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How to Clean Sheepskin

Filed Under: Essential Skills, Know-How

Sheepskin rugs and upholstery are beautiful, but they're also dirt magnets. Here's how to keep this popular animal hide (yep, your UGGs too!) looking as clean and plush as ever.

If you've got a rug like the one pictured above or or a warm pair of UGG boots, then you're familiar with the luxurious material known as sheepskin. Sheepskin is produced when a sheep's hide is tanned, with the fleece intact, to create a pelt. You can find this hypoallergenic material incorporated into both fashion and home goods -- from sheepskin footwear and coats to sheepskin rugs, blankets and seat covers.

If you own sheepskin, you also know how easily it can lose its clean, plush look when the material is dirty or worn. But you might be hesitant to clean sheepskin yourself for fear of causing further stains, rips, tears or oily spots. That's why asked two experts to weigh in on ways to safely and effectively clean sheepskin.

First we talked to Leslie Reichert, a cleaning expert in suburban Boston and author "The Joy of Green Cleaning." With an eye toward non-invasive, chemical-free solutions, Reichert offers these tips for cleaning sheepskin products:

Don't machine wash: Resist the urge to dump an entire sheepskin product into your washing machine. The heavy handling during the cycle could damage it forever. Stick to handwashing sheepskin instead. "The more control you have over it with your hand, the better," says Reichart.

Use the right detergent: Fill a spray bottle with clean, cold water and your favorite vegetable-based cleaner, using the one-to-one formula for proper dilution. "You don't want to use anything with bleach in it, or that has an enzyme," says Reichert. This includes wool-specific cleaners like Woolite. Liquid castile soap (this writer recommends Dr. Bronners) is good too, Reichart says, because it's chemical-free and biodegradable. Another product Reichart recommends is Soapflakes. The product, manufactured in England, is difficult to find here in the states, although it is sold through Reichert's online-shopping portal. " In the 1970s they stopped making [Soapflakes] because detergents became really big. But it's great because it's really gentle and it's a hundred-year-old formula," says Reichert.

Spot clean: "For spot cleaning, just a damp sponge is fine," says Reichert. "[Mixed with] a little bit of your cleaning product" (see above). If your sheepskin product has grease stains, a touch of cornstarch (without water) can easily remove them.

Ward off odor: Like any product, sheepskin can develop an odor over time. To get it smelling fresh again, Reichert relies on an easy-to-make formula that's a tablespoon of baking soda mixed with a couple drops of essential oil (lemongrass, if you have it).

How Do You Clean UGG Boots?
So what about your UGGs? Recently, we caught a segment on the Today show in which "The Accidental Housewife" Julie Edelman demonstrated how to clean the popular sheepskin boots. She recommended using a nail file to buff out a stain or blotting the stain with milk, then stuffing newspaper inside to absorb any moisture in the wool lining.

For the record, we talked to Lindsay DiCola, who represents UGG Australia, manufacturers of the ubiquitous sheepskin-lined boots. Lindsay informed us that UGG has its own line of cleaning products that includes sheepskin refresher; sheepskin repellent; cleaner and conditioner; a special brush; and a scruff eraser. She recommends that you invest in the UGG cleaning kit, which contains all of these items ($20).

For periodic maintenance, DiCola recommends UGG Australia sheepskin cleaner and conditioner, which is designed to safely moisten the footwear when you dilute with an equal amount of water. Apply the mixture with a slightly damp sponge and scrub without using a lot of force. (You want to be gentle with these boots.) Next, rinse the boots under a thin stream of cold water, dry in a cool place and lightly brush in one direction -- but only when the sheepskin is dry. Whatever you do, don't stick your UGG boots in the washer or drop them off at the dry cleaner; you risk ruining the sheepskin for good.

Got any tips for cleaning sheepskin? Any sheepskin-related problems you'd like us to solve? Let us know in the comments below!

  • vic sinai

    Nice informative article. I would make 1 suggestion about lemon oil or anything like that. Oil is oily obviously and will dry to a sticky residue. The more you use the more dirt will be attracted. I would be very cautious about using oil on anything that cannot be rinsed out. Even in the smallest quantities oil is oil and attracts dirt. Look for deodorizers formulated to dry and completely evaporate. They exist in the carpet and upholstery cleaning world, but the odor doesn't last as long as an oily substance that virtually never evaporates. If you ask me, skip the deodorizing. If cleaned properly anything causing the odor should be cleaned off, thus eliminating the odor. Also many people are allergic to scents of many kinds. Please see my website

  • Sharon

    I actually found a really affordable Ugg Boot Cleaner for $7.90, or a kit for cleaning them for $24.94. That is not a bad price at all for the proper stuff to clean your $100+ boots. Here is a link to get them: HtTp://bit.Ly/gRVSO0

  • maxiesmom067

    Seemingly all of the dry cleaners in my area now offer cleaning for UGG boots. The one I used guaranteed they wouldn't ruin my 4 year old, well-worn, much-loved boots. They did a beautiful job at a reasonable price and even sprayed a repellent on them that they say will keep them cleaner longer.

  • mark

    I bought a pair of the old fashioned galoshes-the black kind with the metal buckles for about 15.00about 20 years ago . They are finally ready for the trash and I havn't had to clean them once in all those years. Yea they don't make much of a fashion statement but when it's 0 degrees and you have to walk in foot deep snow who really cares. My wife and daughter have spent hundreds on these boots and they look like crap after a day in the slush. so much for progress.

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