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How to Clean a Cowhide Rug

Ever wondered how to clean your cowhide rug? We make it easy with these cowhide cleaning tips and instructions.

Include your cowhide rug or cowhide ottoman in your normal weekly cleaning routine; simply vacuum with the vacuum head brush down (for hard floors) and if possible the vacuum suction reduced to the rug setting.

Or give your cowhide rug a shake outside to remove dust and small dry particles of dirt. Brushing with a hard plastic bristle brush or broom helps to keep the hair soft and fluffy and to remove dirt, sand, and larger dirt particles trapped in and under the hair.

Gorgeous Creatures cowhide cleaner

 It's going to happen eventually. Someone will spill something on your cowhide rug. Here is what you need to know to rescue your cowhide.

For common spills or accidents like red wine, coffee, tea, juice, food, soup, urine, faeces, and vomit - soak up or wipe up spills with a paper towel or sponge as soon as possible. Remove any solid matter with the blunt edge of the knife by scraping gently in the direction of the hair. Try not to push nasty solid accidents deeper into the leather.

Lightly spray your cowhide rug with the Gorgeous Creatures cowhide cleaner treating a small area at a time; complete one section before starting the next. The Gorgeous Creatures cowhide cleaner is antibacterial so any nasty spills will be neutralized. It is also non-ionic and pH neutral so is safe to use on the leather.

Here is a good description of the differences between detergents and what non-ionic means at a technical level.

What happens next? Wipe the cowhide vigorously in all directions with a damp (but not dripping wet) clean cloth to spread the cowhide cleaner over the hide and into the hair.

Do not soak the hide or get it too wet (unless this is a last resort for extreme cleaning situations like a muddy flood). Rinse the cloth in fresh water and wipe again to remove any residual cleaning solution until clean. Repeat if necessary.

And finally... Wipe the whole hide with a clean dry towel to remove as much moisture as possible. Brush the hair in its natural direction so that it dries smoothly. Dry the cowhide flat and very slowly away from direct heat and sun. A dehumidifier in the room can help to pull moisture out of the leather slowly.

DO NOT wash cowhide in a washing machine, hose down (other than as an extreme last resort), or dry clean a cowhide rug. If you dry-clean a cowhide the solvents will melt any glue that secures repairs and patches. You will probably not be aware of patches and repairs until they fall off.

Our cowhide cleaner is not a stain remover which is why it is so important to treat spills and stains immediately.

Cowhide cleaning video


Seeing is believing - this demonstration shows the Gorgeous Creatures cowhide cleaner in action with common household spills including red wine, butter, oil, jam, tomato sauce, food, cat food, and urine on real cowhide.

How to extend your cowhide's lifespan

These tips will help to extend the life of your cowhide rug. Rotate your cowhide rug, or move it to a different location in your home from time to time, so that the rug wears evenly.

On a sunny day, you can put your cowhide outside with the underside facing the sun for about 1 hour (no more) to air out, freshen, and remove moisture.

This is different from our advice about NOT putting cowhide in the sun to dry (when wet from washing). The difference is that the hide is already dry, so this cannot make the leather fibres constrict.

Every three to six months a light surface clean with our Gorgeous Creatures Cowhide Cleaner will keep your cowhide rug looking like new and restore shine to your rug. It doesn't take long and it's an important step to remove microscopic dirt that can damage a hide long-term. The dirt acts as an abrasive sandpaper grinding and damaging the hair.

Spot cleaning a cowhide rug

The Gorgeous Creatures cowhide cleaner is perfect as a spot cleaner when something small spills. Whether it's muddy dog paws or a cup of coffee, a glass of red wine, or some spaghetti bolognese sauce, it can all be cleaned quickly & easily with the cowhide cleaner. Simply spray a small amount of the cowhide cleaner on the spot, then rub off with a damp sponge. Rinse sponge out and wipe a few more times as needed to remove the cleaner.

We recommend that white, cream, beige or other light-coloured cowhides be sprayed with a light coating of colourless waterproof spray when they are new.

Extreme Cowhide Cleaning - When you can wash a cowhide

Normally we would warn people about NOT getting a cowhide rug really wet (in general it is NOT a good idea to get a cowhide soaking wet). But there can be situations where a cowhide rug is already ruined and no matter what you do it cannot be saved. 

As a last resort completely soaking a cowhide rug with a full immersion clean in a special leather-safe non-ionic wash is the only hope of rescue and sanitation.

Our Gorgeous Creatures Sheepskin Woolskin (leather) Wash is safe to use for this purpose and is non-ionic.

This should only be done if the rug can not be used in its current filthy & smelly state, and would otherwise be thrown away.

Read our two blogs with examples of real-life cowhide cleaning situations.

Cleaning a Very Dirty White Cowhide Rug

Cleaning Dog or Cat Pee Smells Off a Cowhide Rug

Two real-life customer examples of cowhide emergencies:-

"Help! I have a cowhide rug and a large container of cooking oil from a deep fryer was completely spilled on it! It is everywhere on the rug and I don't have a clue how to get it out. Can you help?? It smells like oil too. I tried as best I could to get out the oil but it is still on the rug."

"I was given 2 beautiful cowhide rugs that were left wadded up in a house that was full of cats. There's a few spots that are definitely pee and there's mouse poop all over. The worst of it is the house smelled horrible, and the rugs do too."

In these two real examples, the only option to rescue these cowhide rugs is to attempt a full immersion soak in the Gorgeous Creatures Sheepskin Woolskin (leather) Wash (which has very similar ingredients to our Cowhide Cleaner).

This is done at your own risk - we can not promise that your cowhide rug can be rescued, but what other option do you have? It is worth a try right?

Gorgeous Creatures Woolskin Wash and Cowhide Cleaner

Another example would be if a cowhide rug was caught in a flood and was already soaking wet and dirty. Rugs should always be sanitized after a flood because sewage and other nasty bacteria or smelly things can often be mixed with the flood water.

The main difference is that the sheepskin wash is a concentrate that is diluted before use for a proper full immersion wash, and the cowhide cleaner is already pre-mixed and is used as a surface spray.

They also have some minor ingredient changes and proportions as well.

Saturate and soak the hide for a few hours with the special Gorgeous Creatures Woolskin Wash antibacterial cleaner to kill the bacteria & remove the urine & poo that has soaked into the leather fibres.

This will also cut through oils but will take several washes and water changes to remove oil properly.

The cowhide rug will need to be washed in a bath or other large tank. The rug will be very heavy when wet, so probably a 2 person lift. And the cowhide rug will need at least 2-3 fresh water rinses until the water runs mostly clear.

We won’t lie, this will be a big job but if it means that your cowhide rug can be used in your home again then it’s probably worth a try. Cowhide rugs are valuable so they are worth rescuing.

Squeeze out as much water from the leather as possible while the rug drains into the bath. Lay the hide flat over towels and pull it into shape. Wipe the whole hide with a clean dry towel to remove as much water as possible. 

Dry the cowhide flat and slowly in shade away from direct heat & sun.

We can not promise that the rug will lie perfectly flat after it has been washed. Each situation is different and each cowhide rug is different.

Visit Gorgeous Creatures while in the Hawkes Bay
8 Otatara Rd, Taradale, Napier 4112 (by appointment please call or text first)
Kirsty Mason Ph 027 222 6230 
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