How To Clean Cowhide Rug

Cowhide rugs are made of the natural, unbleached hair and skin of cows. They add a distinctive look to any home. And while most people are nervous about their maintenance, it’s relatively stress-free once you know how to clean a cowhide rug.

Because natural cowhide rugs are made of animal skin, their care will be a bit different from ordinary rugs and carpets. They are pretty resistant to everyday spills and messes, but they still need to be cleaned and maintained. 

If your cowhide rug is looking a little worse for wear, follow the suggestions in our guide below. You’ll learn how to clean both real and faux cowhides, remove stubborn stains, and how to make your rug last longer. Your rug will be looking like new again before you know it. 

What this article covers:

How To Clean A Real Cowhide Rug

how to clean a cowhide rug

Real cowhide rugs are a by-product of the meat industry. The hides retain the basic water resistance and durability that they had while still walking around on the cow. However, that doesn’t mean that you can get away without cleaning it.

Accidental spills in the home, as well as walking over it, will soon make your cowhide rug dirty. And although it can handle a bit of water, it can’t be soaked or put in the washer. Excess water may stretch it out of shape, and harsh detergents could harm the backing of your rug. 

The best way to keep your genuine cowhide rug clean is with regular maintenance: 

Once A Week

Although your rug may not look dirty, household dust settles on it each day. After a few days of walking over it, that dust will be trampled down in between the cow hair fibers. 

So, once a week, take your cowhide rug outdoors and give it a good shake. This will loosen any dust that has settled on the cowhide. If your rug is very dusty, you may want to wear a mask when doing this. 

Once A Week/Fortnight (As Necessary)

Every two weeks, use a carpet brush/broom to comb the hair on your cowhide rug. Once you have swept any embedded dirt and dust out from the hair, vacuum it up with a regular vacuum or a handheld vacuum. 

You can use a vacuum directly on your cowhide rug, but don’t use any turbo machines. Some vacuums come with brush attachments. You may use that if you don’t have a carpet brush, but always use the gentlest brush and don’t work against the hair growth. 

how do you clean cowhide rugs

Once A Month

Natural cowhide rugs can have a strong smell at first. This is natural, and will eventually fade. But they are also susceptible to musty odors from time to time. So at least once a month, use a deodorizing powder to remove trapped odors. 

Any high-quality carpet deodorizer powder will do the trick, and you won’t need to use too much. Sprinkle the deodorizer powder over the rug, and leave it to sit for at least two hours. Then vacuum it all up, thoroughly. Your cowhide rug will smell good as new. 

If you don’t have any carpet deodorizing powder, you can use baking soda instead. It will lack the pleasant fragrance, as baking soda has no smell, but it will freshen your rug and remove foul odors. You can use these same directions to clean a sheepskin rug or other natural pelt rug.

How To Clean A Faux Cowhide Rug

Faux cowhide rugs can look every bit as attractive as real ones. Made of polyester, they look like cowhide but are much fluffier underfoot. The downside is that they are not as stain-resistant and durable as genuine cowhides. But the upside is that they are easy to clean with carpet chemicals.

You can follow the suggestions above to keep your faux cowhide rug clean, too. But when it gets very dirty, you will need extra cleaning power. Any of our carpet chemicals that are safe for use on synthetic fibers can be used to clean a faux cowhide rug.

 how do you clean a cowhide rug

Follow the steps below to keep your faux cowhide rug looking its best:

Step 1: Check The Backing Material

Check the backing of your rug. Although the fibers are polyester, the backing may be of a different material. If it is suede/leather, you will have to stick to using the cleaning methods described above. However, most synthetic ‘animal-hide’ rugs have a synthetic material or a backing as well. 

Most faux cowhide rugs will come with a set of care instructions on a care label on the back. If no instructions are provided, take your cue from the materials listed. If it says that all the materials are  ‘synthetic’, you may proceed with the following steps.

Step 2: Select A Detergent

If your faux cowhide rug is fully synthetic, select a detergent. We have a full range of carpet cleaning products that are safe for use on synthetics. A faux cowhide rug will dull over time and may need brightening as well as cleaning. If so, you need Rug Smack.

 how to clean cow skin rug

Designed for use on both natural and synthetic rugs, Rug Smack will clean and brighten your faux cowhide rug, just like it will clean a polyester shaggy rug. It will also leave your rug smelling fresh and fragrant. However, always do a test patch to check for the color fastness of synthetic carpets. 

