A sheepskin rug can attract dirt, stains (dry or liquid), and debris when you use it regularly (or even occasionally)
Whether a sheepskin rug or a cowhide rug, cleaning these is not rocket science but you need to be careful.
How to Clean a Sheepskin Rug?
Cleaning a sheepskin rug is not a one-size-fits-all approach. You’ll have to decide whether you need a deep clean (if the rug is heavily dirty or stained) or want to give a routine cleaning. There may be just some stains that need attention. We’ll first approach deep cleaning and then talk about the other methods.
Cleaning Your Sheepskin Rug Thoroughly!
The below methods are for deep cleaning a sheepskin rug and not for everyday cleaning.
Warning: Sheepskin rugs should not be washed very frequently because the skin contains an anti-bacterial self-cleaning wax that is secreted by the animal’s glands. A wash removes this naturally present wax, thus reducing the life of the rug.
#1- Hand Washing
This method uses the old-school principle of cleaning your laundry- Hand washing. However, sometimes a rug may fade in color (this will be indicated on your rug’s label). If it may, consider dry cleaning it and not handwashing it.
STEP 1: You will first need to test if your rug can tolerate water. Most tanned and vegetable sheepskin rugs cannot. Apply some water to a corner of the leather.
If that corner becomes hard, don’t try water and soaps on the rug. Opt for dry cleaning instead. Your care label will also indicate whether the rug is washable or not.
Also, if your sheepskin is quite old, it has naturally been deteriorating, so it would not tolerate any kind of washing.
STEP 2: Vacuum your rug before you wash it. This will keep the water (in which you’ll wash the rug) as clean as possible and prevent any soils to remain in the rug.
Then, give a good shake outside while the fur is facing down. If it is a big rug (like an 8-section or a 15-section sheepskin rug), two or more people may be needed to do the shaking.
STEP 3: According to the size of your sheepskin rug, select an appropriate place to wash the rug. If it is a big one, you may use your bathtub, or else your laundry sink will do just fine. You may even use a large deep bucket/tub.
STEP 4: Fill your bucket/sink halfway with cold water and mix the appropriate amount of sheepskin shampoo or any wool-safe shampoo with it in case of a natural sheepskin rug (Remember to use a pH neutral and enzyme-free one).
In the case of a faux sheepskin rug, you may use a laundry detergent such as tide.
STEP 5: Lift up your rug and soak it in the water-detergent solution. Let it remain dipped in for about an hour. This will allow the detergent to dissolve any dirt and stains that are stuck to your rug.
After 15 minutes, Give the rug a little scrub with your hands (not too hard). Let it remain for the rest of the time.
STEP 6: Finally give the rug a final agitation and squeeze out the water gently (not too harshly) and lay the rug on the floor (perhaps the garage/bathroom floor) with wool facing up.
Use a hose to rinse the rug and using a squeegee, get the water out. Repeat this a few times until the detergent is all out. You may turn the rug upside down now and beat it with your fists or a wooden stick/baseball bat to get that detergent out.
STEP 7: Then let the rug dry naturally in a shady place on a hanger/liner.
Caution: If you place your sheepskin rug exposed to direct sun, the leather part of the rug will tighten up and crack and the fur can turn yellow in time. (Source)
After you’ve hanged the rug, gently give your rug a stretch while holding it from the outer edges to restore its shape.
STEP 8: Once the rug is dry, use a cat/dog hair brush to bring the fur back to life again.
#2- Machine Washing
If your rug’s label indicates machine washing as an option, then simply use the following steps:
STEP 1- Put your sheepskin rug in your washer (Top or Front loader will work just the same).
STEP 2- Adjust the water settings to only cold water as hot water can damage the texture as well as shrink or expand the size of the rug. Further, adjust the fabric settings to the woolen cycle.
As mentioned above, whether machine washing or handwashing, always use a pH-neutral, nonacidic, non-bio shampoo to clean your sheepskin rugs. Use just a little in the cycle.
