How to clean and wash a natural sheepskin rug

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Natural Sheepskin rugs are very easy to care for and when washed they can look like new again. This week I washed my two natural Ivory double longwool sheepskin rugs that I had beside our bed and are about four years old. It is best to wash them in the spring, summer or autumn. I waited for an overcast day in summer. This is what my sheepskin looked like before washing. It was grubby, the wool was matted and it had things stuck in it. It helps if you can brush the wool BEFORE washing with a sheepskin brush, this is like brushing your hair before you wash it to get out all the tangles and helps to avoid the sheepskin matting up during washing.

Cleaning sheepskin rugs
My dirty and matted sheepskin before washing

I washed the sheepskins in a bath (because it was a double size and wouldn’t fit into my washing machine) using lukewarm water (38°C/100°F) and using a small amount of non-alkaline mild liquid detergent wool wash shampoo (Sheepskin woolskin shampoo). Please only use shampoos/detergents which are non-alkaline, non-ionic and do not contain biological enzymes: Do NOT use Woolite or laundry detergents such as Tide.

If your sheepskin is larger than a double it will be very heavy when wet so it is easier to use a laundromat but make sure they have a machine that can do a wool cycle and a slow spin.

People often ask me why they can’t just use a normal woolwash. The reason is that normal woolwash is only safe for the wool, but is NOT safe for the leather. If you don’t use the right soap the sheepskin may either fall apart or go hard and stiff. The wool may also matt up beyond salvage if you use the wrong type.

We recently developed a special wool wash that is safe for the wool AND the leather, this is a pretty unique woolskin wash how to wash a sheepskin. This is only available from Gorgeous Creatures but can be used on all kinds of things including your UGG boots, mohair throws, woolen knitwear hand washing and as a normal low-irritant laundry detergent.

Washing sheepskin in the bath
Washing my sheepskin in the bath

Don’t agitate the sheepskin too much while washing; you just want a gentle action of water moving through the wool to dislodge dirt particles. But not so much movement that the wool mattes up like felt. Swish the sheepskin around gently in the water for about 3 to 5 minutes. If you use a washing machine it MUST be set to the delicate wool cycle setting.

Hand wash sheepskins with gentle motion in mild wool wash
Hand wash sheepskins with gentle motion in mild wool wash

Release the dirty water and refill the bath with fresh warm water to rinse the last soap and dirt away, you might need to do this a few times. Roll the sheepskin rug up and squeeze out as much water as you can, let it drain and then transfer to a washing machine to gently spin out most of the excess water.

Rinse and drain the sheepskin rug to clean
Rinse, drain and spin the sheepskin rug

To dry the sheepskin rug I used a clean towel to lay it on, and pulled the leather into shape making sure it is flat. It is important that is dries slowly away from direct heat like direct sunlight and artificial heat or the leather could shrink or harden (I chose an overcast but warm day). Do not tumble dry your sheepskin on a HOT heat, it is safe to tumble dry on a LOW heat but this takes ages. I do a mixture of allowing the sheepskin to dry naturally and then finishing it off in a LOW heat clothes dryer.  Take care NOT to place the sheepskin on a radiator, steam pipe or in front of a fan heater as this may damage the leather of the sheepskin rug. But do not be tempted to speed up the drying process with extra heat, you will ruin your sheepskin. Natural air flow can help the drying process.

Lay the washed sheepskin flat to dry
Lay the washed sheepskin flat to dry slowly in the shade

Use a metal bristle sheepskin brush to brush the wool gently while it is still damp. If it is a warm day the wool will dry very fast. Give the sheepskin wool another good brush as it dries and a final brush once completely dry.

Sheepskin carding brush
Brush your sheepskin with a special sheepskin carding brush

This is how my sheepskin rug looked once dry. Clean and fluffy and like brand new again.

Clean sheepskin after washing
A clean sheepskin after washing with the Gorgeous Creatures Woolskin Woolwash
Sheepskin washing kit - woolwash and carding brush
The Sheepskin woolwash is available on it’s own or as a set with the carding brush

NOTE:- If your sheepskin rug is very old, let’s say 10 years or more then washing it, especially in the wrong type of soap may cause the leather to fall apart. It is really hard for me to say when this will happen because it depends on how the sheepskin has been tanned, used, stored and how much sun it has received over its lifetime. Old leather is often perished where the fibers of the leather have started to dry-out, break-down and perish. This can not be repaired.

Any washing using these instructions is done at your own risk. If your sheepskin has become yellow then washing it will not take the yellow colour away, this is actually UV sun damage and can not be reversed. Treat yourself to a new sheepskin rug and protect it from direct sunlight and UV damage.

