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How to clean a sheepskin rug: our expert guide

How to clean a sheepskin rug

Updated: May 2024

So you have that beautiful sheepskin rug or fleece you've always wanted and now you’re wondering: how do you keep it looking good as new? How do you clean a sheepskin rug? Can you even wash a sheepskin? Should it be dry cleaned or go in the washing machine? Don't worry, we've got the answers!

We've pulled together all the advice we give out to customers about caring for your sheepskin or sheepskin products into one handy guide.

Our range of sheepskin care products has you covered for most of your sheepskin cleaning needs.

Contents

How to care for your sheepskin

While they’re pretty robust - just like the animals they come from - maintaining the natural beauty and durability of your sheepskin products takes the right care and treatment. Whether it’s a luxurious rug, a cosy pair of slippers, or any other sheepskin item, our guide will provide you with all the knowledge needed to keep them looking their best.

Regular routine care

You don’t need to wait until your sheepskin is in a mess to give it a little TLC. Keeping on top of things with regular care and maintenance will make sure it lasts a lifetime. Most of the time, brushing and spot cleaning is the most you’ll need to do. Our sheepskin care products are available straight from our store.

How to brush your sheepskin

To keep your sheepskin soft and fluffy, regular brushing is one of the best things you can do. Use a metal comb or a slicker-type brush, similar to those used for pets, to gently comb through the fibres. This not only restores the pile to its original fluffiness but also removes surface dust and debris. Aim to brush your sheepskin weekly or every other week, depending on usage.

We’ve tried and tested many brushes over the last 38 years to create the perfect Slicker Brush for sheepskin rugs. It is flexible enough to detangle wool without causing stress to the wool fibres. It's what we ourselves use to hand-finish our sheepskins.

When you shouldn’t brush your sheepskin

Closer cropped fleeces, such as those used in nurse aids, baby fleeces, or medical sheepskins should never be brushed!

Why you should avoid vacuuming a sheepskin

Using a vacuum cleaner on your sheepskin is not recommended as it can be too harsh, especially on longer wool varieties and/or if your vacuum uses a rotating beater brush. For effective cleaning that doesn’t damage the fibres, stick to brushing as your main method.

How to spot clean your sheepskin

Spot cleaning is a gentle way to deal with stains on your sheepskin without needing to wash the entire item. First, if the stain is dry, gently brush away any debris. For wet stains, immediately blot the area with a clean, dry cloth to absorb as much liquid as possible. Apply a small amount of Woolly Fresh Spray or a wool-specific cleaner to a damp cloth and gently dab the stained area.

Please make sure not to overspray. This is particularly important for dry-clean-only rugs as liquid could seep into the leather and damage or stain it. Avoid rubbing, as this can push the stain deeper into the fibres. Once the stain has been treated, allow the area to air dry away from direct heat or sunlight. After drying, use a soft-bristled brush to fluff the fibres back to their natural state.

How to wash a sheepskin rug

Every now and again, your sheepskin might need a little more intensive cleaning, to keep it looking and feeling its best. Sheepskins can often be washed either by hand or in a machine set to a gentle wool cycle, at temperatures no higher than 30 degrees Celsius.

This section provides step-by-step instructions for both methods, ensuring your sheepskin is cleaned effectively without risking damage.

Pre-wash checks and care

Do not wash if your product calls for dry clean only (check the Skyeskyns stamp on the leather or your own manufacturer’s specifications) or if it's a cushion, slipper, gloves or similar item. Washing relaxes the leather around seams so sewn items like sheepskin cushions and slippers can come apart if washed.

Before washing, give your sheepskin a thorough brush. This prepares the fibres, making them easier to clean and ensuring the wool’s natural properties are maintained. Check whether or not your sheepskin can be washed in a machine. A lot of Skyeskyns fleeces are machine washable, although not all so please make sure you check the Skyeskyns stamp on the leather side of your sheepskin (which will carry washing or dry clean instructions) or your manufacturer’s specifications. Get in touch with us for more information about cleaning your specific products.

Remember, always select a wool-specific detergent for washing; common laundry detergents can damage the delicate fibres.

Hand washing your sheepskin

  1. Preparation: Start by brushing the sheepskin to loosen any dirt or debris.
  2. Washing: Fill a tub with cold water and add a capful of wool-specific detergent. Submerge the sheepskin and gently agitate the water with your hands. Avoid vigorous scrubbing to prevent matting of the wool.
  3. Rinsing: Rinse the sheepskin in cold water until all soap residue is removed. Gently squeeze out excess water without wringing, which can distort the shape.

Machine washing your sheepskin

  1. Preparation: Check if your sheepskin can be machine washed by looking for the stamp on the leather side of your sheepskin. Brush the sheepskin thoroughly before placing it in the washing machine.
  2. Settings and detergent: Set your washing machine to a wool or delicate cycle, using cold water (no more than 30 degrees Celsius). Add wool detergent according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You should only use a wool detergent (such as our Woolly Wash), and not a standard laundry detergent and/or conditioner, as they can clump and clog up the wool. Nurse aid or baby sheepskins and medical sheepskins can be washed at higher temperatures, which is great for hygiene and ease of use. Please follow their specific care instructions.
  3. Washing: Place the sheepskin in the machine alone to avoid overcrowding. Start the cycle and allow it to run through without interruptions.
  4. Rinsing: Most machines will rinse the load adequately, but ensure no detergent remains by checking once the cycle is complete.

