How to Clean a Cowhide Rug

How to Clean a Cowhide Rug

These floor coverings are incredibly durable, inherently stain resistant, and surprisingly easy to clean.

Cowhide rugs are a popular decorating choice, not only for their good looks but also because they're highly durable and easy to maintain. Additionally, cowhides are naturally resistant to stains, making them a great choice for highly trafficked areas and for use in homes where spills frequently occur.

This guide offers instructions for how, and how often, to perform routine cleaning, and what cleaning methods to avoid damage to the hide. It also covers how to remove stains when they occur, and how to deep-clean cowhide rugs to make them last for years.

rustic bedroom with cowhide rug

Care Basics for a Cowhide Rug

It might surprise you to learn that cowhide rugs are relatively easy to maintain—so easy, in fact, that they are among the easiest types of rugs to care for. Cowhide rugs can be shaken, brushed, or vacuumed to remove soils and allergens like dust, dirt, dander, pollen, and hair.

When it comes to removing stains from food or drink spills, pet accidents, and tracked-in dirt or mud, cowhide doesn't require much. Unlike other types of rugs, it has natural stain-resistant properties. Oftentimes, stains can be eliminated with just water. For set-in stains, a small amount of baby shampoo or clarifying shampoo is typically all it takes to remove the offending substance. Other mild soaps, such as foaming hand soap or liquid castile soap, can also be used to clean cowhide.

When cleaning a cowhide rug, avoid exposing it to excess water, which can damage the backing, causing it to stretch or become misshapen.

It is also important to vacuum using suction only. Never vacuum a cowhide rug with an attachment that has rotating or beater brushes, which can tear the hair out of the rug's backing, causing bald spots. If you prefer not to vacuum a cowhide rug, you can instead take it outdoors and shake it vigorously to dislodge soil. Cowhide rugs can also be brushed with a broom.

family room blue mantel cow hide

Tips for Vacuuming a Cowhide Rug

Routine vacuuming to remove environmental and invisible soils like dirt, dust, pollen, and dander is the best way to maintain a cowhide rug.

When vacuuming a cowhide rug, however, it is critical that you only use the suction function on the vacuum. Attachments that have a rotating brush or beater bar should not be used on cowhide, as it can cause hair loss. If your vacuum doesn't have a head without a beater brush, a nozzle or upholstery attachment can be used to safely vacuum a cowhide rug. When vacuuming a cowhide rug, move in the direction of the hair growth.

Tips for Steam Cleaning a Cowhide Rug

Deep cleaning a cowhide rug can be done using a clothing and upholstery steamer. Steam cleaning eliminates bacteria and odors, and refreshes a tired-looking cowhide.

Before steam cleaning a cowhide rug, vacuum it to remove debris. Then, use a steam cleaner, working in the direction of the hair growth. When using a steam cleaner on cowhide, be careful not to over-saturate the hair and the rug's backing with moisture, as excess water can damage the backing of the rug, causing it to stretch or become misshapen.

graphic artwork midcentury living room cow hide rug

How to Treat Stains on a Cowhide Rug

It is best to treat stains on a cowhide rug as soon as possible. However, when dealing with cowhide, stain removal is an easier process than with other types of floor coverings. Cowhide has natural stain-resistant properties; many stains can simply be wiped away using a small amount of water. It's important, however, to be mindful of not using too much water or other liquid cleaners on cowhide.

What You Need

  • Paper towels or rags
  • Butter knife or spoon
  • Light-colored cloth
  • Gentle clear shampoo

Step 1: Blot Liquid and Pick Up Solids

Begin by blotting up as much liquid as possible using paper towels or rags. If there are solids, pick them up and dispose of them, using paper towels if necessary. If solids have dried, use the edge of a butter knife or spoon to gently scrape them from the rug's fibers.

Step 2: Wipe the Area

Using a light-colored cloth dampened with water, wipe the area where the spill occurred, working in the direction of the hair. When cleaning cowhide, oftentimes water is all that is needed to remove residual staining from a spill.

Step 3: Apply Detergent to the Stain

If after wiping the area with water, staining persists, use a small amount of clear shampoo like baby shampoo or clarifying shampoo to treat the stain. Apply a small amount of shampoo to a damp, light-colored cloth, being careful not to over-saturate the cloth with water. Working in the direction of the hair growth, apply the shampoo to the cowhide and wipe to remove the stain.

Step 4: Rinse the Area

When the stain has been successfully removed, rinse the cloth in clean water and wipe the cowhide in the direction of the hair growth to remove residual detergent.

cow hide piano white fur bench windows

How to Remove Grease Stains on a Cowhide Rug

When cowhide becomes stained by oil or grease, an unusual—and hands-off!—technique can save the day.

What You Need

  • Paper towels (optional)
  • Cornstarch
  • Vacuum

Step 1: Blot the Oil

If the stain is fresh, begin by blotting up as much of the oil as possible using paper towels.

Step 2: Apply Cornstarch

Cover the oil- or grease-stained area with an anthill-style pile of cornstarch. Allow the cornstarch to sit for several hours up to overnight. The cornstarch will absorb the grease.

Step 3: Vacuum Rug

Vacuum the cornstarch. If the stain persists, repeat the process.

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