The spinning may damage the rug to some extent, so it is best to keep it at the slowest speed.
STEP 3- Dry the rug on a liner in a dry shady place.
STEP 4- Finally, use a brush to rake up the sheep fur.
Caution: Tumble drying a sheepskin rug can cause the leather to crack and disintegrate in time. Using a radiator to dry the rug will also damage it.
#3- Steam Cleaning
Using steam may give you similar results to washing the rug by hand as far as dirt removal is concerned.
Simply use a steam cleaner or a steam vacuum to steam the sheepskin rug in the direction of sheep hair.
For Regular Cleaning
A vacuum cleaner comes in handy for this removing everyday mess (such as untangled pet hair, outside dirt, and other fine particles that get stuck in your sheepskin rug. Vacuuming is especially helpful in maintaining the fluffy featheriness of the fur.
STEP 1- You will need a vacuum as well as a pet hair grooming brush. Use the basic suction of your vacuum cleaner to suck up all this fine mess.
If you use a beater bar (or an attachment that uses it), the carpet fibers will get stuck and tangled in the machine. This will damage the rug’s appearance as well as your vac.
For the dried and stuck dirt, use the pet brush to brush the fur gently and then vacuum it to for removal.
STEP 2- Then, sprinkle Baking soda over the rug and spread it with your hands into the fibers. Let the Baking soda sit for a few hours before you vacuum it out from your sheepskin rug. This step will remove foul pet odor or any other smells that the rug fibers are harboring.
If the odor is too much (very less chance, as the sheepskin naturally controls odors), hang the rug on a liner outside in shade for 3-4 hours. This will let the fresh air pass through the rug and make the rug smell fresh.
For Stain Removal
STEP 1- For Dried up stains (dirt, foods, etc.), use a clean microfiber cloth to scrape and pull the dried stuff out of the fibers. If you use a spoon for scraping, you may spread the stains.
For any types of stains like juice, wine, ketchup, etc. (except oil and grease) that are still wet, the first step is to soak them up with a kitchen towel.
For oil spills, you’ll need to soak up the oil with cornstarch by sprinkling it over the spill for a few hours. Finally, vaccum the constarch away.
STEP 2- Now, use a kitchen towel (a damp one) to dab at the stain, without rubbing. Keep dabbing and changing the kitchen towel until the towel stops catching any stain color.
STEP 3- Let the rug air dry and then use a pet hair grooming brush to untangle any knots.
Caution: Don’t use chlorine bleach on your sheepskin rug. Instead, use a weak Hydrogen peroxide solution to blot the pale stains
Removing Tangled Pet Hair
STEP 1- First, take the rug outside (or to your garage) and shake off all the dry debris and dust from the rug. This will also give the wool its life back and it won’t look dead.
STEP 2- Now, brushing the carpet with a pet grooming brush, untangle the knots of fibers. You may use a pet hair conditioner along with some water to untangle the knots that are hard, using your finger.
1- To protect the rug’s leather from water/moisture damage (hardening and cracking), you may consider spraying the leather part of the rug with Leather protection sprays. These form a layer on the leather that protects it from water (moisture), dirt, stains, and UV rays.
2- It is natural for a sheepskin rug to come back to its natural light yellowish-white color (even if it is tanned), so it is not something to fret about. This yellowing will remain and can only be partially dealt with by commercial wool whitening solutions.
3- Placing the rug in damp conditions such as near air conditioning ducts will lead to the edges being curled up. Similarly storing should also be done in a dry place (not in a box or a bag or in a wrapping that cannot breathe) that is well-ventilated.
One wrong step, such as using the wrong detergent, machine washing at a high temperature, or drying in direct sunlight, can cause irreversible damage to the sheepskin rug.
You can maintain a sheepskin rug’s fluffiness by regularly brushing it with a sheepskin brush.