If you want to add a touch of luxury to your room, sheepskin rugs are your answer.
Though more expensive than rugs made with synthetic fibers, sheepskin rugs are twice as durable and aren’t as prone to the effects of bacteria and dirt. The fact that they’re gorgeous, soft, and cottony makes them all the more appealing.
Despite their delicate appearance, sheepskin rugs are low-maintenance. It doesn’t take more than a quick shake or vacuum to keep them in top shape. This article shows you how to clean a sheepskin rug in four easy steps, as well as how to remove and wash away stains.
Can Sheepskin Rug Be Cleaned?
Due to their unique fiber structure and natural waxy lanolin coating, sheepskin rugs are naturally resistant to dirt and grime.
Lanolin—a wax secreted by the sebaceous glands of sheep—acts as a natural waterproof sealant. It traps dirt, dust, and stains at the surface to protect wool fibers from permanent damage or discoloration. This means that if you get dirt particles on a sheepskin rug, you can vacuum or shake them off and it’ll be as good as new.
Though they appear delicate, sheepskin rugs don’t need that much care and attention. They’re among the most low-maintenance natural rugs out there, easily lasting years with minimal care. Plus, they don’t wrinkle, shed, or tear.
If the need arises, sheepskin rugs can be hand-washed in warm water or machine-washed in cold water on a delicate cycle with a wool-safe detergent.
However, a wash should be your last option when approaching a dirt or spill. Sheepskin rugs should be washed no more than twice a year if that.
How to Clean and Maintain a Sheepskin Rug
Cleaning a sheepskin rug isn’t as hard as you may initially expect. Here’s how to clean and dry a sheepskin rug without damaging the wool:
- Vacuum cleaner
- Slicker blush/pet brush
- Wool conditioner (optional)
Step 1: Shake Off Dirt and Dust
The first step to cleaning a sheepskin rug is to shake the accumulated dirt and dust from its surface.
If the rug is relatively small, simply take it outside and give it a good shake.
If the rug is big and heavy, hang it on a clothesline and give it a few light taps with a rug beater, a broom, or a tennis racket.
The goal is to remove loosely embedded dirt and prepare it for thorough vacuuming.
Step 2: Vacuum the Sheepskin Rug
Lay the sheepskin rug on your patio, deck, or living room, and vacuum up any remaining dirt and debris using the suction-only setting.
Don’t use turbo, revolving brush heads, or beater bars as they may damage the wool’s finer fibers and potentially cause tangling.
If you’re using a vacuum with a non-detachable rotating brush head, adjust the height so that the brush barely touches the face of the sheepskin rug.
Once you’re done with one side, flip it to the other and give it a good vacuuming as well. This ensures both sides are free of debris and dust.
Step 3: Give the Rug a Good Brushing
Assuming your rug doesn’t need to be washed or spot-cleaned, follow the vacuuming with a thorough brushing.
With a slicker brush or dog comb, brush the fibers in one direction to eliminate mats and tangles. Brush it how you’d brush a pet: gently, without pulling at the hair. If you brush too hard, the rug will thin out over time.
Step 4 (Optional): Apply Wool Condition to Loosen Stubborn Tangles
This step is optional but recommended if you’re dealing with stubborn tangles.
Dilute a small amount of wool conditioner with water.
Dip your fingers into the solution and work your way into the direction of the hair growth. Add as much of the conditioner as necessary to loosen up the knotted section.
Then, brush the rug with a wool comb or slicker brush.
And there you have it—you’ve successfully cleaned your sheepskin rug! Ideally, sheepskin rugs should be vacuumed twice a week to prevent the accumulation of dirt and brushed twice a month to maintain their fluffiness and luster.
How to Remove Stains from Sheepskin Rug
If you accidentally spilled food or liquid on your sheepskin rug, never fear: there are several effective ways to eliminate the stain.
Sheepskin rugs are naturally stain resistant, meaning most stains can easily get removed with water and wool spot-cleaning spray.
The biggest rule of thumb when cleaning accidental spills is to never let them fester. Take care of the situation the moment it happens.
Use a clean, dry towel or paper towel and blot away excess liquid. Keep blotting and changing clothes until you’ve taken out as much of the liquid as possible. If the spill came with any solids (food particles, etc), take a spoon/spatula to lift them off the rug before blotting away the liquid.
Once you’ve contained the stain, mix warm water with wool shampoo and gently blot the stained area with a paper towel until the stain has been transferred. Don’t saturate the rug or scrub the stain as doing so will not only destroy the fibers but also make the stain worse.
Let the solution settle for about a minute or two and assess how much of the stain is left. If the stain is still visible, blot it again with the solution.
When the stain is taken care of, grab a new cloth and clean the area with plain water to remove the soapy residue. Leave the rug to dry then brush out any matting or tangling.
If you’re dealing with oil stains (baby oil, olive oil, motor oil, etc.) the process is a bit different.
Place a paper towel on the stain and blot gently until most of the oil is lifted from the rug.
Then, liberally cover the stained surface with baking soda or cornstarch and rub it in with just enough force for the baking soda to penetrate the fibers.
