The Day I washed my Mongolian Lambskin throw.




You are looking at a filth monster.





A furry, mass of guck.  There’s fireplace guck, cat guck, and general guck.  And those are just the ones I could identify.

I’ve had this Mongolian lamb throw covering a chair since 2010.  You may remember it from this photo from my post on how to make that little stump end table.




It normally sits right beside my fireplace.  And from October to March it is the home of Cleo the cat.  She burrows herself into it so deep I sometimes have to check to make sure she  hasn’t suffocated herself.  Death by coziness.  You can see how bright and clean looking the throw was 5 years ago.  Those were the olden days.  Now the throw looks like this …




You can see the middle of the fur is still clean and white, but the outer part has the dingy grey colour normally reserved for meth teeth in a mug shot.

So I decided the only thing I could do was throw it in the washing machine.  Well, I mean that wasn’t the only thing I could do, I could also have brought it to a furrier or dry cleaner to have it professionally cleaned but what kind of role model would I be if I did things the way you’re supposed to do them?  The world wasn’t changed by people who followed the rules.

So I threw it in the washing machine, my throw fell apart, I didn’t change the world and I’m thinking of taking up meth.




To be fair, the throw didn’t fall apart the first time I threw it in the washing machine.  It fell apart the second time.

The first time I washed it in warm water, on gentle cycle, with phosphate free laundry detergent it came out fine, it just didn’t come out clean.  So I put it in the washing machine again with more detergent.  And THAT’S when it fell apart.  And THAT’S when I realized I didn’t actually have the washing machine on gentle, I had it on regular, heavy duty, rip this shit apart cycle.




Really it just developed two large holes on either side.  I considered wearing it as a coat and becoming a sherpa but it’s common knowledge that sherpas don’t watch Downton Abbey, and I wasn’t about to give that up.




So I assessed the damage and started sewing.  The throw is actually made up of a TON of tiny pieces of sheepskin sewn together and two of them just came apart.  Half an hour of  invisible stitching later, it was back together.




You can see how much cleaner it is after the 2 washings.  Even if it did fall apart and almost drive me to become a meth addicted sherpa, it was worth it.

I’m fairly certain it would have been fine if I actually had used the gentle cycle, and if I’d just used enough detergent to begin with.




So believe it or not I’d still recommend washing anything like this at home.  I wouldn’t do anything bigger than this throw, but pillow covers, baby mats or the Ikea sheepskin rugs are fine.  Here are some basic rules to adhere to when washing any type of lambskin.

[print_this] Rules for Washing Mongolian (or other) Sheepskin

1. Do not wash anything larger than a small throw in home washing machine.

2.  Only use phosphate free detergents like this Free & Clear one by Method.

3.  Only wash in cold or warm (40C) water.  NOT hot.

4.  Do not put lambskin in the dryer.

5.  Lay flat to dry so you don’t stretch out the skin.

6.  Fluff the hair back up by rubbing your fingers through it. You can also carefully brush it.


 Now get out there and change the world.  One broken rule at a time.

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  1. Ann Costello says:

    Omg 😆 this story had me lmao! I have a white sheepskin pillow that looks like your rug (the grey meth stained teeth). Well I also decided to throw mine in the washer, but first I soaked it in hot water with bleach. After about 30 mins I checked it & it was still dirty & starting to yellow. So I hand washed it in the sink with some cheap shampoo (can’t use my good stuff). It did not want to come clean but I got it looking some what better. I threw it back in the water with bleach & machine washed on gentle. I think it looks clean. I actually found this post because I was googling how to dry it. Probably should’ve googled how to wash it lol. Anyway thanks for the laughs & the advice. Next time I’ll wash warm, no bleach, & with the right soap.

  2. Cherrie Ward says:

    So…I have a query to see how brave your heart would feel with this proposition: I’m considering washing, on gentle, a vintage “unborn lamb fur” coat. Short wavy nap. But it’s prob from like the 20’s and never been cleaned. In my town we don’t even have a dry cleaner, much less a furrier…and to have it cleaned would cost about 10x what I paid for it. Would you be brave enough to try that on gentle and hang to dry (if it didn’t fall apart)? Once, I tried to wash the fur ruff on a down coat I had…it was coyote…and it didn’t go well at all…washer full if individual hairs…like I had boiled a dog….well…sort of I did.

  3. Phoebe says:

    Great repair job! I probably would have tried to wash it in the bathub like a furry animal and then have a big wet mess on my hands. I would never have thought that it could survive the washing machine, so thanks for sharing.

  4. Heidi says:

    Just washed my 30 year old, 8 pelt sheepskin at the laundromat in the big machine. I used Kookabura soap, which is meant for sheepskin. There are a few tears that I will need to sew/patch… but so far it looks and smells great!

  5. Gerda says:

    Sorry I haven’t managed to read all the feeds, but my BIG QUESTION is: Doesn’t the skin itself become hard? My cat peed on one of my skins and that area is now not soft any more. Its hard. Like an un-treated wet skin would be naturally before the ‘softening’ process.

