The Complete Sheepskin Rug Care Guide


Sheepskin rugs are one of the most popular types of rugs we sell at Rug Traders. Not only are they known for their soft and fluffy texture, making them great for adding ‘hygge’ to almost any area of the home, they also add textural interior design interest to even the plainest of spaces. But, wear can take its toll and frequently walking across the sheepskin, sitting on it, or letting pets use it as a bed can flatten and dull the rug.

If your rug is in serious need of a good wash and you aren’t sure how to brush or clean a sheepskin rug, our complete sheepskin rug care guide shows you how to restore your rug with some TLC so that it feels as good as new.

The Complete Sheepskin Rug Care Guide

How to Wash a Sheepskin Rug

Sheepskin contains a wax called lanolin which is secreted by the glands of wool-bearing animals and provides an antibacterial self-cleaning property. Each time the sheepskin is washed, it gradually strips the lanolin from the fibres, which causes the skin to dull and matte over time. For this reason, we don’t recommend washing your sheepskin rug overly frequently. To protect the integrity of the original condition of the sheepskin when you do wash it, follow these steps on how to clean a sheepskin rug.

Can Sheepskin Rugs be Machine Washed?

There is conflicting advice when it comes to sheepskin care. While some swear by washing on a gentle wool cycle, others warn against this method as it can damage the sheep hide irreparably. If you do decide to wash your sheepskin, products containing biological enzymes, bleach, or alkaline are a no-go.

If you are keen to wash your sheepskin rug in the washing machine, a method not widely advised, ensure it is set to a cool wash on a gentle wool cycle as hot water can affect the size and texture of your rug. Using an enzyme-free sheepskin detergent is paramount as bleach, alkaline and fabric conditioners can cause permanent damage. Once washed, set to a spin cycle and lay the sheepskin out the same way you would if washing by hand.

Can you wash a sheepskin rug

Washing Sheepskin Rugs by Hand

Washing a sheepskin rug by hand is the preferred technique as this is a much gentler process and protects the fibres for longer. Make sure the rug is thoroughly brushed while dry to prevent tangles and matting. Once the sheepskin has been brushed, fill a bath with cold water and add a wool shampoo specifically designed for sheepskin rugs.

  1. Gently swish the hide around in the bath, allowing the water to loosen any dirt caught in the fibres. Avoid scrubbing or rubbing as this can create an irreversible felt-like texture.
  2. Once the water is grubby, empty the bath and refill to rinse the sheepskin, repeating as many times as needed until the water is clear.
  3. Once clean, carefully squeeze out as much water as possible before transferring the sheepskin to a container to avoid risking tearing the leather by carrying it.
  4. Some people like to put the hide in the washing machine and set it on a gentle spin cycle to lose excess water, while others prefer to let the sheepskin dry by itself. Ensure you lay the sheepskin flat and leather-side up in a cool, well-ventilated area – sheepskins take a long time to dry due to their weight and thickness, so do not rush the process. Leaving the hide in sunlight is damaging, as is drying them with a hairdryer or tumble drying.

How Do You Soften a Sheepskin Rug After Washing?

You’ve washed your sheepskin rug, and it looks and smells brand new. However, sheepskin rugs tend to feel not as soft after washing, so you’re probably wondering how to restore your rug to optimum softness again. There are many ways you can ensure that your sheepskin rug remains fluffy, both during the washing process and afterwards. Follow our simple steps to restore your sheepskin rug to peak fluffiness!

  1. When washing the sheepskin rug, use a specialist sheepskin detergent. The pH levels must be correct in order not to damage the rug.
  2. When it comes to drying your sheepskin rug, lay the rug flat on the floor away from direct sunlight. Shade is best, as it allows the rug to release any moisture trapped in the fibres slowly.
  3. Finally, give your sheepskin a good bat outside, preferably with a wooden stick (you could even use a wooden spoon!). Beating your sheepskin rug helps to keep it feeling supple and smooth.
How to brush sheepskin rug

How Do You Brush a Sheepskin Rug?

