How to clean a sheepskin rug – 7 steps to refresh these luxurious floor coverings

Keep these fluffy floor coverings looking like new with these seven easy cleaning tricks

(Image credit: Loaf)

Sheepskin rugs are among the softest and most luxurious floor coverings we could choose for a home. However, the deep pile that gives them their signature fluffiness also makes them one of the worst dirt traps.

So how do you clean a sheepskin rug without having to brush it out by hand every other week? Much like cleaning a wool rug or cleaning a jute rug, it all comes down to picking the right products to make your life easier, experts suggest.

We talked to professional cleaners who shared their best tips for cleaning sheepskin rugs – both real and fake – to maintain their fluffiness and prolong their life in our homes.

How to clean a sheepskin rug

When choosing rugs, remember that sheepskin is not for the faint of heart – especially if you are picking a real sheepskin rather than faux. While there are ways to simplify the cleaning process, deep cleaning a sheepskin rug will take more time than a lower-pile alternative.

With that in mind, here is how to make the process as smooth as possible.

Living room space with tall floor to ceiling windows, painted gray-beige walls, white painted ceiling, modern rectangular fireplace design, sheepskin rug, brown leather lounge chair and two brown footstools, large square leather footstool, black hanging geometric mobile, gray sofa

(Image credit: Alice Lane Interior Design, photography by Nicole Gerulat)

1. Shake out loose debris

The best cleaning tip to make cleaning a sheepskin rug a little easier is to shake out the excess debris before you start vacuuming or cleaning, suggests Ramshad Nikbakht, rug care expert and co-owner of Southwest Rug Cleaning.

‘If you can, flip your sheepskin rug upside down and give it a good shake,’ he recommends. ‘This helps shake loose dirt, dust and grime stuck in the root foundation of the rug.’

Depending on the size of your rug, you might need two people to make this easier and prevent the risk of damaging the rug.

2. Vacuum the surface twice

After shaking, you can start vacuuming to pick up any remaining bits that may be stuck deep in the fibers. It helps to have the best vacuum for suction for this.

Ramshad Nikbakht, rug care expert recommends vacuuming the surface of the rug twice, working in a cross-hatch pattern to vacuum every inch: ‘Vacuum the rug both ways, north to south and east to west, to ensure a thorough vacuum. Make sure not to use the beater bar setting on your vacuum; this will pull the fibers of the sheepskin rug, instead use the barefoot/hard surface setting,’ he suggests.

3. Spot clean stains

Whenever you can avoid getting the whole of your sheepskin rug wet, you should, suggests Daniel Brown, cleaning expert and CEO of Handy Cleaners. This might mean spot cleaning for stain removal rather than deep cleaning, he says.

‘To spot clean with small spots or spills, use a mild detergent mixed into water, then blot the stain gently with a clean cloth, sponge or towel. Be careful not to rub too harshly.’

4. Hand wash occasionally

If the rug is heavily soiled, then a thorough deep clean is still recommended, Daniel Brown, cleaning expert, continues:

‘Mix a bit of mild detergent or sheepskin shampoo with lukewarm water in the bathtub or a large basin. Put the rug in water and lightly run your hands over it; this will help loosen any dirt and grime.’ Try to keep the rug flat, much like hand-washing wool, to avoid the rug misshaping.

‘Drain the soapy water, and then refill the tub with clean water. Continue to rinse, slowly squeezing out excess water throughout the process.’

5. Always air dry flat

We strongly recommend air-drying laundry generally, but it is a must for sheepskin rugs, warns Josh Miller, cleaning expert and owner of Clean Carpets:

‘Drying a sheepskin rug is another sensitive process. Always put the rug on a flat surface over a clean towel in a well-ventilated area. Never leave it under direct sunlight or near heat sources, like a radiator or a dryer.

‘While it is still damp, it is good to carefully shape it to its original form. If you need to restore the softness and fluffiness of the wool, brush the rug with a sheepskin brush once dry.’

6. Avoid harsh cleaners

Sheepskin is a very delicate material, which means any cleaning tricks that are overly aggressive should be avoided at all costs, lest you damage the fibers for good, warns Daniel Brown, cleaning expert. This means never using harsh detergents or bleach, hot water, never putting sheepskin rugs in the washing machine or tumble dryer, and avoiding excessively rubbing or agitating to fibers to prevent matting, he says.

7. Moisturize the base of real rugs

If your sheepskin rug is authentic, then the base of the rug will need careful attention too, reminds Josh Miller, cleaning expert. To prevent it drying out, you will need to ‘occasionally moisturize the leather beneath to protect and preserve it, he explains.

‘It is best kept intact with the use of a leather conditioner. You should apply it in small quantities over the entire surface and rub it in, allowing it to completely soak in before using the rug.’


How do you fluff a sheepskin rug after washing it?

After washing a sheepskin rug, you can use a wool brush to help lift up the fibers and make it fluffy again. Wait until the rug has fully dried before brushing to prevent damage, and work in one direction in short, repetitive motions.

How do you restore matted sheepskin?

If your sheepskin rug has matted, start by dampening the area with a mixture of water and wool conditioner to loosen the fibers, using your fingers to work it into the matt. Then, use a wool comb or brush to gently brush out the knotted section, working gently in one direction.

Deep cleaning a sheepskin rug is best done rarely, only washing it if it begins to smell, or is heavily soiled. In between washes, cleaning expert Daniel Brown suggests ‘rotating the rug on a regular basis to make sure that it wears evenly, brushing out the fibers every now and then to refrain from tangling, and avoiding exposing it to direct sunlight or close to any heat sources’ to help prolong its lifespan.

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.