For best results we recommend our specialist Woolly Wash for all hand-wash and machine-washable sheepskins. Woolly Wash is designed to replace lanolin and refresh the texture of the wool. Designed for all natural fibres, it also gently cares for woollens, baby clothes, lingerie, silks and all delicate garments.

Drying and aftercare

After washing, dry your sheepskin away from direct or artificial heat to prevent shrinkage and hardening of the leather. Hanging it outside on a breezy day is ideal. You might want to give the leather a good shake out whilst it is still slightly damp so it stays supple. Once completely dry, a final brush will help fluff up the wool, making it look as good as new.

Care tips for non-washable items

For items that are not suitable for washing - such as sheepskin cushions and some slippers - regular brushing and spot cleaning with a damp cloth are recommended. For spot cleaning, use a product like our Woolly Fresh Spray to gently treat stains without saturating the leather.

Dos and don'ts of sheepskin care

Here are some important tips to keep your sheepskin in top condition and pitfalls to avoid.

Do…

  • Brush regularly: Maintain the softness and fluffiness of the wool by brushing it regularly with a suitable brush.
  • Spot clean gently: For small stains, use a damp cloth and a mild cleaning solution like Woolly Fresh Spray.
  • Dry naturally: Always allow your sheepskin to air dry naturally away from direct heat, which preserves the integrity of the leather.

Don't…

  • Saturate with water: Try to avoid saturating sheepskin products with water or detergent products to avoid damage to both the wool and the leather.
  • Use harsh chemicals: Harsh chemicals, including bleach, can ruin the natural fibres of your sheepskin.
  • Machine dry: Never use a tumble dryer for sheepskin; the intense heat can shrink and damage the fibres.

FAQs and practical advice

Still got unanswered questions? We’re always here and more than to help, so get in touch if you want to know more. In the meantime, here are a few of the questions that we’re frequently asked.

Is it safe to dry clean a sheepskin?

Yes it is. For dry clean only products, including sheepskin jackets, hats and gilets, talk to a reputable dry cleaner, who will have experience of leather and fleeces. Some specialist cleaners are also available which would be ideal for the more valuable items such as sheepskin coats.

How do I remove tough stains from my sheepskin?

For tough stains, apply a small amount of Woolly Fresh Spray directly to the stain and gently dab with a clean, damp cloth. Avoid rubbing as this can embed the stain deeper into the fibres.

What should I do if my sheepskin gets wet?

If your sheepskin gets wet, shake off excess water and hang it to dry in a shaded, well-ventilated area. Do not expose it to direct sunlight or heat sources.

Can I use any detergent for washing sheepskin?

Use only wool-specific detergents for washing your sheepskin. Regular detergents can strip natural oils from the wool, causing it to become brittle and matted.

How often should I wash my sheepskin?

Wash your sheepskin only when necessary. Frequent washing can shorten the lifespan of the wool. For regular maintenance, brushing and spot cleaning are usually sufficient. Our secret to a sheepskin’s long life: air it out regularly, the wool will appreciate it.

Can a sheepskin rug be machine-washed?

A lot of Skyeskyns fleeces are (machine) washable, although not all so please make sure you check the Skyeskyns stamp on the leather side of your sheepskin, as it will carry washing or dry clean instructions.

For those of you worried about maintaining a white rug: yes, you can wash a white sheepskin rug as long as it is machine washable and if not, you can spot clean stains with our Woolly Fresh Spray. We insert the relevant Care Instructions card with every parcel but get in touch with us for more information about cleaning your specific products.

Can you machine-wash sheepskin slippers?

Our sheepskin slippers are not machine washable but can be spot cleaned.

How do you clean a large dirty rug?

Our large fleeces (double, triple, quads etc) and mosaic rugs can be washed. Given their sizes, these rugs and throws cannot be put into a standard washing machine.

You can use a commercial launderette or laundry service but do make sure they understand the washing instructions and will wash them separately. You may also want to look at our refurbishment service for the ultimate pamper for your large rug or fleece, learn more about it below.

Sheepskin Rug Refurbishment Service

We offer a time-limited refurbishment service for sheepskins and rugs bought from us. We do not accept sheepskins bought from other retailers as there is no way to know how they have been tanned and how they might react to the refurbishment process.

Before sending us your rug, please email a picture of both the wool and leather side of your rug/sheepskin to [email protected]. Our experienced tanner can then advise how well the fleece can be refurbished and confirm whether refurbishment is the best option and when it can take place.

To fit in with our busy tannery, refurbishments are available once a quarter, at the end of March, June, September and December.

Please don’t send in your sheepskin rug until we have confirmed a quote with you.

As a base guideline to fleece refurbishment service, standard costings are as follows:

  • For 1 to 4 skins, including quadruples = £60 + P&P
  • For 5 skins and over = £120 + P&P.
  • Get in touch for a quote for mosaic rug or multiple rug (sexto and octo) refurbishment.