How to Clean a Sheepskin Rug

Modern bedroom with sheepskin rug

 Carlina Teteris/ Moment/ Getty Images

Overview
  • Working Time: 60 mins
  • Total Time: 24 hrs
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Natural sheepskin rugs are created from the skins of sheep with the wool fibers permanently fixed to the skin during the tanning process. Large rugs have several sheepskins pieced together. The wool can be left as its natural color or dyed to create a range of hues. The rugs are favored because wool fibers are soft and resilient, they retain a natural oil that resists dirt and odors, wool is flame retardant up to 1,112 degrees F, sustainable, and biodegradable.

Faux sheepskin rugs are produced from petroleum-based synthetic fibers like other faux furs to mimic the look of natural sheepskin. Both are easy care with regular maintenance and cleaning.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Vacuum
  • Dull knife or spoon
  • Large sink or tub
  • Washing machine
  • White cleaning cloths
  • Wire wool comb or dog comb, soft-bristled brush
  • Heavy terry cloth towels
  • Drying rack or clothesline

Materials

  • Wool wash
  • Gentle detergent
  • Baking soda
  • Cornstarch
  • Paper towels
  • Hair conditioner

Instructions

How to Clean a Natural Sheepskin Rug

Follow these steps to clean your sheepskin rug and get it in sparkling condition.

Tip

To keep your natural sheepskin rug at it's very best, avoid placing it in direct sunlight. The harsh UV rays can damage the tanned hide and fade any dyed fibers.

  1. Give It a Shake and a Brush

    Shaking the rug regularly—preferable outdoors—will remove loose soil and dust and restore the bounce to the wool fibers. Use a wire wool comb or a dog comb to brush the fibers to reduce matting and to restore luster.

  2. Vacuum the Rug

    Vacuuming may be easier for very large rugs and will remove soil and dust. Only use plain suction. Turbo and revolving brush heads can be too harsh on the fibers and cause tangling.

  3. Spot Clean Stains Right Away

    As soon as spills happen, blot away any liquids with paper towels and lift any solids with a dull knife, spoon, or spatula.

    For oily stains: Sprinkle the area with cornstarch to absorb the oil. Allow the cornstarch to remain on the rug for several hours and then brush or vacuum away. Repeat if necessary.

    For food or mud stains: Mix a solution of wool wash and warm water following the directions on the product label. Dip a white cloth in the solution and blot the stained area. Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred. Do not overwet the rug. When the stain is gone, blot the area with a cloth dipped in plain water to remove any soapy residue. Allow the rug to air-dry and then comb to lift fibers.

  4. Use Baking Soda to Reduce Odors

    If the rug is smelling less than fresh, generously sprinkle the sheepskin with dry baking soda. Use your hands or a comb to work it down into the fibers. Allow the baking soda to remain on the rug for at least two hours—overnight is better. Shake or vacuum the rug to remove the baking soda and comb to lift the fibers.

  5. Read the Care Label Before Washing

    Before you wash a sheepskin rug, take a moment to look for the care label. Many dyed sheepskin rugs should be dry cleaned to prevent fading. Some small rugs are labeled as machine washable. If you choose to machine-wash, use a front-load washer or a top-load washer without a center agitator, cold water, wool wash, and the gentle cycle for the best results. Too much agitation can lead to matted and frizzled fibers.

    The safest method for cleaning a white sheepskin rug is handwashing.

  6. Prepare a Washing Solution

    There will come a time when the entire sheepskin rug needs to be washed. The key to success is using the correct type of detergent. Wool washes must be free from enzymes that could cause damage and many will be infused with lanolin—a natural fat found in wool—to help restore the natural softness of the fibers after washing.

    In a large tub, mix the wool wash with lukewarm water following the product label directions. 

  7. Submerge the Rug

    Submerge the rug in the washing solution and gently squeeze the soapy water through the fibers for about 10 minutes.

  8. Rinse and Dry

    Drain the tub and refill with fresh cool water. Squeeze the fresh water through the fibers. Drain the tub and repeat until no more suds appear.

    When the suds are gone, gently squeeze the excess water from the rug. Do not twist or wring. Use several heavy towels to absorb as much water as possible from the rug.

    Hang the rug from a sturdy drying rack to air dry. Never place a sheepskin rug in a clothes dryer and DO NOT brush the fibers while they are wet.

  9. Brush to Restore Fibers

    Once the rug is completely dry, use a wire brush or comb to gently untangle any matted fibers.

How to Wash a Faux Sheepskin Rug

A faux sheepskin rug should be hand-washed following the same steps as a natural sheepskin rug. The difference is that you can use any gentle laundry detergent.

Always allow the rug to air dry—the high heat in a clothes dryer can melt the fur. If the fibers become tangled, use a soft-bristled brush to gently brush any matted fur and lift the fibers.

In addition to brushing the coat, you may be able to smooth the fibers by mixing one teaspoon of hair conditioner with two cups of warm water. Place the mixture in a spray bottle and spritz the fur in a small area. Use a soft-bristled brush to gently untangle the fur. Work in a small area and brush slowly. If fibers come out, then you are brushing too hard. When you are finished, wipe down the area with a clean, damp white cloth and allow to air dry.