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How do I wash a sheepskin rug?

I am catsitting, and the cat peed on my fairly large, long-haired sheepskin rug. The wool is real, not imitated.

I put it in the washing machine on the wool-program (30 degrees Celsius) with some wool detergent.

Thankfully, the smell of cat pee went away, but now that the rug is dry, the “skin side” of it is very stiff.

How can I make it soft again, and should I have washed it differently?

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  • Jut to clarify, did you put the actual sheep skin in the washing machine? The "wool" program is exactly for that - just the wool, not half the animal. Leather and water are incompatible 99% of the time. Detergents for fabric are even more incompatible with leather. Just saying.
    – virolino
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 7:28
  • Yes, I put the actual sheep skin in the machine. There was no way to separate the wool and the skin, and the only other alternative was to throw it away. Yes, I know I probably shouldn’t have put leather in water, but the whole thing was covered in cat pee…
    – Kat S
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 8:41
  • I feel like this question already covers that, so if you know, feel free to answer! :)
    – Kat S
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 15:44
  • No, it does not cover that. This question is about how to fix washed leather.
    – virolino
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 6:33
  • Then you should read the headline for the question again, which is «how do I wash and soften a sheepskin rug»..
    – Kat S
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 13:55

3 Answers 3

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I don't know how applicable to sheepskin this might be. I've used a mink oil paste on various natural skin-type materials, workshop aprons, boots, etc.

It has what I consider to be a pleasant odor akin to fresh leather, but it also does not wash out, as it waterproofs the surface. It causes stiff leather to become very supple.

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When I reconditioned leather products (shoes, jackets), I cleaned them with alcohol, eventually applied some paint, and at the end I restored their softness with paraffin oil.

In your case, you would apply the said paraffin oil on the back of the product, so you would not grease the hairs. After you let the oil do its job for some time, you remove as much as you can with some dry cloth. Anything that remains will be gradually transferred to objects around it - which you want to avoid.

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After a bit of research I got the advice to use a spray bottle and dampen the skin side of the rug, then stretch it while damp. I did this 2 times, with 30 minutes in between. After the second stretch, I rubbed the skin while still damp with a mild liquid hand soap. This worked wonders, and the rug ended up soft and clean :)

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  • Water and soap are usually the enemy of skin / leather products, if they are not properly protected. Please come back and tell us about the softness of the rug after a few weeks / months.
    – virolino
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 9:33

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