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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is how my sheepskin rug looked once dry. Clean and fluffy and like brand new again.
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. Please visit our Gorgeous Creatures website to see our sheepskins products.
This blog is just my own personal ramblings. This is NOT directed at the small percentage of the world’s population who are vegan, or vegetarian, or political animal rights activists. It is directed at the majority of people who do eat meat, wear leather accessories, and perhaps own a leather lounge suite, or have leather car seats and use all other various uses for leather in our daily lives. But before we start I just want to say that I believe each person has the right to their own beliefs and opinions, just as I have the right to air my opinion. And that this blog is moderated.
I grew up on a sheep & cattle station in the back blocks of Tologa Bay near Gisborne in New Zealand. I am probably more aware of where my dinner comes from than most people and the majority of people don’t want to be reminded where their steak, sausages, drum sticks, eggs or bacon comes from and that is okay. I don’t want to be reminded either, and I am genuinely an animal lover. However I am philosophical and don’t have a problem with leather, I wear leather shoes; I have leather belts, handbags and wallets. I know for a fact that very little is ever wasted, and that leather is simply a by-product of food production.
The inspiration for this whole blog article has come from the occasional Facebook post on my Gorgeous Creatures NZ Facebook page www.facebook.com/Gorgeous.Creatures.NZ or the odd comment by people who come into the Gorgeous Creatures showroom to the effect that, they don’t know how they feel about a cowhide rug with hair-on, or that fur is bad, or even that leather is bad.
To quickly set the scene, Gorgeous Creatures is an interior décor and gift shop that specialises in leather interior décor such as cowhide rugs, sheepskin rugs, calf skins, cowhide ottomans and NZ possum fur throws. We also have a range of NZ made possum merino knitwear. www.gorgeouscreatures.co.nz and we do have some vegetarian customers.
Overall the feedback is fantastic, but one Facebook commenter made it clear that she didn’t like us using what she referred to as “dead animals” on our furniture. Stating that “faux fur is just as beautiful!!!!” But when we looked at her personal Facebook profile she was wearing a faux fur jacket (we assume it was faux), but her partner in the photo was wearing a leather jacket. And to top it all off her Facebook banner image was the logo of Louis Vuitton, one of the world’s most famous LEATHER designers. So we also assume that she must have a lovely leather shoe & handbag collection. So isn’t insincere to make a comment like that when she uses leather and loves Louis Vuitton?
Most people forget that the leather we use every day comes from animals. And sheepskin rugs, cowhide or calf skins rugs are just leather without the hair removed. So the leather shoes on your feet and that leather handbag over your shoulder is only one tanning step away from being hairy. And when I point this out to customers in the shop by saying “it really is no different from your leather shoes or handbag”, it seems like it has never really occurred to them before now and they see our products in a whole new more positive light.
So each person to their own choices and beliefs about leather or hair-on hide. I just wanted to make a few observations. This is a moderated blog and I’m not interested in getting into a debate about the rights or wrongs of animal rights. That is a whole different conversation.