A white fur rug may seem like the perfect addition to your living room decor until dirt happens. Spilled foods, sticky substances and everyday wear and tear can make that once-beautiful rug look like dogs slept on it after a romp in the rain. The best way to clean that rug depends on the type of housekeeping problem at hand.
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Basic Keep-it-Clean Care
Real fur has many self-cleaning properties that help it repel dirt and stains, but that doesn't mean it's completely dirt proof. Icelandic sheepskin rugs that feature long, furry fibers contain lanolin, a substance that helps repel all kinds of dirt and debris. To keep sheepskin or just about any other white fur rug looking its best, shake it out outdoors from time to time. Any embedded dirt should fall right out.
Fluff the fur with a metal-bristled brush such as a dog-grooming tool or a sheepskin brush. This brings the fur back to its original nonmatted state and also helps remove tangles and stuck-on debris. If the fur is of the short-hair variety, such as a cowhide rug, a brush with hard plastic bristles works well. Brush any fur rug every few weeks or more often as needed to keep it in beautiful shape.
Homemade Sheepskin Detergent
The lanolin in sheepskin or the natural oils in other types of fur could be stripped away if regular household detergents are used to clean the rug. Instead, spot clean the rug by spritzing the affected area with water and then sprinkling cornstarch over the water. Work the cornstarch into the spot with your fingers and then let the rug dry. Brush the cornstarch away afterward, and the substance that clung to the sheepskin will brush away as well.
This cornstarch cleaning method can be used on the entire sheepskin from time to time as well to refresh its natural beauty. Use only lukewarm water and only as much water as necessary to wet the fibers and not soak the skin underneath.
Cleaning Stains and Stubborn Spots
The faster you act when a spill or accident happens on a fur rug, the better. Immediately blot up any liquids with paper towels without rubbing the spill. For solid matter, lift it straight off (wearing rubber gloves if necessary). Scoop matter such as spaghetti up from the outside of the spill area toward the center. A plastic spoon comes in handy for this. That same plastic spoon also helps remove food and other debris that has hardened in place.
Apply a nonionic, nonalkaline cleaner designated as safe for fur and leather to ensure the underside of the rug isn't damaged in the process. Follow the directions on the bottle for spot cleaning, which may involve blotting the spot with water afterward.
A Complete Rug Wash
If you feel it's time to wash the entire rug, proceed with caution. A rug that's old and losing bits of fur should never be washed in a machine or by hand, as it will likely break down even more. If your rug came with care instructions, or if you remember from where it came, wash it according to instructions included with the rug or on the company's website.
If you can't find specific information on cleaning the rug, first shake it out and brush it to help detangle the fur and remove loose dirt. Fill a tub with enough lukewarm water to soak the rug, adding a small amount of fur and leather soap solution as indicated by the instructions on the bottle. Gently swish the rug around in the water with your hands. Do not rub the rug or it could cause the fibers to felt if the rug is wool/sheepskin.
After a few minutes, empty the water and fill the tub with fresh water, swishing the rug around again to release remaining soap. Repeat as needed to remove all the soapy residue and then roll the rug up and squeeze out remaining water. If the rug feels heavy with water, put it in the washing machine on final spin cycle to spin out the rest of the water.
Drying the Washed Rug
Dry the rug out of direct sunlight atop white towels on a flat surface such as a table or workbench. Allow the rug to dry naturally, away from space heaters and other heat sources that could damage the rug. While the rug is still slightly damp, brush it with a wire-bristled fur or wool brush. Brush it again after it's completely dry.
Cleaning Faux Fur
The best way to clean a faux-fur rug begins with checking the care tag, as the materials may vary from one rug to the next. Everyday care is similar to dealing with real wool rugs: shake out the faux fur outdoors to remove debris and then brush it using a soft-bristled brush instead of the metal-bristled variety. Blot up liquids as you would with real fur.
Wash the rug according to care instructions, if available. Otherwise, wash it the same way you would a real fur rug. A detergent that works on delicates is also a safe option for faux fur since the fibers have no natural oils that may be harmed by washing. Roll the rug up over a tub or sink to catch excess water after rinsing the rug and then hang it on a clothesline or lie it flat atop white towels to air dry.
Do not dry a faux-fur rug in the dryer, as it may shrink. Keep it away from space heaters and similar heat sources as well because the fibers may be flammable.