How to Clean Shearling

Person wearing brown shearling slippers

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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 8 hrs - 2 days
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Shearling coats, slippers, and purses are stylish, durable, and provide exceptional warmth. True shearling is made from the hide of a lamb that has been sheared only once and then tanned, processed, and dyed with the wool left intact. One side has a suede leather finish and the other is clipped wool. Shearling is often used interchangeably with sheepskin. Shearling comes from lambs, while sheepskin rugs and garments are created from sheep hides.

The look of shearling is often recreated for home accessories and coat linings using man-made fibers. Faux shearling is usually machine-washable; just follow the instructions on the care label.

Shearling is breathable, hypoallergenic, and static-resistant. With the proper care, shearling becomes more supple and comfortable with age. Learn how to keep your shearling garments, footwear, and accessories looking their best.

How Often to Clean Shearling

Fresh stains on shearling should be treated immediately, whether they are on the suede side or the wooly side. At least weekly, use a soft-bristled suede brush to remove loose dust and soil from the suede side. Regular brushing will help delay the need for professional cleaning. If you get caught in the rain, allow the shearling to dry slowly away from direct heat or sunlight. You can then use the suede brush to raise any areas where the fabric has been crushed.

A shearling coat should be professionally cleaned if odors develop from perspiration or it has significant stains. Any type of shearling garment or accessory should always be cleaned before being put in storage at the end of the season.

Tip

While stains on shearling coats, boots, and slippers can be cleaned at home with spot cleaning, overall cleaning by a professional who specializes in leather is recommended. Shearling can be washed by hand using a gentle wool wash, but it may leave the hides stiff and brittle if not done correctly.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Suede brush
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Tweezers
  • Clothes steamer
  • Dull-edged knife
  • Art gum eraser
  • Emery board
  • Heavy terry cloth bath towels

Materials

  • Wool wash or Castile soap
  • Cornstarch
  • Non-silicone water-repellent spray
  • Paper towels

Instructions

  1. Remove Surface Soil

    Ideally, after every wearing, the suede side of shearling coats, boots, and purses should be brushed using a soft-bristled suede brush to remove loose dust and soil from the surface. Frequent brushing prevents the soil from settling deeper into the hide and causing stains.

    The wooly side should be checked for any visible soil. Use tweezers to gently remove any debris like leaves, threads, or hair that is caught in the curly fibers.

  2. Treat Wet Stains

    If food or mud lands on either side of shearling, it should be cleaned away as soon as possible.

    1. Lift away any solids with a dull-edged knife or edge of a credit card. Never rub the stain, because that only pushes the matter deeper into the fibers.
    2. Once the solids are gone, use a white cloth or paper towel to blot away as much moisture as possible. No rubbing!
    3. Allow the stained area to air-dry naturally. The stain will be easier to treat once it is dry. Use the most gentle treatment first and move to more abrasive action, if needed. After every treatment, brush the area with the suede brush to restore and smooth the hide.
    4. Gently rub the area with a white microfiber cloth to lift away as much of the dried-on matter as possible.
    5. Use a pencil eraser or art gum eraser to gently rub away the stain.
    6. As a last resort, gently rub the stained area with an emery board nail file to remove the dried-on matter.
  3. Remove Oily Stains

    1. Blot fresh oily stains with a paper towel to absorb surface oil.
    2. Sprinkle the stain heavily with cornstarch or talcum powder to absorb the oil. After an hour or so, when the powder looks oily, brush it away with a soft brush. Repeat if the stain remains.
  4. Refresh the Wooly Side

    1. Mix a solution of one quart warm water and 1/2 teaspoon wool wash or Castile soap.
    2. Dip a white cloth in the solution and wring until just damp.
    3. Starting at the top of the garment, gently wipe down the wooly surfaces. Rinse the cloth often and mix a fresh batch of the cleaning solution as the soil is transferred, if needed.
    4. For underarm areas and shoe interiors, add a pine oil or phenolic disinfectant, such as Lysol, to the solution to help remove odor-causing bacteria.
  5. Hand-Washing Shearling

    If you have decided to try hand-washing shearling, follow these steps.

    1. Remove visible stains.
    2. Mix a solution of lukewarm water and wool wash in a large sink or bathtub. Follow the product label guidelines as to how much to use per gallon of water.
    3. Submerge the shearling and gently squeeze the solution through the fibers for about 10 minutes.
    4. Drain the soapy water and refill the tub with cool water. Rinse by squeezing the shearling until no more suds appear. You may need to empty and refill the tub a couple of times.
    5. Lift the shearling out of the tub and gently squeeze to remove water. NO wringing!
    6. Place the shearling between two heavy cotton terry cloth towels to help absorb excess water.
    7. Place the shearling on a drying rack and smooth to its original shape. It is helpful to stuff boots, slippers, and purses with clean cotton towels to help them hold their shape. Replace the towels as they become wet.
    8. Allow the shearling item to air dry completely before wearing. This may take up to 48 hours.
    9. Use a clothes steamer held about eight inches from the surface to remove wrinkles.

Tips to Keep Shearling Clean Longer

  • Spray the shearling suede side with a non-silicone water-repellent spray before wearing it for the first time.
  • Brush the suede side and allow the interior wooly side to air-dry between wearings.
  • Do not wear damp shearling garments.
  • If you won't be wearing the shearling for some time, cover it with a cotton cloth to prevent dust from settling on the surface.