flat or hanging on a line - out of direct sunlight.


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