    • Karen says:

      They do get a bit crunchy Gerda, but all you have to do is work it with your hands after it’s dry. Plus if it’s something you use or sit on it continues to soften. It doesn’t take long or much work to get it soft as it was to begin with. ~ karen!

  6. Catherine Gazie says:

    you are so funny!

  7. Cassandra says:

    Hi Karen, I have Bearpaw calf hair boots with long curly lamb hair. The boots or the hair aren’t very dirty but the lamb hair has a few spots that are tangled and I would like to spot clean the lamb hair, what would you recommend?

    • Karen says:

      I’m afraid I have no idea Cassandra. Other than handwashing the top of the boots where the lamb is by holding them over the sink and running warm water over them. Use a bit of mild detergent and gently rub the lamb with your fingers. The tangles are just like hair tangles. You have to work them out, they won’t just disappear when you wash them though. Good luck ~ karen!

  8. Joanna says:

    Did, or does, your sheepskin rug shed? I recently bought a sleep skin chair. The cushions have sheepskin on the outside. The chair, because of the sheepskin fluff, is so pretty and luxurious looking. Unfortunately, it sheds…not a ton, but enough to bug an OCD person like me. I just can’t stand hair of any kind on my clothes. I don’t know if the shedding is a normal part of a new sheepskin chair and will diminish over time, or that’ll always be how it is. Is there a way to stop it from shedding? I do love everything about this chair though (I.e. Look, comfort) but just not the shedding part…

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna! I’ve never noticed the sheepskin to shed, but it’s entirely possible that it does. It’s hard to tell since I have 2 cats and there’s always some kind of hair somewhere, lol. No one ever gets up from sitting on my sheepskin covered in hair though so maybe your skin will eventually stop shedding? Sorry I’m not more help on this one! ~ karen

  9. Patti says:

    After all this, a simple question – where did you purchase said magnificent Mongolian?

  10. Thanks for the advice about washing a sheepskin throw blanket. I love the feel of it, so I’ve been thinking about buying my self one for my favorite chair. It is good to know that I can clean it myself, as long as I am sure to use the gentle cycle! Your throw looked really nice after you stitched it back up, by the way!

  11. pat says:

    Hi, looking at your blog for the first time from Atlanta area as I have a very big sheepskin that I sit on in the winter here, yes, it gets very cold here in the mountains. We have a leather couch that stays cold as we have no basement. I noticed your bookcases in the living room and I am remodeling my office so wondered if they are cubes or narrow bookcases?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Pat. Those are plain old Billy bookcases from Ikea. :) There are 5 narrow bookcases side by side. Each are 10″ deep so great for small areas. ~ karen!

  12. Debbie says:

    You are too funny! I like you so much I just forwarded your url to a few of my girlfriends.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Debbie! I appreciate that. Word of mouth (or email in this day and age) is the best advertising on the planet. Well that or getting caught up in a sex scandal. So let’s just go with word of mouth. ~ karen!

  13. Dianne says:

    Years ago I washed a smallish sheepskin rug in my washing machine. After the cycle I took it out of the tub a handful at a time!

  14. Heather (mtl) says:

    Here’s the recipe for *Truly, The Best Brownies*

    4 eggs
    2 cups white sugar
    1 cup butter (melted)
    1 tsp. salt
    2 tsp. vanilla
    1 cup cocoa (sifted)
    1 cup flour (sifted)

    Heat oven to 350F. Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper (or use vegetable spray). Place eggs in mixer bowl and beat until thickened then slowly add sugar. Continue beating on high until lemon coloured. Takes a good 10 minutes with a stand mixer. Add vanilla then the sifted cocoa. Pour in melted butter then add flour (the dry/wet/dry theory), Pour into prepared pan and bake about 32-35 mins. until springy on top when touched. Don’t overcook. Cool before frosting, if desired.

    Notes and tips: I have a few that really, I think, send the brownies over the top. First, add some espresso. Dissolve 1 tbsp powder in 2 tbsp water and use about 1 tbsp of that. I use this instead of vanilla as it richens the brownie. Second, try to use Dutch processed cocoa. I use Barry Callebault and it’s super dark and rich. Third, and it’s really important: if you want fudgey brownies, freeze overnight before slicing and eating. The texture is divine! I always store both my chocolate chip cookies and brownies in the freezer, removing them just before serving. Oh, I also use large eggs. If you like your brownies with a cakey texture, add another egg. My grandmother always frosted her brownies with this easy recipe: 1 can sweetened condensed milk, good pinch of salt and 1 square unsweetened chocolate (like Bakers). Chop chocolate and add, with salt, to pan containing S.C.milk. Heat over med/low until thickened (maybe 5 minutes), stirring constantly. Sweet stuff burns fast! Remove from heat and allow to cool some before spreading on cooled brownies. This is that fudgey, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth frosting you’ve been dreaming of.
    Another trick: if you like the edges of your brownies to be chewy, add 1 tbsp, corn syrup to the recipe. It’s what keeps food soft and chewy. Works in cookies as well to make them bendable like those Felix and Norton ones of yore.
    The instructions are long at first, but these really do whip up quickly making them great for pot-lucks. Enjoy!

