There's perhaps no better place in the world to be than Australia if you want to pick up a premium quality sheepskin rug, and these traditional rugs can add a luxurious, rustic air to any room. However, the distinctively soft and fluffy shag of a sheepskin rug can quickly become stained and matted without regular maintenance, turning a golden fleece into a greying eyesore. In addition, the soft leather backing of a sheepskin rug is delicate and easily damaged by many conventional rug cleaning methods. Luckily, there are a range of ways you can keep your sheepskin rug looking like new for years to come.
Keep it clean
We all want to keep our white sheepskins white, but even the most protected rug can pick up general household dirt and grime and stain the wool. This is an even bigger problem if you have pets (or unruly children) who walk and sit on your sheepskin. As such your sheepskin will require periodic cleaning to remove dirt deposits and prevent permanent staining.
If you choose to wash your sheepskin yourself, you should ideally use a rug shampoo specially formulated for sheepskin rugs. These are available from most sheepskin rug suppliers and carpet cleaning companies, and are delicate enough not to cause matting of the wool or damage to the leather. If you are unable to obtain a sheepskin shampoo, use the mildest wool washing solution you can find, but make sure it does not contain any cleaning enzymes or bleach which can severely damage the leather. Hand wash your rug in cold or lukewarm water to prevent damage and shrinkage, and allow the rug to dry naturally, making sure to stretch it slightly to prevent the leather shrinking as it dries.
Alternatively, it is much quicker and easier to have your sheepskin professionally cleaned. Most professional carpet cleaning companies offer specialised sheepskin cleaning services, and can quickly have your rug looking as white as new without you even having to leave your home.
You may have noticed that the sheep you see on farms aren't exactly whiter than white, and the natural colour of wool is generally closer to yellow and grey. Even in rug form, a sheepskin will yellow with time as it reverts to its natural colouration, and this process is exacerbated by age and exposure to natural sunlight. Sheepskins can also become yellowed through accidental bleaching or highly humid conditions.
If your sheepskin rug has a yellow patch suitable for spot cleaning, you can try and remove the stain yourself using a weak solution of hydrogen peroxide and water. By applying sparingly over the stain and rubbing in a gentle, circular motion, you can significantly whiten a stained patch -- however, if your peroxide solution is too strong it can damage both the wool and leather beneath. White vinegar is a milder alternative, but the smell can be difficult to remove from your rug afterwards.
If your rug has yellowed as a natural consequence of age and/or sunlight exposure, having the rug professionally cleaned in special wool whitening solutions can reverse some of the staining. However, this kind of yellowing is rarely fully irreversible, so it is better to prevent yellowing for as long as possible. The best way to do this is by keeping the room your rug is in airy and well ventilated, and by keeping your rug out of direct sunlight shining through windows and doors. You should also keep your rug away from high humidity areas such as under air conditioning ducts, and when not in use a sheepskin should be stored in cool, dark, well ventilated cupboard or chest.