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How to Machine-wash Sheepskins

Looking after your sheepskin is actually really simple, but you'd be surprised how many people don't do it right and then blame the sheepskin when it goes wrong. Wool is an amazing natural fibre  and actually - surprisingly - needs much less care than a lot of other fabrics. It shirks dirt and odours and often a good shake or a brush or comb will avoid the need of washing where another fibre is filthy and smelly; but occasionally you will want to wash your sheepskin.

Basically all you need to do is love it and follow these simple rules: -

Use "wool safe" detergent (most people won't), avoid fabric conditioners (most people won't), keep it cool (most people won't) and be gentle, yes, be gentle! (And yes, most people won't)

Full details and tips on how to avoid ruining your sheepskin when washing it follow, and by washing your Wool Company sheepskin according to these instructions you will ensure it has a long and useful life. Please note however that not all sheepskins are the same!  The quality of the tanning will affect the lifetime length, softness and suppleness of your sheepskin. All our sheepskins are tanned to a very high standard. This allows them to be carefully machine-washed (unless stated) and to remain soft and supple for years. However, most sheepskins on the market are not tanned to the same standard and are therefore unlikely to be washable in the same way so these instructions are only relevant for our own products. 
 
How to machine wash a Sheepskin from the Wool Company: -

Detergent - very important
  • For a great result use one of the detergents we offer. They are specially made for sheepskin and we have tested them all ourselves.  We know they work.
  • If you don’t use one of our detergents, you must ALWAYS ensure the detergent you use is “Wool Approved”, or has a WoolMark™ logo on the package. 
  • Normal detergents, even "non-bio" and other detergents for delicates will damage wool unless they specifically say that they are safe for wool. (Wool is a protein based fibre like skin. "Eco-friendly”, "non-bio” and “delicates” detergents virtually all contain bleach. Even small quantities of bleach destroys wool and skin.)  Your choice of detergent is critical!
  • NEVER use brighteners, anti-odour or perfume powders, pellets, whiteners, fabric conditioners, softeners or any other wash additives (except natural Lanolin) unless they claim to be “Wool Approved” or wool safe (which they won't).
  • Using the wrong laundry product, even once, can permanently ruin your sheepskin!
Wash Cycle
  • Only use “Wool” or “Hand Wash” cycles.  (“Delicates” cycle is not gentle enough).
  • Wash at 30ºC (86ºF) or less.
  • If in doubt, give your sheepskin an extra rinse cycle (remember no additives!)
  • Spin only at 400 RPM or less.
  • For a great result you can add some lanolin to the final rinse. This is a natural skin and wool conditioner, aids combing and helps keep the skin supple.
  • Remove from the machine immediately after cycle is complete and dry as below.
Drying your Sheepskin 
  • You can start the drying in a good quality modern tumble-drier using the “Smoothing” cycle or “Wool” cycle, using NO heat or VERY LOW heat.
  • Check it regularly to prevent it from over-drying and becoming stiff and cardboard-like.
  • Remove the sheepskin from the drier when still "more damp than dry", while the skin is still soft and flexible but not really dripping.
  • While sheepskin is still damp, comb through (using The Wool Company Sheepskin Brush of course)
  • It’s normal for some wool to come out during combing.
  • You can put it back into the drier but keep checking and remove while still damp.
  • Gently pull your sheepskin into shape and 
  • Allow it to finish drying naturally: dry flat in a cool airy place, preferably in moving air. 
  • Dry away from direct (strong) sunlight, direct heat and dehumidifiers (using a dehumidifer carefully can be brilliant but be careful not to over-dry your sheespskin)
  • Ensure it is completely dry before using your sheepskin and comb again for gorgeous loft then lay out and enjoy...

The following is likely to make even the best quality sheepskin "cardboard-like” and/or reduce its lifetime length, suppleness, luxuriousness, softness and value: -
  1. Using the wrong detergent - very few detergents actually say they are not safe for wool but most detergents will nevertheless ruin your sheepskin so look for the large print "Wool Safe" or "Wool Approved" and ensure your laundry product actually says it is safe to use with wool. It it doesn't it isn't;
  2. Using any fabric conditioner or softener or other wash additive: "softeners" will do the reverse and make the skin cardboard-like and almost certainly ruin it;
  3. Using too much soap (even "wool approved” detergents) - too much will make the skin hard and cardboard-like. Use less soap - it will still clean your sheeskin!  Further warm (30ºC, 86ºF) and cold rinsing will help; and adding lanolin can often restore it - if you have not used the wrong laundry product);
  4. Washing or drying too fast or too hot, using direct heat, tumble-driers, dehumidifiers, sunlight etc;
  5. Buying a sheepskin that is not tanned to the standards specified by The Wool Company. These may initially look and feel lovely, but may be quite different after washing. Most sheepskins are not tanned to "machine-washable" standard (although many claim they are).

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