    • Darla says:

      Only 1 cup flour?

      • Heather (mtl) says:

        Yes, just 1 cup. This is, in part, why they are so delicious. Notice, too that there is no leavening. The long beating of the eggs/sugar creates the volume. They really are a fudgey (but not soggy) brownie. Hope you like them!

  15. calliek says:

    I had a ridiculous hat I found at Goodwill – I think someone just sewed some rabbit fur trim on a nylon aviator helmet (it had ear flaps and a chin strap). I hate hats and think I look dumb in all of them but for some reason this one totally suited me. Anyhow, white rabbit fur doesn’t stay white for long so one day I got the brilliant idea to wash it, in the kitchen sink. I don’t recall what I used as soap, might have been laundry detergent, or shampoo, or quite possibly dish soap. Whatever it was it failed miserably, the trim completely disintegrated and I was left with a bare hat and a wad of mush that looked like something the cat hacked up. I still miss that hat but without the trim it was just not the same.

  16. Heather says:

    Awesome!! I was anything an everything in the washer or dishwasher! You should have done this much sooner…cat barf…yuck! (Or should I say yack?)

  17. Evalyn says:

    Wool. Not hair, not fur. If it came from a sheep or lamb, it’s wool.

    To keep the wool soft after washing, put half a cup of vinegar in the rinse to balance the PH. Shake the fleece well and finger comb to remove tangles. Vinegar is good for your hair also, as it balances the PH after shampooing, and is a good substitute for fabric softener in the laundary.

  18. Heather (mtl) says:

    Soo much info – thanks IRS et al. Now if only I had a sheepskin anything.
    Marti- I do have the best brownie recipe. It’s very simple and makes 1+1/2″ thick brownies in a 9×13 pan. They are chewy, fudgey and richly chocolatey.
    I can write it out here if anyone else would like it, too.
    If “She who owns this abode” doesn’t mind, that is :)

    • Marti says:

      I’d go for that, definitely. Or you can bug K to give you my email addy. I would LOVE a great brownie recipe.
      I don’t eat many sweets but as long as they are wonderful without frosting, I’m oohososososo there!

    • Karen says:

      That’s fine, brownie exchange away! ~ karen

  19. kelli says:

    Can you put “like” or “yup” or “me too” or “wtf?” buttons by everyone’s answers so we can tell them we feel their pain too? :)

    Wool and leather in the washing machine. Hey, what could possibly happen? You did a fantastic job though, looks brand new(ish). I also heard that using some of that Oxy stuff, and letting the item just soak for a bit in the tub helps a lot too. Heavy duty beat the snot out of it cycle notwithstanding of course. It looks lovely! Wish I could do this with my entire carpet. Bleah. Just…bleah.

    I bet your kitty feels the need to rub her butt and spread other kitty smells all over it STAT. (“P-U, smells like a hooman”) /\ _ /\

  20. Dominic says:

    -but the outer part has the dingy grey colour normally reserved for meth teeth in a mug shot- *snort*

    Can I have the 2 statues on the top right corner of your book shelf? They look awesome, and I’ll pay for shipping!

  21. Rondina says:

    This reminds me of carpet/hardwood floor dilemma. Hardwood floors that will cost $10,000-12,000 v. $5,000 for carpet. Then you cover up the hardwood with RUGS. A rug in every room. Rugs that cling to the same dirt/germs as the carpet does. I don’t understand this logic. I think it applies here also.

  22. Susan says:

    Wool has the nature of microscopic hooks on each strand that will hook together when agitated. It is better to put a wool item in a pillow case to wash, if the item is small enough, to prevent it from flailing about in the washer. Making felted items like a felted bag is a good demonstration of this characteristic of wool. Knit a large bag with 100% pure wool and wash it aggressively and put it in the dryer. The nature of the wool will shrink extremely until you have a tight knit small bag. It looks great, like a felt bag. If you feel like doing stuff this project is fun.

    • vicki says:

      Why would a pillowcase help?
      I do use ‘wash’ bags for all my delicates, but never thought they’d be needed to help wool from matting?

      • Susan says:

        Wash bags are usually mesh and that may just catch on the wool and irritate it. The pillow case stops it from rubbing against itself.

  23. Marti says:

    Forgot to mention… WOW, your hair looks great in this post.

  24. Marti says:

    This post was far more educational than I ever expected. (And thanks IRS!) I’m with the other commenter who “washes everything,” if it’s going to hit the jumbo can at the end of the drive anyway. I’ve done that with a number of things I was completely frustrated with.

    Meantime, Karen, do you have a good brownie recipe? I’ve never seen that on here and wanted one.

    Unless that’s not a “true bar cookie,” in your neck-of-the-woods?