Your first port of call should always be to thoroughly shake the sheepskin out as this helps remove dust and dirt particles, followed by a good brush.

Use a sheepskin wool carding brush or a dog brush from your local pet shop to do this. Don’t worry if some of the fibres come out when brushing; this is completely normal. Sheepskin rugs have many amazing qualities, ranging from medicinal properties to self-cleaning features. The sheep wool has a dirt-resistant quality from the lanolin, so brushing well should do the bulk of the cleaning and leave the rug soft and fluffy.

How to Get the Smell Out of Your Sheepskin Rug

Sheepskin rugs are wonderful at soaking up naturally occurring smells in the air, absorbing odour molecules into the wool fibres, so they’re less detectable to the human nose. However, if your sheepskin rug starts to smell, it could be because of a spillage or dampness.

If the pelt is smelly, sprinkle some baking powder and gently rub it into the rug, allowing the baking powder to absorb odours. After a few hours, use the vacuum cleaner’s hose attachment to pick the powder back up. You can also try rubbing a few drops of essential oil (try peppermint or eucalyptus) into the root of the fibres where they meet the leather.

There’s no need to wash your sheepskin rug but if a strong smell persists, learning how to clean a sheepskin rug can help remove the odour. Firstly, vacuum the rug and shake it outside. If the smell prevails, hang it outside in the fresh air for a few hours. If this still doesn’t work, follow our steps above on how to wash a sheepskin rug.

How Do You Prevent a Sheepskin Rug from Turning Yellow?

Sheepskin rugs are prone to yellowing if mistreated or not looked after properly. Never fear! There are some easy ways to prevent your rug from yellowing.

As we want to steer clear of washing a sheepskin rug unless completely necessary, some preventative steps should be implemented. Make sure that your sheepskin rug doesn’t spend prolonged periods of time exposed to UV rays from the sun. If your rug has been colour-treated, they tend to revert back to their natural colour and reducing exposure to direct sunlight can help to slow down this process. Removing yellow stains from a sheepskin rug is very difficult and mostly irreversible, so we stress that you keep your rug in a spot that’s shady and cool.

How to Keep a Sheepskin Fluffy

The easiest way to keep a sheepskin fluffy is to brush it regularly. However, there are other ways to keep your sheepskin as fluffy as can be! If you’ve spilt something on the corner of your rug, your first instinct may be to Google ‘how to wash a sheepskin rug?’. However, we’re here to tell you that you should avoid fully washing sheepskin rugs as much as possible. Instead, consider spot-cleaning to reduce harming your rug, and keep it at optimum fluffiness. Small spillages don’t warrant much more than a spot-clean. Try spot-cleaning by soaking up the stain with a dry and clean cloth. Once you’ve blotted as much of the stain as possible, apply some sheepskin detergent containing lanolin to a damp cloth and gently wipe the stain until it lifts.

Can you Dry Clean a Sheepskin Rug?

As a last resort, dry cleaning should only be undertaken by sheepskin and suede professionals to prevent chemical damage. Look out for national companies, such as Johnson Cleaners, who offer specialised leather, suede and sheepskin dry cleaning services.


  • Invest in a good sheepskin rug
  • Vacuum the fibres
  • Keep your rug in a cool, ventilated place
  • Brush regularly to maintain softness
  • Shake it out


  • Leave in direct sunlight
  • Tumble dry
  • Dry on a radiator
  • Use bleach
  • Wash in hot water
  • Brush when wet

We hope you find this guide helpful for keeping your sheepskin rug in tip-top condition! We also have a general rug cleaning guide filled with advice and information on care for rugs made of various other materials.

If you do need any further advice on how to choose the right rug style for your interior, do not hesitate to get in touch or alternatively, you can browse our stylish rug collection and find a favourite for your home.

Sheepskin rug care

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