Dyed sheepskins should be dry cleaned because washing will most likely remove too much dye colouring. To check if your sheepskin is dyed look at the leather on the back. If the leather is white or pale blue-grey then it is probably natural. If the leather has a colour tinge similar to the wool colour then it is probably dyed.

All dyed sheepskins should be protected from direct UV sunlight or even reflected bright sunlight to avoid fading. If your sheepskin is really old it might not survive being washed, all washing is done at your own risk. dryclean sheepskin Please visit our Gorgeous Creatures website to see our sheepskins products.

sheepskin woolskin wash shampoo-video


136 thoughts on “How to clean and wash a natural sheepskin rug

    Debra Rush said:
    29/01/2018 at 7:41 am

    I have a 5’x 8′ sheepskin that is four pelts sewn together. my dog peed on it and I am beside myself trying to figure out how to get the stains out. It may have sat for 3 days before I saw the spots and they are way bigger on the skin side than the fur side. The stains are very yellow. I blotted first but it urine was already drying, then I coated it with “Natures miracle Advanced severe mess Enzymatic Formula”, The product really helps the smell but the yellow stains are still really yellow….help please! I love my rug and want it to be nice and white again. Is there an at home way to do this even though i’ve used another product on it already or should I send it to the cleaners? Can the cleaners even get the yellow out? Can I spray leather conditioner on the skin to keep it from drying out?

      gorgeouscreatures responded:
      29/01/2018 at 9:29 pm

      Hi Debra now that you have done some things to your rug like the enzyme formula we have no idea what will happen. For other people reading this NEVER use enzymes on leather please. I think your best action now is to get it dry cleaned but make sure the do a dry clean and don’t try to wash it. I don’t know if this will get the yellow out. Once you start to use multiple products you don’t know what chemical reactions will happen. The woolskin wash that we sell is not a stain remover (no bleach or ammonia). But if you wash out the urine with the woolskin wash then the urine stain should fade over time when exposed to sunlight.

    Kristina said:
    30/11/2017 at 2:16 am

    Do you know what happens if you wash a sheepskin that has not been tanned, but has been treated using alum, which is the traditional way of doing it in the Faroe Islands? Our sheep have a much longer wool, when we treat them, with lots of ‘underwool’. We treated this sheepskin ourselves a few years ago, but are not happy with it, as it seems matted and almost greasy, so we probably did not wash it well enough to begin with. I am just wondering whether it would help to wash it with your product.

      gorgeouscreatures responded:
      30/11/2017 at 8:26 am

      Hi Kristina, I have only ever dealt with professional Alum tanning. In general Alum is a good way to tan and OK to be washed with this product. But because it was at home (not a tannery?) then I don’t know what will happen. Worst case scenario it might fall apart if the tanning was not done to a strong enough level. I assume the back leather is a white colour? The greasy feeling means that you didn’t wash out the natural Lanolin enough, you would normally use a really strong de-greaser product for that. I’m not sure if my product is strong enough to improve the greasiness. It will probably help but may not remove the Lanolin completely. And a good brush using a proper wool carding brush like my woolwash kit will help with the matting. But again if the matting is too far gone then the brush may not be able to completely fix that either. It’s hard to say when I can’t see the sheepskin. If you are really unhappy with the sheepskin as it is now then it is worth a go washing it with my product and brush. I hope this has helped. Cheers Kirsty

    Berkeley said:
    08/11/2017 at 3:33 pm

    Great post! Is it normal for some “shedding” to occur while you brush the fur? I don’t want to thin out my rug.

      gorgeouscreatures responded:
      08/11/2017 at 4:02 pm

      Hi yes it is normal for some wool to come out when you brush a sheepskin. Just start to brush slowly and gently. I don’t think this will thin it out and it is better to brush than not brush.

    marilynn driesenga said:
    16/09/2017 at 5:50 am

    Would baby shampoo work? I have a large tub and a 6 X 4 rug (actually 4 pelts sewn together) Another site said a little hydrogen peroxide might whiten, do you agree? My has always been on the floor at the foot of our bed and never exposed to direct sunlight but it has yellowed.

      gorgeouscreatures responded:
      16/09/2017 at 7:25 pm

      Hi Marilynn, baby shampoo would be OK for the wool but I can’t stress enough to all the people trying to use anything but the right specialist soap (non-ionic) that this has a high risk of damaging the leather and /or making it go all hard and crunchy. So use baby shampoo at your own risk and you might be ok or you might ruin your sheepskin it’s probably a 20%/80% OK/Not OK chance. I also cringe at the thought of hydrogen peroxide, this is a very harsh chemical and I don’t know what it would do to the leather. Sheepskins do go yellow with age, there is nothing that can prevent this as it is oxidization with the air all around us if no direct or bright sunlight is involved.