    • Karen says:

      No, I don’t eat a lot of desserts so I don’t have a ton of tried and true dessert recipes. I do, on the other hand, know how to cook potato chips in the microwave. And thanks! Just got my hair cut. ~ karen

      • Marti says:

        Yeah, actually I’m more of a “salt” than a “sweet” person, (which won’t stop me from loving those brownies, Heather!) so when is the tutorial on cooking potato chips in the microwave, Karen?

  25. Manisha says:

    Every time I accidentally do a second wash on normal (not gentle) I say to myself “never again!” And then it happens again the very next time. I lost the wonderful custom curtains on our old airstream trailer. Eventually I’ll sew them back together but not until I get some sewing skills. I feel for you, Karen. I really do. Good job sewing it back up!

  26. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Well..I don’t have any expertise to share…I leave that stuff up to you Karen..all I can say is..thank goodness you were able to fix it…or you would have had to tell Cleo you screwed up her favorite Winter bed…the fur would

  27. Elizabeth says:

    I haven’t read all the above comments and I have no idea if Mongolian sheep are any different than Australian sheep but …….. years ago a friend gave me a sheepskin for my baby’s crib. I just bought one for that baby’s baby and so, I asked her again how to care for it. Here is what my “go to Auzzie” suggests –

    I’ve washed sheepskins in the machine as well as by hand using just a wool wash detergent. If you wash in your machine, use the delicate setting; that’d be best. Wool wash detergent’s in Australia always have some Eucalyptus oil in them. If yours doesn’t, just a capful in the wash water will do. Two capfuls is not too much but no more than that.

    If there is no wool wash detergent available from your stores, you can use Lux pure soap flakes, fully dissolved in warm water, and then add Eucalyptus oil as mentioned above.

    If you don’t want to wash the whole thing – because they DO take time to dry – and NEVER put in the dryer – just use the detergent above and spot treat, sponging off whatever is on the item. Over here, I wash our sheepskin car seat covers in the summer when we have a sunny day over +30C. You might not be able to do that, I realise. BUT, just hang the skin inside in a warm dry area and give it some sunlight when weather allows.

    Last piece of advice – Tell your daughter to shake it out well after it’s washed. It’s more likely to get the fibres back into their natural shape and not clumpy. Some clumping is inevitable. If she is inclined to do so, she can also brush her sheepskin :)

    • vicki says:


      What’s wrong with using the dryer if you set it to the ‘air only’ cycle?

      • IRS says:

        You are still putting stress on the wet skin as it spins around, and are risking tearing. You might also end up with a sheepskin that is twisted and does not lie flat. When the sheepskin is wet, it is much more fragile, and needs to lie flat without being disturbed. Plus, with all that spinning around, you will likely get the hair part of it matted. The hair might also shrink, changing the texture. If you remove as much of the rinse water as possible, the sheepskin should dry within a day. It’s not worth it to risk the dryer, even without heat.

        • vicki says:

          oh my gosh
          I could have used your help 25 years ago when I washed the “lambie” for the first time. I did learn for my younger son (at the expense of my older son’s lambie) that no heat ever was a good thing. Too little, too late.
          Your advice will save my pillows and rugs though!
          p.s. both boys (men now, I guess 26 and 21) HATE when I wash their sheepskins. Both have a collection. say no more?

      • Elizabeth says:

        I can’t say for sure. I am only passing on what my Auzzie friend’s advised.

        * I stored my daughter’s sheepskin in my hope chest. It was there for 25 years or more. Even though I put it away intact, when I took it out to give to my daughter, the hide was dry and brittle and it “broke”. I suspect that it may have been because I did not add any Eucalyptus oil to replace the natural oils so, this is why I asked my friend how to care for the one that I bought for my grand daughter.

  28. Jack Ledger says:

    Perhaps you might have used “Fleecy”!!!

    And just to make things worse…….: Why did the lamb call the police?

    A: He had been fleeced.

  29. MelissaM says:

    You scare me! It’s wool, right? So never detergent, even phosphate-free. Why wouldn’t you use a lanolin-based product such as are marketed for washing wool sweaters, such as Eucalan? Or Soak?

    • Karen says:

      Hi MelissaM! Because you aren’t washing wool, you’re washing an animal hide. The difference being an animal hide has gone through a tanning process. You never use products for washing wool on a hide. Wool sweater, yes. Animal hide, no. ~ karen!

      • IRS says:

        I thought we were breaking rules! Besides, as several people have commented, if it’s dirty and stinky, and you would otherwise get rid of it anyway, what is there to lose? If anything, that is the time to experiment. That way, if you buy a new one, you have some experience with what did or didn’t work for you with the old one.

