Sheepskin rugs are known for their soft and fluffy texture and make a great addition to almost any area of the home. 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 you aren’t sure how to brush or clean a sheepskin rug, our complete sheepskin rug care guide shows you that, with some TLC, you can restore your rug so that it feels as good as new.
To Wash or Not To Wash?
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 irreparably damage the sheep hide. If you do decide to wash your sheepskin, products containing biological enzymes, bleach, or alkaline are a no-go.
The Magic of Lanolin
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. To protect the integrity of the original condition of the sheepskin, follow these steps on how to clean a 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. Because sheep wool has dirt resistant qualities from the lanolin, brushing well should do the bulk of the cleaning and leave the rug soft and fluffy. 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 hose attachment of the vacuum cleaner to pick the powder back up. You can also try rubbing a few drops of essential oils (try peppermint or eucalyptus) into the root of the fibres where they meet the leather. If you’ve owned your sheepskin for a while or it has stains, the next step would be to look at ways of cleaning it.
How to Clean a Sheepskin Rug at Home
Washing a sheepskin rug by hand is the preferred technique as this is 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
A small spillage doesn’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 Sheepskin Rugs be Machine Washed?
If you are keen to wash your sheepskin 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 in the same way you would if washing by hand.
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.