Leave it for 15 to 30 minutes to suck up the oil then vacuum the area.
The older the stain, the harder it is to clean. Therefore, patience is key. You may need to try different methods to clean the stain.
- Water + Wool Cleaner: Dab the stain with a solution of water and wool cleaner with a microfiber towel. Just enough to cover the stain without soaking the solution through the rug pad. Let it sit for a few minutes then use a clean cloth and fresh water to remove the stain.
- Water + Dish Soap + Vinegar: Mix two cups of water with a tablespoon of dish soap and vinegar and spray the mixture on the affected area. Let the solution sit on the stain for a few minutes then blot it clean with a fresh paper cloth. This solution works wonders for tougher water-soluble stains like food dye and juice.
- Baking Soda + Vinegar: If you’re dealing with old grease stains, this method works best. Sprinkle a generous layer of baking soda on the stain, then spray a mixture of one cup vinegar, one cup water, and a few drops of dishwashing liquid onto the baking soda. Let the mixture sit for a few hours. Once it hardens, break it up and suck up the particles with a vacuum.
How to Wash a Sheepskin Rug By Hand, Washing Machine, or Steam
The lanolin on sheepskin fibers provides an antibacterial self-cleaning property, so sheepskin rugs shouldn’t be washed too often. Whenever you wash a sheepskin rug, you’re inadvertently stripping the lanolin from its fibers, causing the rug to dull and matte over time.
If the need arises, here’s how to wash a sheepskin rug without damaging its natural fibers:
Washing a Sheepskin Rug By Hand
When it comes to washing sheepskin rugs, hand washing is the best way to go. Hand washing is gentler than machine washing, so it helps preserve the fibers of your rug much better.
- Take the sheepskin rug outside and shake it out to remove crumbs, dirt, dust, hair, and other particles from its fibers. Then, vacuum the rug on both sides to ensure it’s thoroughly stripped from unwanted debris.
- Fill in a bathtub with cold water and add a few drops of wool shampoo.
- Submerge the rug in the water and gently swish it around the bath to incorporate the shampoo into the fibers. Don’t rub or scrub the fibers to prevent texture damage.
- When the water changes color, empty the tub and fill it up with clean, cold water to rinse the sheepskin. Repeat as many times as necessary until the water turns completely clear.
- Squeeze out as much as you can from the rug before transferring it to a large container. From there, you can either hang the rug to dry on a clothesline—away from direct sunlight—or put it inside a dryer on a gentle spin cycle. Don’t tumble dry or dry with a hairdryer.
Washing a Sheepskin Rug in the Washing Machine
If you don’t want to go through the effort of washing the sheepskin rug by hand, you can wash the rug in the washing machine—with a few caveats.
Before you do so, check the washing instructions on your rug. If the label says “don’t wash in the washing machine” or “hand wash only,” you’d best listen. The process of manufacturing sheepskin rugs differs from brand to brand, so the label will act as your guide when washing the rug.
Once you’ve made sure that your sheepskin rug is amicable to machine-washing, give it a thorough vacuuming and wash it on a gentle or delicate cycle. Ensure your machine is set on cool as hot water can negatively affect the texture and size of the rug.
As for the detergent, use an enzyme-free sheepskin cleaner. Avoid scented detergents, fabric conditioners, bleach, and chemical cleaners as they can permanently damage the rug.
Once done, hang the rug while wet or let it spin on a gentle cycle.
Washing a Sheepskin Rug With a Steamer
Steam cleaning is a fantastic alternative to hand and machine washing. It’s non-intrusive and removes a good amount of dirt and dust without further treatment. It can also kill dust mites, remove odor, and sanitize your rug.
Before you start, vacuum both sides of your rug. Then, turn on your steamer to the lowest setting and run the nozzle along the direction of the fiber. Be sure that your steamer doesn’t use high-alkaline cleaning agents, as they can discolor your rug and ruin the fiber. Instead, use regular water mixed with several drops of wool conditioner.
Avoid the leather backing as much as possible, as leather can harden when it comes in contact with even minimal amounts of heat.
Does the Sheepskin Rug Produce Damage After Cleaning?
With the right technique, your sheepskin rug won’t get damaged after cleaning. Just make sure to wash your rug only when strictly necessary.
Regular washes can damage the texture and fiber of the rug. Vacuuming the rug once a week is more than enough maintenance to keep it clean.
Why Did My Sheepskin Rug Harden After Washing?
Your sheepskin rug may have hardened because you used too much soap, hot water, or both. You can avoid this by limiting your soap to only several drops and using wool-approved cleaners.
Can You Make Sheepskin Fluffy Again?
If your sheepskin rug appears matted and dull, you can bring it back to life by brushing it with a slicker-type brush or a pet brush. Brushing your rug removes mats and knots, as well as surface dust and particles, restoring it to its former fluffy glory.
Sheepskin rugs are relatively low-maintenance. They only ever need to be vacuumed and brushed every week to keep them looking their best. If you’ve accidentally stained the rug, spot-clean it instead of washing it. Sheepskin rugs should only be washed if it’s extremely dirty.