  30. Glo says:

    I am in agreement with IRS’s suggestions on washing. Shampoo is good, but my contribution to this is to suggest Eucalan wool wash. It is designed for wool and will clean gently without stripping the natural fibers. It does not need to be rinsed out, so though you may wish to rinse to remove the dirt and debris, it will not harm the fibers if some remains. Many knitters use it not only to clean the wool but because the scent helps to repel moths. The only iffy factor here is the skin backing, but if the throw survived washing in detergent, I am sure that Eucalan or Soak or any other wool wash should be much gentler. When I wash my knitted wool items in Eucalan they come out softer than they started, and they smell fresh and clean.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Glo! I just wanted to point out that manufacturers of Mongolian lambskin products specifically ask you not to use wool wash on Mongolian lambskin, lol. The reason for this is the softening agents in it, which while nice for the actual wool are not good for the hide. ~ karen!

  31. Mary W says:

    I love old soft worn quilts. I do (gasp) wash them in gentle cycle with baby detergent. My favorite is an ancient, already full of holes, quilt I got for $20 at a thrift store. Washing brought it back to life and I would have NEVER used it or wanted to touch it without washing. Anyway, the point of this is the heaviness of a quilt must be very similar to the weight of a wet fur throw. IRS did a great job explaining so much. I just wanted to add that in the old days, people dried their quilts on sturdy bushes to keep the weight from pulling it apart. I roll mine in towels to absorb as much water as possible before spreading it on a table. All the sides that hang down go over every wood or metal chair I own lined up around the table to distribute the weight to let my quilt dry. This will keep the tiny fibers from pulling, stretching and breaking in a quilt and assume would help any delicate material. My daughter on the other hand just washes the quilts that I made her, dries them in the dryer and gets on with life. I’ve told her that removes about 5 years of life from them, but she wants it clean more than she wants to give it to her daughter one day. I cringe but know all that handwork was done for love and once given, is hers to enjoy, however long that may be. At least she loves them and uses them every day.

    • Shannon says:

      Thanks for that bit of advice Mary. I have 2 very old quilts that my husband’s great aunt and grandmother made. We used them when my kids were babies on the ground (because they were so big and they could crawl around with out getting on the grass) and now they are in the back of our SUV’s to line the trunk. They both need a good washing as they have been used as picnic blankets, beach blankets, blankets to sit on watching fireworks….well you get the idea.

  32. Wm says:

    Too small suggestions to add to an already useful and detailed comment section.

    First: most coin operated laundries will have a few very large front loading washing machines. As they have a much larger diameter drum than a home machine, and lack a central agitator shaft, they are far gentler on your fur.

    Second: use a restuarant ‘bus tub’ to carry the throw around after it is wet. That is the grey tub you see the bus boys putting dirty plates in. They are cheap, sturdy, watertight, and have good handles. As IRS pointed out you don’t want to grab a wet fur more than you have to or it will tear.

    Learned both of these tricks back in my art school days silk screening 15′ long fabrics.

    • IRS says:

      I have had a front loading washer (no agitator shaft) since 1999, so I completely forgot about that, but yes, those agitators are nasty. Front loaders are much more gentle.

    • Cussot says:

      Bus tubs! What a good idea – for EVERYTHING.

  33. Tigersmom says:

    I, too, have reached that point with items that have to be somehow cleaned or pitched. At that point, courage comes easy for me because really, what have I got to lose? I can no longer live with it in it’s current state. Might as well give it a go.

    Thanks for laying out the process and the do’s and don’ts.

    And IRS, thank you for the good info on shampoos. I have naturally curly hair (not the enviable, evenly distributed silken kind, but the uneven, frizzy, nasty kind) and I’m off to go check the ingredients on my shampoo and conditioner bottles.

    • IRS says:

      TM, as you can probably tell, I have been doing a lot of research lately on hair care, and I have discovered that there are a lot of similarities between African American hair, and the hair of people like me. I’m white, and was born in Eastern Europe. My fine, dark blonde hair was fairly straight for most of my life, but in my mid to late 40s, it started to go quite curly, and frizzy. It also turned very fragile, especially when I started highlighting it. All of a sudden my previously nice, and easy to care for hair became a nasty mess. Apparently this is common as we age, and I’m now in my early 50s. I started researching different products and ingredients, and spent a small fortune trying everything. I have finally found something that works so well for me, that I no longer dread washing my hair. The brand name is Kinky Curly, and the shampoo is called “Come Clean”, and the conditioner is called “Knot Today”. They do not contain SLS or silicones. My hair is clean and soft, and not dry or frizzy. The scent is mild and not overpowering. I just let my hair air dry, and I don’t need to do anything else with it. Each bottle is about $12, and I buy them at Target. Since Target really screwed the pooch here in Canada, and buggered off, Canadians can either get it online (from independent sellers or a beauty supply in Toronto), or get it on a cross border shopping trip. I spend a lot of time in the US, so I stock up there. I don’t get a cent from mentioning these products, but they have been life savers for me. I can once again leave the house without scaring dogs and small children.

      • Debbie says:

        Thanks again, IRS.I just checked out this shampoo and ordered it from Target. I needed something else, so I ended up with free shipping. I am quite excited to try this since I am never totally happy with shampoos.

