How to Clean Cowhide Rugs - the right way!

Posted by Kirsten Oviedo on

Cowhide rugs have a great reputation for being low maintenance and incredibly easy to clean. Here I'll give you the full run-down on everything you need to keep your cowhide in pristine condition.

How to sweep your cowhide 

For day to day cowhide maintenance, a good old-fashioned sweep with a broom works great. This is especially satisfying on longer-haired hides where you can see the dirt lift out and the hair lay uniform. You can also use a small handheld vacuum on the hides to remove dirt and dust. If you would like to clean underneath the hide, you can also take it outdoors and vigorously shake to remove any deep settled particles.
I am often asked if you can use a full size vacuum on the hides. Normally, the level of suction is too strong and you end up sucking up the rug and you run the risk of it wrapping around the rotating brush element in your vacuum. However, if you have a very large, heavy hide and there is a way to turn off the rotating brush feature on your vacuum, feel free to try.

How to clean spill on cowhide rugs

The great thing about cowhides is that they naturally repel liquids which gives you time to make a mad dash to the kitchen for a paper towel before the spill really soaks in. Normally, towel drying is sufficient for most innocent spills as long as they have not completely soaked the leather backing.
If your spill is a bit more saturating, you will want to make sure that the hide gets completely dry before laying it back down on the floor. Normally, I recommend towel drying and then laying it over a gate, fence or railing to dry completely on both sides before placing on the floor. Leaving a humid hide flat to the floor can result in a rotten smell as well as wrinkling or curling of the hide. This is why it's important that hides be used in living spaces with low humidity.

How to clean pet stains on cowhide rugs

The most common question I get about cowhide maintenance is what to do if a pet does their business....right on the new rug! Don't put Fluffy up for adoption yet, we've got a plan!
I advise pet owners to have a spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and water on hand. Whenever there's a mess, use a paper towel to dry the area then spray down with the vinegar water. Be sure to use enough to soak the hair and saturate the leather backing of the hide to ensure that there won't be any lingering odors. Be sure to treat both sides of the hide if affected. Dry the hide in a well ventilated area where it can dry from both sides. Make sure it is completely dry before placing back on the floor to prevent curling.

What will stain my new rug permanently?

The general rule is this - what could happen to your hair color could happen to your rug. Essentially, if it isn't a strong enough staining agent to dye your hair, it wont stain your rug either. The potency and the length of time that the staining agent is applied will factor in. It's not impossible to stain them, but its pretty hard to do with your run of the mill household items. Obviously, the darker the hide, the more difficult it would be for a stain to show.
We have had champagne colored hides in our house all through my kids toddler years and no amount of grape juice, Kool-Aid or ground in fruit snacks has yet to stain my rugs, so never fear!

How to clean an entire cowhide

So lets just say your rug graces a busy entry and with time it all just needs a good scrubbin' all around. Take your rug outside and vigorously shake to remove all of the dirt/dust particles that may have taken up residence there. Then, using a handy dandy spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and water, spray the hide down in sections beginning along the midline and working your way toward the ends. Soak the hair completely, then dab dry with a towel as many times as needed to work out any grime. Let the hide dry completely in a ventilated area.
I have had customers come back and say that they have stuck their hide in the washer or hung it over a fence and power-washed it with success, but these are not tried and true methods. Just keep in mind that drying your hide thoroughly, in a position where it will not dry curled, wrinkled or stretched is the most important part of the process and can be delicate since it is a natural material.

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