How to clean a sheepskin rug at home without damaging it

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fluffy sheepskin rug in living room with neutral scheme
(Image credit: Future / Cox and Cox / Beth Mahoney)

POV: You splurged on a super cute (super expensive) sheepskin rug and now you’re wondering how you clean it, or if it’s even possible to clean it. Don't worry! You can clean a sheepskin rug (real or faux) and it’s easier than you’d think. 

Because real sheepskin rugs contain natural fibers, it’s important to avoid damaging the skin while cleaning it. Think of cleaning a natural sheepskin rug like cleaning leather and wool at the same time, which are both a li’l tricky to clean on their own. But, with the right approach, there’s no need to panic. As for faux sheepskin rugs — they’re even easier to clean. 

Keen to give your sheepskin rug a refresh but not quite sure where to start? Don’t stress, we’ve got you covered. 

How to clean a real sheepskin rug

Good to know

Time: 30 minutes

Difficulty: More effort (don't panic, this is only listed as "more effort" due to the number of steps involved)

Helpful hints: Make sure to read the rug's care instructions before you start the cleaning process. 

Here's what you'll need

How to clean a real sheepskin rug

Step 1: Shake it out 

The first step in the cleaning process is simply to take your rug outside and give it a good shake out. This should help to remove any loose fibers, as well as any dust or dirt. 

Step 2: Brush your rug

To help restore bounce to the fibers, the next step should be to use a wire wool comb to give the rug's fibers a good brush. This should help to reduce any matting while also freshing up the rug. 

Step 3: Vacuum

Next vacuum the rug using a vacuum that's on a low setting. Using a super powerful suction setting could damage the rug's fibers. 

Step 4: Spot clean any stains

If you notice any visible stains, apply a wool-safe spot cleaner, following the product's care instructions. 

Step 5: Sprinkle with baking soda

If you notice that your rug has an odor, sprinkle it with baking soda and then brush through using a wire comb. Leave to sit for up to an hour, then shake the rug out and vacuum. 

Step 6: Wash the rug 

Prepare a wool-safe washing solution in your bathtub to soak the rug in. Fill the bath with warm (not hot) water and add the wool washing solution, before submerging the rug in the water. 

Step 7: Rinse and rug 

After leaving the rug to soak, empty the bathtub and rinse the rug with fresh water, making sure that all soap residue is removed from the fibers. 

Step 8: Leave the rug to air dry

Once the rug is clean, carefully wring out all excess water and then place the rug outside to air dry. 

Step 9: Brush the rug

Once the rug is completely dry, use a wire comb to gently brush the fibers to help restore bounce. 


What's the best way to clean sheepskin rugs?

"Sheepskin rugs can last a very long time if properly cared for," Daniel Prendergast from The Rug Seller explains. "Always take the time to read the cleaning instructions that come with your sheepskin rug as each product can differ. Most of the time, and for general weekly up-keep, you can remove dust and loose particles easily by using a wire brush to rake up the wool pile a bit."

Can you remove stains from sheepskin rugs?

It depends on what type of stain you've got. General organic stains like mud and nonacidic foods are fairly easy to remove (it's easier to do so once the stain is dry). Acidic stains, on the other hand (e.g. wine, vomit, tomato sauce) will be more difficult to remove because they can penetrate the wool quite quickly, effectively dyeing it. 

Regardless of the type of stain you're working with, you'll need to use a specialist wool shampoo. Never use all-purpose detergent or anything containing bleach, as it'll do more harm than good. Take a little of the wool shampoo and gently blot it onto the stain, let sit for 10-20 minutes, then gradually remove with a damp cloth. You may not be able to get rid of the stain completely, but you will be able to diminish its appearance. 

How to clean a faux sheepskin rug

How to wash a sheepskin rug in the bathtub

If you absolutely want to wash your sheepskin rug but if it's too large for the washer, you can use the tub. Wash it gently by hand in lukewarm water and a small amount of specialist wool shampoo. Some recommend adding a little glycerine to the water also to help keep the leather backing soft.

How to clean a faux sheepskin rug

Step 1: Follow steps 1 to 4 above 

To clean a faux sheepskin rug, follow the first four steps above. Shake the rug out, brush the rug, vacuum the rug, and then comb the fibers. 

Step 2: Soak the rug 

Next, fill a bath tub with warm (not hot) water and add a cup of mild detergent. Then, add the rug to the water and submerge, leaving to soak for 15-minutes. 

Step 3: Rinse the rug

Drain the water and detergent away and then rinse the rug using fresh warm water, making sure to remove all detergent from the fibers. 

Step 4: Air dry the rug

Carefully wring the rug out, removing all excess water. Then, hang the rug outside to air dry. 

Step 5: Brush the fibers

Once the rug is dry, use a wire comb to brush the fibers, preventing matting from occurring. 


Can you machine wash a faux sheepskin rug?

If the manufacturer's instructions state that the rug is machine washable, then it's safe to wash your rug in the washing machine. However, if the rug is handwash only, then it's best to hand wash it following the steps above. 

Can you steam clean a sheepskin rug?

Steam cleaning can be much gentler on the sheepskin, and, in our experience, will give you similar refreshing results to washing. If you have one of the best steam cleaners or mops with a nozzle attachment to hand, this can drive out a lot of the dust and dirt by just steaming your rug for five to 10 minutes. Steam in the direction of the wool growth, and you'll notice a de-knotting effect, too. 

Sheepskin rug maintenance

The better you maintain your sheepskin rug, the less cleaning it will need — prevention is really better than cure here! 

Think decorative in function: First of all, although they're called "rugs," sheepskins aren't really suitable for high-traffic areas on floors. You're best off using yours as a throw or decoration in your living room or bedroom. If you like the look of sheepskins on a wooden floor, use faux ones. 

Regular brushing: Sheepskin also benefits from regular brushing with a specialist sheepskin brush and shaking to remove stuck dust. But be gentle. It may sound odd, but brush it in the same way you would a pet — without being too harsh or pulling at the hair. If you brush too hard, your rug will thin over time. 

Keep it out of the sun: Sheepskins are best positioned out of direct sunlight, which is the main cause of yellowing over time; this is an oxidization process in the wool and can't be reversed with cleaning. 

Keep it dry: Sheepskin will not tolerate damp conditions either, so keep yours out of cold damp rooms as the floors will be a breeding ground for black mold. Too much dampness will make the sides curl up so if yours are damp, air them out in indirect sunlight. 

Don't overwash:  The natural lanolin and wool fibers of the rug, in essence, mean that you shouldn't need to wash yours so frequently. Be mindful that you don't overdo it. 

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.

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