      • Kim from Milwaukee says:

        IRS, I totally concur. I found Shea Moisture brand products for kinky hair also work for me as well. I have hair just like you, and aging has changed its texture as you mentioned. No SLS or cones in these products either, and I can only find them at Target. Too bad Canada allowed Walmart to rule up there.

        Good to know another brand that works! Thank you for your comments here….I may even venture to buy a couple of those sheepskins thanks to Karen and yourself!!

  34. Kim says:

    Hi Karen, Your ingenuity never ceases to amaze me! I’m sorry you had the experience of thinking you had ruined your throw. In your usual style and flair you immediately remedied the problem with needle and thread and we all benefit from your experience and knowledge. I don’t own anything fur but it is very good information to have! Thank you again. It is so nice to have a little dose of Karen on Monday morning to get me through my day :-)

  35. Ann says:

    One of the reasons it may have fallen apart, is that some fur seamstresses will use an appropriate glue to hold the pieces together so sewing is easier. So the washing may have loosened the glue on seams that weren’t all that well stitched.

    Being that we are bunny ranchers, I am saving tons of pelts to someday make a very warm patchwork throw. So the washing instructions above may come in handy to clean up what will certainly become the favorite place in the house for all my cats. Shampoo makes perfect sense.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ann – If the shampoo has phosphates in it (which most do) I wouldn’t recommend using it. It would be fine on an untanned leather/fur item, but the phosphates break down the chemicals used in tanning. ~ karen!

      • IRS says:

        I guess there is some debate about this. I first heard about washing leather when I was in design school back in the 80s. The teacher who taught leather design told us she always washed her leather coats in the tub with shampoo. At the time we all thought she was nuts (since she was definitely weird in lots of other ways), but she really knew her stuff, so we took her word for it. Over the years I came to try her technique with some leather items (not all), and with sheepskin, and I have never had a disaster.

      • Debbie says:

        My favorite soft leather summer handbag, with a black and white stitched design, was quite dingy. I was about to toss it when I thought, well, I might as well wash it and see what happens. I washed it on a gentle cycle in cold water with Tide! It came out clean and soft (after air-drying), with all stitching in place. I got three more summers out of that handbag – washing it with Tide every season. No one believed me! Honestly, I washed it in Tide!

        I miss that handbag.

        • Grace says:

          Leather purse can be tossed in the wash on Delicate in cold water with Murphy’s oil soap this keeps the oil in the leather so it does not dry out . At an estate sale I got a Donald Pilner purse that was half suede , half leather drawstring top when I got it just had a heavy dirty feel to it so I washed it four times and . It came out super clean ,I conditioned the leather and suede good as new

        • Debbie says:

          Thank you, Grace. I have Murphy’s oil soap, my grandmother always used it. Great to know it will work on suede. I will try it next time.

      • IRS says:

        The Neutrogena Anti- Residue shampoo that I have used to clean sheepskins has the following ingredients:
        Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycerin, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Citric Acid, DMDM Hydantoin, Fragrance (2011 formula). Although sometimes chemicals used in the cosmetic industry go by different names, I don’t believe that this product contains any phosphates. In fact, it is favorably reviewed in part because it has few ingredients compared to other shampoos.

  36. Marna says:

    So glad you could mend it. Makes me think of the time I put my goose down pillows in the dryer, didn’t check the seams, what a mess that was.

  37. Deborah says:

    Oh, good to know!
    I have one of those sheepskins from Ikea for my cats to lie on in front of a window, and it does need cleaning. Thank you for doing the test flight!

    • Karen says:

      Yes, the sheepskins wash great. After it has been washed just lay it out. If it gets “crunchy” after it’s dried just work it with your hands, kneading until it’s soft again. ~ karen!

