Cleaning Guides

How to Clean a Sheepskin Rug

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. But how to clean a sheepskin rug 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 a long. So, this post will look into the ways 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.

Table of Contents:

Here’s how to clean a sheepskin rug without damaging it…

So, can you wash a sheepskin rug in the washing machine?

You can wash wool at a very low temperature in a machine or by hand, but no higher than 30 degrees, and use a teaspoon of non-biological washing powder, preferably a specialist wool shampoo. This, however, generally applies to 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:

  • The leather backing might not be as soft as when your sheepskin was new.
  • There’s a risk of that yellow aged colour not getting washed out completely.
  • Old sheepskin rugs (more than 15 years old) can be risky to wash.
  • If the leather backing goes hard, then you should apply extra vigilance to fix it.
  • It’s a good idea to brush out the knots before you wash a sheepskin rug.
  • You may face some problems if you wash sheepskins that have been dyed.
  • It’s best if you dry a sheepskin slowly.

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:

  • A wool carding brush;
  • An alkaline-free, non-ionic and enzyme-free detergent that is suitable for washing woolskin and leather;
  • A good-sized clean towel.

In addition, make sure that your washing machine has a wool-wash cycle setting or simply consider using your bathtub and/or shower.

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How to clean a sheepskin rug

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.

  1. Get a good quality wool carding brush and smooth out any knots before getting your rug wet to avoid ending up with even more matted shearling after washing it.
  2. Hand-wash large-sized sheepskin rugs in a bathtub with warm water and a cupful of a delicate detergent, designed for washing wool. Medium-sized or single sheepskins can be machine-washed on a gentle, cool cycle that is suitable for wool.
  3. Be careful not to matt up the rug if you’re washing it by hand. This means that you shouldn’t agitate it too much by rubbing it. You can use your shower to gently dislodge particles in between the fur or just swirl the water for a few minutes.
  4. Rinse several times by refilling the bathtub with fresh warm water until you notice it’s clear and free of any soap residue.
  5. Push as much water out of the sheepskin by rolling it and gently pressing it with your hands. Then, leave it to drain further for 15 minutes or use your washing machine’s low-speed spin cycle. If the rug is too large, you can always pop in your local laundrette and use the facilities there.
  6. Air-dry flat the sheepskin rug for at least 24 hours away from direct sunlight by laying it on a clean towel. Make sure to smooth out the suede side. If you’re drying it inside, a dehumidifier, placed in the room, will speed up the process. If you can fit the rug in a tumble dryer, use a low-heat setting.
  7. Never be tempted to use artificial heat to dry your shearling sheepskin as this may damage/harden the leather side or shrink the rug.
  8. Brush gently again with the carding brush while the skin is still slightly wet. Give the rug another brush when it’s completely dry to get that original fluffy look, and free of any knots.
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.
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What to know before washing your sheepskin rug

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.

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.

Washing sheepskin rugs older than 15 years is a high risk. 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.

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.

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How to store sheepskin rugs

To store correctly your sheepskin rug, when not in use, follow our expert tips below:

  • Store the furry wool rug in a well-ventilated pace, at moderate temperature and away from direct sunlight.
  • Never wrap the skin in plastic or another type of non-permeable material to avoid damage from condensation. The sheepskin rug needs to breathe.
  • You can gently fold or roll the rug as any creases will smooth out with time when it is back in use.
  • Ensure to store the woolly floor covering in a pest-free storage place.

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Here are some final thoughts and takeaways to consider when washing your sheepskin rug.

  • Never use bleach to clean your sheepskin floor furnishing.
  • To maintain the good look of your rug, brush regularly to keep the strands in good shape.
  • Vacuum only by using a standard nozzle attachment to remove dust and hard particles.
  • To spot-clean your sheepskin rug and remove a stain, use a suitable product, diluted in water.
  • A Fantastic pro can dry clean your rug if you’re not up for the job.


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

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