    Linda said:
    21/08/2017 at 3:36 am

    I did not research how to wash my small sheepskin and put it in the washer, then air dried it in a dark room, but while the wool is soft and lovely, the leather is stiff. Is there a solution for this?

      gorgeouscreatures responded:
      16/09/2017 at 7:33 pm

      Hi Linda, not sure if I have replied to this before? You have not given me enough info to comment properly. You don’t say what soap you used although your technique sounds good. The most common issue is that people do not rinse the leather enough to remove any soap residue and then dry it too quickly so the leather goes hard. Maybe a re-wash with the correct non-ionic soap and a slow dry finished with a low heat dryer at the very end.

    Julie weir said:
    10/08/2017 at 10:06 pm

    Hi can you used a conditioner after washing to help with getting the Nots out

      gorgeouscreatures responded:
      15/08/2017 at 2:11 pm

      Hi Julie, ummm… I’m not sure. I have not tested this with human conditioner and I don’t know what would happen. I suspect that hair conditioners have all kinds of odd things in them and that this might not be good for the leather even if it helps the wool. I wouldn’t use it. You need to brush a sheepskin regularly so that it does not knot up – this would be the best advice I can give you.

      Debbie Hughes said:
      19/12/2017 at 10:03 pm

      Hi. I have horses and use a mane and tail detangling spray on them which gives a silky , slippery feel to their manes. I am looking to buy a sheepskin rug and will put a little of this on it to keep it from tangling and repel dirt.

        gorgeouscreatures responded:
        19/12/2017 at 11:00 pm

        Hi Debbie, that sounds like a silicon type spray. Don’t get it on the leather, I don’t know what will happen. I also don’t know what will happen when you want to wash your sheepskin. I assume that the spray washes out of horses manes/tails OK. But then when those chemicals get into the leather these chemicals might be harmful. Unless they are non-ionic I wouldn’t recommend using this spray in your sheepskin. Remember that a sheepskin is a tanned leather, not a living skin like a horse. Cheers Kirsty

    Carol said:
    26/07/2017 at 1:37 pm

    Hi Would the washing instructions be the same for a Mongolian fur?

      gorgeouscreatures responded:
      26/07/2017 at 5:19 pm

      Hi Carol, if you mean Mongolian Sheepskin wool (not fur) then yes I think this would be similar but don’t brush while it dries or after it is dry because you will fluff up the curls. I think that a gentle brush once washed to get the knits out and while still wet is OK then use your fingers to create the curls, then let dry naturally. Keep in mind that I have not done this myself so this is done at your own risk but please let us all know how you got on. Cheers Kirsty

    Artemis Hoods said:
    16/07/2017 at 5:16 pm

    Hi there thank for your post. It was helpful when I cleaned my sheepskin rug that had machine washable instructions on the back. Because my rug was so large, it is 3x as large as the one you have on your page! It took a very long time to wash it and I wanted to add that it was probably worth going to a laundromat to do this. I was scared to because I used Eucalon soap and it specifically says do no rinse and I don’t know how you can stop an industrial machine mid wash and make it spin at a laundromat. Overall though, I would also like to add that because my drain doesn’t have mesh net to catch hair and other debris, some of the hair went down my drain and clogged it! So beware for this incident if you have the same sort of drain I have. This was a time consuming process and took me a few hours to get my rug clean.

      gorgeouscreatures responded:
      16/07/2017 at 7:04 pm

      Hi Artemis, all your comments are really good and I have updated my blog to suggest that larger sheepskins are washed in a larger industrial laundromat as long as the machine has a wool wash cycle and a slow spin. Good point about the drain clogging, that didn’t happen to me but I can see how it easily could. Thanks for taking the time to write. Cheers Kirsty

    Mohammad said:
    11/06/2017 at 3:17 am


    Does this apply to a sheepskin that was only dry out using salt and left in the Sun; the old traditional way. It was never treated.
    The rug is very dirty, dusty, and smells bad. The store who sold it to me told me not to wash it. Please advise. Thanks.

      gorgeouscreatures responded:
      11/06/2017 at 5:09 pm

      Hi Mohammad, no you shouldn’t wash your sheepskin with this product because your sheepskin is not tanned it is only preserved. Tanning chemically changes the proteins and “cooks” them making them stable. Drying in the sun with salt is not a proper tanning technique and I’m not surprised it smells bad, it is most likely rotting as it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere and bacterial start to grow inside the fibres. What you have is more like a salted rawhide. So please don’t wash it with this product.

    Mohammad said:
    11/06/2017 at 3:16 am


    Does this apply to a sheepskin that was only dry out using salt and left in the Sun?
    The rug is very dirty, dusty, and smells bad. The store who sold it to me told me not to wash it. Please advise. Thanks.

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