  38. IRS says:

    Let me dispense with my usual snark, and offer some additional tips. As a trained designer, and one who used to design furs (for the Ladies Who Lunch, as in “we have an hour to kill between the 4 daiquiri lunch and the spa appointment, so let’s go buy a sable”) – sorry, I had to get SOME snark in there – I can attest to the fact that sheepskin throws are made of small pieces of fur stitched together. Fur coats are made of even smaller pieces, about 1/2 inch wide. Therefore the first thing I would recommend before washing a fur throw is to flip it over, and make sure that the seams are secure, and the thread ends are double tied. If anything looks loose, now is the time to fix it. Next, I would recommend gently detangling the fur, yes, in its dirty state. Use a wide toothed comb or brush, or a pet brush. This is something you should occasionally do, even if you are not washing it at the time. Next, take it outside, and give it a really good shake. Any dirt and grit that falls out will not act as an abrasive like sand paper in the wash. You can try the gentle cycle of your machine, using lukewarm to cool water, or hand wash in the bathtub or laundry tub, but handwashing may not be practical for a large item, since when wet, it becomes very heavy, so you need a lot of muscle power. I would probably only hand wash a pillow cover. In terms of chemicals, you can skip laundry products, and use a good shampoo. It is skin and hair, after all. I have had good luck using Neutrogena shampoo. I also use hair conditioner as a fabric softener after the final rinse, since the leather backing stiffens after washing. The conditioner helps keep it soft, as does gently rolling it after it is dry to further soften it up. Whether you hand wash or machine wash, don’t let the item soak for too long. Make sure that you rinse it thoroughly, and be aware that a wet skin (sheepskin, leather, etc) tears easily, so handle it carefully. If you drop part of a wet, heavy, large sheepskin, it can rip away from the part still in your hand, so be careful. Once you have it well rinsed, especially if you hand washed it, I would not hang it to dry (danger of stretching and ripping under its own wet weight), but I would instead roll it gently in one or more beach towels to get it as dry as possible. Then place it on another, dry towel, making sure it is not near a heater or fireplace or other source of direct heat, even direct sunlight. Gently block it (pull it) into its original shape, and then let it air dry flat. When the hair appears to be dry, flip it over to give the leather side some air exposure as well. Once it is fully dry, use the same brush or comb (but wash it first) to gently comb the fur again. At this point, if it is a bit stiff, you can roll it up into a log to soften it up, before unrolling. Finally, you should not let it get too dirty before washing, because stains will be harder to remove. I would not let a throw like this serve as a cat bed, but then again, I am a dog person. But I would not let a dog sleep on it either. I have relatives who would be banned from sitting on it too. And if you are lucky enough to own a sable coat, which costs the same as a 3 bedroom house everywhere except in large cities, don’t try to wash it.

    • mimiindublin says:

      Wow, very detailed information, and it all makes sense too.
      Just wondering if you would add any oil to either the shampoo or conditioner? i used to have a leather/suede/silk shampoo that had some oil in it, to replace the natural oils that would be removed in the washing process. It always left a lovely softness to the clothes, but unfortunately I can’t get it now.

      • IRS says:

        I would be hesitant to add oil to either the shampoo or the conditioner, but bear in mind that shampoos today have come a long way from the shampoos of even 5 years ago. Most shampoos are based on sodium laureth sulfate (basically detergent), which is awful for your hair, because it strips it of its natural oils, and the scalp goes into oily overdrive to compensate. This type of shampoo is especially bad for people with wavy or curly hair, because it turns us into frizz balls; that’s why I don’t use these types of shampoos. But your lamb throw is different; its not alive, or producing oil. If you are using one of the newer shampoo formulations that don’t have sodium laureth sulfate, and you like the results on your hair, you can also use it on your sheepskin. Some of these newer shampoos have oils already in them, such as Argan oil, or jojoba oil. However, the non-sodium laureth sulfate shampoos are much more gentle, which is a good thing for your hair, since I’m presuming you don’t walk around with fireplace soot or cat vomit in your hair (maybe I shouldn’t presume?). The same thing that makes SLS shampoos too harsh for your hair also makes them good cleaners for a sheepskin that has seen one too many cat parties. The Neutrogena shampoo that I mentioned using is even marketed as being good for removing styling product residue, so that tells you something. It’s importent to understand the chemistry of conditioners as well. Most are based on synthetic silicones, the most common of which is dimethicone. It pays to read labels. These silicones are great the first time you use them, because they make the hair slippery and easy to comb. Unfortunately, they then seal the hair shaft, and prevent moisture from penetrating, and the hair becomes dry and dull and flyaway. Since your sheepskin is not alive, the lamb hair won’t have the same problem as a person’s hair would. Women with wavy or curly hair should avoid silicones, and there are lots of styling products available now that condition without them. If you have a favourite one, you can use it on your sheepskin too. Finally, you can find liquid lanolin in health food stores or online. Lanolin has been used for centuries as a skin moisturizer, and is actually a natural skin oil produced by sheep. You can use a bit as a fabric softener in the final rinse, either instead of the hair conditioner, or added to it. I hope this helps. Of course you can always use laundry products, but I have always preferred this route.

        • Mary W says:

          WOW – You sound believable and sensible and worth listening to. I want to save the information for when I shop or share. I have recommended Karen’s website before but never her comments. But normally her comments are worth reading, also. Thanks for all the details that explain the why.

        • IRS says:

          You are most welcome, Mary. It’s not often that I might possibly know more about a “doing stuff” subject than Karen does, so I figured now was the time to chime in, and earn my keep around here. :D

        • gabrielle duval says:

          I just wanted to chime in belatedly that, as a trained designer, I support this information on cleaning. I work with various heavy textiles and furs, and for me, I don’t use my washing machine! The way I deal with the bulk and weight is by using my tub to avoid any twisting and pulling on fibres. Depending on the size, you can either wash by gently hand-squeezing and then draining by lifting in sections into a plastic laundry basket & tipping to let water run out or by first placing a piece of stainless steel shelving into the bottom of your tub, lifting one end a la slant board. I do this against a couple of weights (not the tub). It’s a bit awkward, but cooling in the summer which is when I clean my home furnishings. I have a hook to hold this at an angle; if it’s really heavy, I use a rope for a between-step. As the tub drains, gravity does the rest, but I’m obsessive and like to gently squeeze to hasten the process. For really absorbent fibres, you can do a rinse (and conditioner, as you see fit), but usually I just pile the drained piece into a basket and haul it outside to finish, either over my car or the clothesline depending on size/weight. I you are concerned about not rinsing enough, use a fine mist on your hose and squeegee it down with the side of your hand. This is when I check for stains; I use one of those enzymatic stain removers to spot stain when damp, repeatedly checking as it dries to see if another application is needed. I live with a bunch of men who do not think about what they are doing with food, etc. This process is easier done than said; will keep any important piece good looking for life.

