How To Clean A Sheepskin Rug (Step-by-Step Guide)

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

If there’s one thing that has always stood out to me, it’s the popularity of sheepskin rugs. They’re rustic, retro, and oh, so soft! I have a sheepskin rug, but I’ve never really used it for much. Why? Because for the longest time, I had no idea how to clean it. Thankfully, I found out how fairly recently…

You can wash a deerskin rug in a washing machine if you use mild dish detergent and don’t add other items. Hang your deerskin rug to air dry so that the tumbling cycle of a dryer does not damage it. Never wash a deerskin rug if it has been dyed, or else it may turn out less vibrant than it was.

Unlike most cotton rugs or blankets, having sheepskin means that you will need to know how to clean them specifically. Otherwise, the leather portion of the rug will get damaged. Here’s what you need to know…

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Can You Machine Wash A Sheepskin Rug?

The most common way people try to wash sheepskin is to pop it in the washing machine, but truthfully, this is always a risky endeavor. Even if you follow these instructions, there’s a legitimate chance that the rug you have won’t come out well. Sheepskin is considered to be relatively safe to dunk in the wash as long as you do the following:

  • Set the machine to the right settings. To wash a sheepskin, put the cycle on cold (or warm) and gentle.
  • Leave the sheepskin alone. You cannot add other items to the washer with your rug in it, as it may cause colors from other fabrics to bleed.
  • Use the right detergent. Do not use bleach, and do not use enzyme cleaners. These will ruin the leather part of the skin and can also tatter the wool.
  • Don’t put the sheepskin in the dryer. Drying sheepskin in a machine is akin to running it over with your car. To dry it properly, lay it out on a flat surface and let it air dry next to a fan. Hanging it up on a line outside, away from the sun or heat, can also work.

Can You Wash A Dyed Sheepskin Rug?

Though regular sheepskin is alright to wash on your own, things change quickly when you’re talking about a skin that’s been treated with dye. You should never try to wash a dyed sheepskin rug, simply because the rug’s dyes might end up clashing with the cleaning solvents that you will be using.

Dyed sheepskin will look faded or tatty if you try to wash it on your own. Therefore, if you dyed your sheepskin, make sure that you are willing to spend extra money for a professional cleaner. Otherwise, cleaning it directly will ruin your rug.

What’s The Best Way To Wash A Sheepskin Rug?

It’s not machine washing, that’s for sure. Machine washing is a “pursue at your own risk” type of deal. To make sure that you’re able to enjoy your sheepskin rug for years to come, follow this process below:

  • Fill your bathtub with lukewarm water. The general belief is that you should avoid using water that’s above 108 degrees Fahrenheit when washing your sheepskin rug.
  • Grab a non-enzyme cleaner and some rubber gloves. Wear the gloves, since detergents can dry out your skin. If you can’t find a non-enzyme cleaner, get your dish soap from the kitchen.
  • Gently submerge the sheepskin rug and apply a small amount of cleanser. Lightly scrub both sides of the rug by hand. Don’t twist or wring the rug! Massage the leather as best you can.
  • Remove the sheepskin rug, and lay it flat on a table. Do not try to tumble dry it, force dry it, or beat it. Just let it air dry with a fan nearby. Do not let it dry near any heat source, and that includes natural sunlight. Heat can cause the leather to harden or even crack.
  • Massage the rug from time to time as it dries out. This may seem a little “extra,” but it will make a huge difference when it comes to the overall texture of the leather. After all, water tends to stiffen up leather. By massaging it, you will be able to avoid having that oddly rigid, dry texture that makes sheepskin feel awkward on the skin.
  • If the sheepskin has longer wool, use a brush to brush it out. This will help restore your wooly fiber to its natural fluffiness.

How To Spot Clean A Sheepskin Rug

If you made the mistake of spilling something on sheepskin, grab an absorbent kitchen towel and dab at the sheepskin. Try to let the towel absorb as much of the spill as possible. Once you cannot get any more of the spill out through absorption, use a mild cleaner and keep dabbing. Rinse with water, making sure not to get the leather wet in the process.

What Cleaners Should I Avoid When Washing A Sheepskin Rug?

Though we’ve already mentioned the non-enzyme matter a couple of times, it’s important to remember that there are other soaps that can potentially damage your rug. The other important cleaners to avoid include:

  • Soap-based cleaners
  • Soap flakes
  • Bleach
  • Alkaline cleaners

The best way to clean your rug is to use an all-natural, non-enzyme dish soap, a super-gentle laundry detergent, or a specialty cleaner geared towards sheepskin. Anything else runs a risk of harming the leather or the wool, or both.

Can Sheepskin Rugs Be Dry Cleaned?

Feeling like cleaning a sheepskin rug could be too much for you is absolutely normal. I mean, it is a fairly involved, complicated process. If your rug was dyed, then you can’t even really wash it on your own. The good news is that you can dry clean sheepskin rugs, and that it’s actually considered to be the best way to clean more delicate rugs.

When choosing a cleaner for your rugs, make sure to pick a company that has extensive experience when it comes to animal skins and wool. Otherwise, you may have less than stellar results.

How Much Does It Cost To Get Your Sheepskin Rug Professionally Cleaned?

Sheepskin’s difficult-to-clean nature has made it one of the most expensive types of carpets or rugs to clean. Like, it’s enough to make cleaning a shag rug look like a cakewalk. That’s why most professional cleaning firms will charge around $4 to $6 per square foot for a sheepskin rug cleaning at a bare minimum.

If you have a dyed rug or a rug that has a particularly bad stain, the price can easily shoot up to $10 per square foot or more. It’s not uncommon for larger sheepskin rugs to cost upwards of $150 to clean. Thankfully, sheepskin rug sizes are limited by the feasible size of a sheep’s body so you won’t have to pay $1000 or so for your rug to be cleaned under any circumstances.

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Related Questions

How do you keep a sheepskin rug fluffy?

Aside from avoiding stains at any cost, there are several other ways to make sure that your rug remains fluffy. Keeping your rug away from heat and sun is the most important. However, using a brush to fluff it up and taking it to get dry cleaned once in a while will also help keep it feeling soft to the touch.

Are sheepskin rugs ethical?

This depends on what you mean by ethical. Sheepskin rugs are a by product of the meat industry, which means that no sheep will ever be killed specifically for their skins. Only a handful of sheepskin will be tanned and properly treated after slaughter. So in a way, it is ethical in the sense that it’s a way to use more of the animal. Even so, it’s still a material that is made from animals.

How do you whiten a sheepskin rug that’s turned yellow?

It may be tempting to try to lighten sheepskin by using bleaches or dyes, but don’t do it. There’s a gentler option. Just take a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide and spray down the sheepskin. Wait for 10 minutes, then use a vacuum to suck up the extra moisture. The peroxide will lighten the wool without causing it to get brittle.

How do I wash a synthetic sheepskin rug?

If your rug is not made of real sheepskin, then trying to figure out the cleaning instructions will be an issue. The good news is that you will be able to find them written on the care and keeping tag on the “leather” part of your rug. To get great results, just follow the instructions carefully.

How can you waterproof a sheepskin rug?

Waterproofing sheepskin is best done using a “Rain and Stain Prevention” spray that’s focused on treating leather and suede clothing items like shoes or shearling jackets. These types of sprays are made to keep moisture out while keeping the sheepskin material breathable. When in doubt, check the bottle of the protector to see if it’s suede-friendly before you use it.

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Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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