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If you own a dyed sheepskin rug, ideally, you should get it cleaned at your local dry cleaners. Otherwise, you’ll risk damaging the colour if you decide on washing it by hand or in the washer.
A sheepskin rug offers comfort and style, as well as it’s a great addition to a home interior, especially in the cold months of the year. With warm and fluffy plush wool on one side and velvety leather on the other, a shearling rug in front of a crackling fire makes a wintry day feel cosy and enjoyable when you’re relaxing at home.
And as with any other type of fabric or floor covering, your luxurious, decorative furry rug needs attention and proper maintenance, in order to serve you for long. So, this post will look into the ways of how to wash a sheepskin rug and store it correctly. We’ll also share a few important notes to keep in mind before approaching this delicate cleaning task.
Before we get to the point, however, let’s clear up one wide-spread speculation that an animal skin rug should never be thrown in the washer.
So, can you wash a sheepskin rug in the washing machine?
There is some conflicting information about whether a sheepskin rug can be machine-washed. Truth is that it can be washed but you must be mindful when doing it. If you opt for a machine wash, make sure you use the cool wool (or gentle wool) setting and use an enzyme-free detergent. This, however, generally applies for ivory-coloured (natural) rugs. Dyed sheepskin rugs should be ideally dry-cleaned because standard washing may remove or damage the dye.
Now, then, first things first. Here’s what you need to know before you start:
Now that you’ve learnt about all the possible issues with cleaning your sheepskin rug, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and gather your tools.
Tools you’ll need:
In addition, make sure that your washing machine has a wool-wash cycle setting or simply consider using your bathtub and/or shower.
Follow these steps on how to machine wash your sheepskin rug or clean it by hand, as well as dry it out properly for best results.
So, let’s go again in more detail over what you should keep in mind before washing your rug:
The leather backing will never be as soft as when your sheepskin was new.
Depending on the tanning process used, some sheepskins come out pretty good, as long as the drying process is nice and slow, and you use the correct woolskin shampoo.
But even cleaned, using the correct detergent, it most probably won’t be as soft as it was.
That yellow aged colour will never wash out.
The yellow colour you see is the wool ageing and the cellulose in the wool oxidizing. So exposure to the atmosphere and also sunlight will make a sheepskin go yellow over time.
Old sheepskin rugs that are more than 15 years old are high risk to wash.
As sheepskin rugs age the leather can slowly deteriorate and perish. The leather may look and feel OK but once it gets wet the leather fibres can disintegrate. Especially if an older sheepskin rug has never been washed before, and then suddenly at the age of 20 or 30 years someone decides to wash it, the leather may fall apart.
If a sheepskin rug has been washed a few times during its life it seems to be able to handle washing a bit more easily.
If the leather backing goes hard there is not much you can do to fix it.
The sheepskin may be old, and the leather fibres have dried out. Washing old leather can “shock it” and cause the leather fibres to constrict and shrink.
Or the tanning process may not be suitable for washing. Chrome tanning and White tanning are OK to wash.
Or if you use the wrong type of shampoo that is not safe for leather this can result in very stiff dry sheepskin leather.
If you don’t brush out the knots before you wash a sheepskin bad things happen.
Some people think it’s OK to skip the first step in the washing process, which is to thoroughly brush out a sheepskin rug before washing. This untangles knots in the wool that will potentially become matted into felt if you don’t brush the skin first.
If you let the wool matt-up you will never be able to untangle it after you wash it.
You shouldn’t wash sheepskins that have been dyed.
It can be very hard to tell if a sheepskin is dyed. Some skins that look light cream or champagne have actually been dyed that colour (natural sheep is an ivory off-white colour).
If you wash a dyed sheepskin there is always a risk of the colour changing or a chemical reaction may happen with the dye and cleaning products.
Get dyed sheepskin rugs dry-cleaned by a good quality dry-cleaner with experience in cleaning sheepskins.
*Text in quotes is slightly edited for clarity.
Find a carpet cleaning specialist to take care of your rug. Enter your postcode to get started:
To store correctly your sheepskin rug, when not in use, follow our expert tips below:
Here are some final thoughts and takeaways to consider when washing your sheepskin rug.
Do you have any tips of your own on how to clean best a sheepskin rug? Then, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments below! And if you’ve found this post helpful, why not pass it on to a friend?
Header image source: Shutterstock / THPStock
Please, note that we cannot be held liable for any damages occurring from using the information in this post. The cleaning maintenance of your sheepskin rug is your responsibility and the cleaning method you choose is at your own risk. Factors, such as your rug’s age, any tanning process used, storage methods applied in the past will have an effect on the cleaning process results. Please read our full disclaimer here.