Step 3: Use A Carpet Cleaning Machine

A carpet cleaning machine that sucks up the water as it cleans is your best choice. It’s ideal for heavily soiled synthetic rugs. And it doesn’t leave them too wet afterward. 

how to clean a cow skin rug

Follow the dosage instructions on your detergent packaging, and add along with water, as directed. Proceed to clean the rug with the carpet machine, per the manual's instructions. And go over the entire rug again with a rinse cycle, once you've cleaned the carpet with detergent.

Step 4: Leave Rug To Air Dry

Once you have used the machine to clean your rug, leave the rug to dry naturally with the windows open. Because it won't leave your faux cowhide rug very wet, it won’t take long for it to dry. 

One of the best things about cleaning an area rug or small carpet is that you can hang it over your deck wall to dry, too. Just don’t make a habit of hanging it in the sun. And don't place it on a section of your home’s floor that gets bright sun, either. Over time, the UV rays will cause your rug to fade.

How To Get Stains Out Of A Cowhide Rug

Despite your best efforts to avoid it, at some point, you’ll spill something on your rug. When this happens, it’s best to clean it up immediately. 

Natural Cowhide Stain Removal

Natural cowhide rugs are basically stain-proof if your blot spills up immediately. But, the same can’t be said of spills left to sit on the rug. These may cause damage, so it’s always best to act quickly.

  • Use a paper towel to blot up fluid spills, and a spoon to scrape up solid food spills. Then, a moistened cloth should be all that’s necessary to gently dab away the mess. 
  • If the stain is oil-based, like many food stains are, sprinkle some cornstarch over it. Be sure that you cover the entire stain. Leave it for two hours, then vacuum all the cornstarch up.
  • If you are faced with a very messy stain, use a few drops of animal shampoo. The surface of the cowhide is, after all, made of animal hair. Rinse with a bit of water and dab with an old, white towel until you’ve removed most of the water. Leave to air dry. 

Faux Cowhide Stain Removal

Stains are more likely on a faux cowhide rug, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about them. Once again, it’s best to blot up any spill immediately. If a stain is left behind, you may safely use Rave Spotter spot and stain remover on your faux rug.

how to clean a hide rug

This is the ultimate stain remover, designed for fast action on all types of stains. Simply spray, blot, and mist and walk away with this non-toxic cleaner in its handy trigger bottle. As always, it's best to check for the colorfastness of your synthetic rug first. But it removes 98% of everyday spills and stains. 

How To Deep Clean A Cowhide Rug

The best way to deep clean specialty rugs like cowhide rugs is with a steamer. 

If you don’t have one of your own, you can hire one at a minimal cost. But even the smaller handheld ones used for steaming clothes and drapes work well.

Steaming not only removes odors, but it also kills any bacteria lurking in your cowhide rug. As a bonus, it will also refresh the hairy surface of the rug, making it look new again. 

This is also the best way to clean a wool carpet

Step 1

Vacuum or shake out your rug first, so that any dirt or debris trapped in the hair doesn’t get stuck once the steam is applied.

Step 2

Fill the water tank of the steamer with water and switch it on. Once the steam starts to billow from the unit, move it gently over the surface of the rug. Work in the direction of the hair growth of your cowhide. (Do the same if you ever use a steamer to clean a wool shag rug). 

Step 3 

The important thing to remember with steam cleaning is, it’s still water. So don’t concentrate on any one area for too long, or you’ll risk saturating the rug’s backing. Leave the rug to dry naturally once you are done. 

how to clean cowhide rugs


Any rug, including a cowhide one, will eventually need to be cleaned to stay looking its best. Cowhide rugs need a bit more maintenance, and specialized cleaning, than some other types of rugs. But once you know what to do, it’s not nearly as difficult as you imagined. 

Now you’re well prepared to clean your cowhide rug at home, like an expert. It will save you lots of money long term because calling in professionals can be costly. With our range of carpet care products, everyone can give carpets and rugs a professional clean, without the hassle.

How To Clean An Animal Skin Rug (FAQs)

Can I clean my cowhide rug with hot water?

Yes, but you mustn’t soak a natural cowhide rug. Keep water exposure to a minimum. Steam cleaning can be the solution, but cowhide rugs do best without water cleaning. Faux cowhide rugs, however, are safe to clean with water. 

Why does my cowhide rug smell bad?

If you buy a cowhide rug from a reputable dealer, it should only smell of leather. And while some people find this smell very strong, it does fade with time. If a new cowhide rug smells bad, it’s a clue that it has not been properly tanned and treated. 

How often should I clean my cowhide rug?

Clean your cowhide rug at least once a week, by giving it a good shake outdoors or vacuuming it. Vacuum in the direction of the animal hair. Don’t wait until it looks dirty. By the time a cowhide rug looks dirty, it’s going to need more effort to clean it. 

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