How to Clean a Sheepskin Rug

These fluffy floor coverings have a few quirks when it comes to keeping them clean.

Plush sheepskin rugs look and feel wonderful, but the fluffy material can be a dirt magnet and quickly become matted and tangled in the course of everyday use. Caring for a sheepskin rug isn't overly complicated or time-consuming, but there are some specific dos and don'ts when it comes to cleaning these furry accessories.

This guide will explain how to perform routine cleaning, how to remove stains and tangles, and how to deep-clean sheepskin rugs, both real and faux.

Sheepskin rug
Kim Cornelison

The Basics of Caring for Sheepskin Rugs

There are four main ways to clean sheepskin rugs, and you should be familiar with all of the methods in order to keep your rug looking attractive for years to come.

Vacuuming is the primary way to clean a sheepskin rug; vacuum regularly to keep it looking its best. A sheepskin rug, if its size permits, can also be shaken out to remove hair, crumbs, dirt, and other debris lodged in its fibers.

Over time, a sheepskin rug may develop matted sections, which will need to be addressed. Matting remediation involves brushing out the fibers of the rugs using a slicker brush or wool comb to lift the fibers and remove tangles.

As is true of all rugs, stains are bound to happen. When they do, a stain removal technique known as spot treating can be used to eliminate them.

Finally, from time to time, a sheepskin rug may require an all-over deep cleaning that involves washing it with a mild detergent by hand or, if permitted by the manufacturer, in the washing machine, and air drying.

How to Vacuum a Sheepskin Rug

Vacuuming is the method used for regular cleaning of a sheepskin rug. Routine vacuuming will remove dirt, hair, and invisible soils like pollen and dander, and keep the rug looking new.

However, when vacuuming sheepskin, it is important to only use the suction function on the vacuum; attachments for carpeting that have a beater or revolving bar should not be used on sheepskin rugs, as it can cause the fibers to tangle. If your vacuum does not have a head without a beater brush, use the nozzle or upholstery attachment to safely vacuum your rug. Work in the direction of the hair growth to avoid tangling the strands.

sheepskin draped over bed in gray bedroom
Shaun Sullivan

How to Restore a Matted Sheepskin Rug

Matting occurs when long hair fibers become tangled and knotted; it is a normal occurrence on a sheepskin rug that can be easily remediated.

What You'll Need

  • Slicker brush or wool comb
  • Hair conditioner (optional)

Step 1: Shake Rug

Start by giving the rug a good shake to dislodge any debris and fluff unmatted sections.

Step 2: Brush Matted Sections

Use a wool comb or a slicker brush—a metal bristled tool designed for use on pet hair—to gently brush out the tangles, working in the direction of the hair growth.

Step 3: Apply Conditioner to Loosen Tangles (Optional)

To untangle especially stubborn matting, dilute a small amount of conditioner with water and use your fingers to gently rub the conditioner solution along the length of the hair, working in the direction of the hair growth. Then, use the slicker brush or wool comb to gently brush out the knotted section.

How to Remove Stains from a Sheepskin Rug

When stains occur on a sheepskin rug, it is best to treat them straight away. The best way to do this is with a stain removal technique called spot treating; unlike deep cleaning, spot treating addresses a specific stain in a specific place.

What You'll Need

  • Paper towels
  • A butter knife or spoon (optional)
  • Wool-safe detergent
  • Light-colored cloth

Step 1: Blot Liquid Spills and/or Remove Solids

If it is a liquid spill or accident, begin by blotting up as much liquid as possible using paper towels or rags. If the spill is solid or contains solids, pick the solids up and dispose of them, using paper towels if necessary. If solids have dried, use the edge of a butter knife or spoon to gently scrape them from the rug's fibers.

Step 2: Apply Detergent to the Stain

Using a damp light-colored cloth, dab a small amount of wool-safe detergent onto the stain. Dab at the stain until it's gone, working in the direction of the hair growth and taking care not to scrub, as friction can cause the hairs to become tangled and matted.

Step 3: Rinse the Area

Once the stain has been successfully removed, gently dab the area with a cloth dipped in clean water to remove residual detergent. Allow the rug to dry. If needed, use a wool comb or slicker brush to brush out and fluff up the rug's fibers.

living room furniture mock sheepskin throws
Shaun Sullivan

How to Deep Clean a Sheepskin Rug

When a deeper cleaning is needed, many sheepskin rugs can be machine-washed in cold water on the delicate cycle, using a wool-safe detergent. Always check the care tag for cleaning instructions. If your sheepskin rug cannot be safely washed in the machine, or if you are unsure, it can be washed by hand following these instructions.

What You'll Need

  • Wool-safe detergent
  • Drying line or rack
  • Wash basin (optional)

Step 1: Identify a Place to Wash

Identify a place large enough to hold water, detergent, and the sheepskin rug, with enough headspace for your hands to move through the water, such as a kitchen sink, utility sink, bathtub, bucket, or wash basin.

Step 2: Fill Basin with Water and Detergent

Fill the basin about halfway up with cool water, leaving enough room for the rug and your hands to move. Add a small amount of wool-safe detergent, following manufacturer instructions on dosing.

Step 3: Submerge and Soak the Rug

Introduce the rug to the detergent solution, using your hands to fully submerge it. Then, use your hands to agitate the rug so that the water and detergent can penetrate its fibers and dislodge dirt and grime. Allow the rug to soak in the detergent solution for 30 minutes.

Step 4: Rinse the Rug

After soaking, lift the rug out of the detergent solution and squeeze it gently. Then drain the detergent solution and rinse the rug well with clean water.

Step 5: Allow the Rug to Air Dry

Gently squeeze out excess water, taking care not to twist or wring the rug, which can cause damage to the fibers and backing. Allow the rug to air dry, either on a drying rack or line; if drying outdoors, take care that the rug is not exposed to direct sunlight or excessive heat. Once the rug is dry, use a wool comb or slicker brush to brush out and fluff up the rug's fibers.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do sheepskin rugs last?

    If cared for properly and cleaned regularly, a sheepskin rug should last at least five to ten years, if not longer. However, a sheepskin rug placed in a high-traffic area may have a shorter lifespan, as it will encounter more wear and tear there.

  • Can sheepskin rugs smell bad?

    Genuine sheepskin rugs, which are tanned animal hides, often have a distinct odor when first purchased, especially if they've been shipped to your home. The best thing to do is leave your new sheepskin rug outdoors, if possible, to air out. If it needs to be kept indoors, put it in a well-ventilated room. The smell should dissipate in a day or two.

  • How often do you need to brush a sheepskin rug?

    If you regularly vacuum your sheepskin rug, you won't need to brush it very often, but a good brushing once in a while with a steel brush (like a dog brush) will help it keep its fluffy and soft texture.

  • Is cleaning a faux sheepskin rug different than cleaning a real one?

    No. Both types of sheepskin rugs require hand washing, unless the care tag on yours says machine washing is ok. The fragile nature of the rug's fibers needs a gentle cleaning process.

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