        • Debbie says:

          Thank you so much for all of the valuable information (which I am saving). I also have curly/wavy hair. Great info!

      • Karen says:

        Hi Mimi – I’m recommending using a phosphate free detergent. You can try IRS’s trick if you like (and it could very well work great!) but I can only guarantee the results for the way I did it. ~ karen!

    • christine hilton says:

      Thank you!

    • Karen says:

      * quick note … With a throw you can’t actually make sure everything is tight and knotted unless you plan on removing the back of the throw which is usually some sort of fleece or ultrasuede. Also, stay away from fabric softeners or anything with phosphates. It isn’t the fur or suede it harms, but the chemicals used to tan the hide. ~ karen!

      • IRS says:

        I thought your throw was just the sheepskin itself. I did not realize it was lined. Of course that makes a difference in having access to the stitching.

      • Barbara says:

        Thanks for the advice. I wash almost everything. Next time, try a soak in Oxy-clean, then your gentle wash.

  39. TucsonPatty says:

    I wash *everything* that needs it. My theory is that if it is so nasty I would quit using it or I am just going to throw it out, why not atthe very least see if I can throw something away that is clean! I rarely throw it away…I usually get lots more use out of it. I never use hot water, as it has never been available to my washer that was relocated far away from the water heater before I came in to ownership of the house. I use GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) to disinfect everything so I won’t have to use chlorine bleach and all is well with me and my world.
    (Karen, I’m an idiot and I finally found the spam folder and did a couple of clicks and here I am!)

    • Karen says:

      LOL. I thought that was the problem. ~ karen!

    • vicki says:

      Love the idea of a natural disinfectant! Where do you buy it?

      • TucsonPatty says:

        I purchase it at my local Sprouts.
        ” A recent study done by Microbiologists from the University of Georgia found that GSE was a very effective non-toxic disinfectant. Sadly, commonly-used disinfectant have high levels of toxicity and are harmful to humans, animals and the environment. The same study found that GSE demonstrates a “wide spectrum of activity,” including antiviral, antimycotic, and antiprotozoan capacities against many bacteria and viruses, including E.Coli.¹ It was also found to be an effective cleanser as a a pre-surgical soap.¹
        Another recent study from The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that grapefruit-seed extract was effective in killing over “800 bacterial and viral strains, 100 strains of fungus, and a large number of single and multi-celled parasites.”² No other naturally-occuring anti-microbial can come close to these results.” Is a great article touting its health benifits, but I only use it in my washing machine. After reading this article again, I may be using it for other exterrnal issues. Research and decide for yourself if you want to use it internally. Thank for the interest!

  40. vicki says:

    Thanks for the tips. But more so for the laughs! I have many, many, many Mongolian lamb curly pillows and a few rugs/throw. My boy have been given many New Zealand lambskins over the years. Now they decorate their beds and floors, when the were little they were cause to drive 90 minutes back to the cottage to get the forgotten ‘lambie’.
    So, dealing with a multitude of environmental allergies I should wash them on a seasonally basis (?) but have never been brave enough to wash my pillows.
    I have, though, washed the ‘lambies’ and sheepskins. Nobody is ever happy with the results. Ever. When washed the soft, silky factor is alway lessened.
    I shall try your tips and let you know…
    Keep on keeping on!

  41. Valerie says:

    Nice cleaning job Karen….kudos.
    Washing rather than dry cleaning ANYTHING is so much less expensive and healthier…..all those chemicals at the cleaners – yuk.
    I wash my down comforter about 4 – 5 times a year and then it goes back in the duvet cover.
    My theory is any animal or bird that stands in the rain when alive should be able to withstand a gentle washing cycle after it has been fabricated.
    p.s. I have often wondered if bare patches on animal skin throws have had furry pieces glued on in their country of origin before sale.

    • vicki says:

      There are ‘dry cleaners’ who no longer use the ugly chemicals. If you are in a city (or near one) I’m sure you can find one. I do agree though, that if you can do it yourself, it is much more satisfying.
      And it depends on the methods used wether or not the ‘skin’ can handle ‘washing’. Feathers in a casing are vastly different that fur attached to a skin.

      • vicki says:

        shoot, I HATE that
        not that!
        You get all excited about the topic and all secretarial skills fly to the wind!

  42. Becky says:

    Did you have a minor heart attack when you pulled it out of the washer? I know I would have.

  43. Paula says:

    Looks great, nice repair job.

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