How to Clean Shearling or Sheepskin

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Sandra asked: How do I clean gasoline off of tan shearling gloves? My daughter got gasoline on a new pair of tan shearling gloves. They are not only stained, but the worst part is the gasoline smell. What can we do?

Shearling items are known for their comfort and durability. They are made from lambskin with the wool still intact and require special cleaners that do not contain harsh chemicals that may damage the surface. Use the guide below to clean your shearling items and keep them looking great.

Dry Clean or Self Clean?

It is recommended that you dry clean shearling items to maintain their beauty. Unlike other products, shearling will not look the same after it is washed. The wool will curl more and the piece will take on a new look, although it will be cleaner. Taking the piece to a qualified dry cleaner will allow the product to keep its original look and feel. If you decide to wash the item yourself, use the cleaning methods below.

Hand Washing Method

You Will Need:

  • Sheepskin shampoo
  • Warm water
  • Sink or tub
  • Wire wool brush

Steps to Clean the Sheepskin:

  1. Begin by filling a sink or tub with room temperature water. Do NOT use hot water.
  2. Add the sheepskin shampoo to the water and agitate to mix it.
  3. Place the soiled shearling piece in the water.
  4. Push it under the water and hold it there until it soaks up the water.
  5. Move the piece through the water, agitating it gently to clean it.
  6. Allow the piece to stay in the water and soak for up to 10 minutes.
  7. Remove the piece and drain the water.
  8. Fill the sink or tub with clean water and rinse the item completely using the same method. Check the labels as some shampoos do not need to be rinsed.
  9. Once washed and rinsed (if necessary), gently squeeze the excess water from the piece. Do NOT wring or twist the item.
  10. Hang it by the bottom or lay it on a towel and allow the piece to air dry completely. Allow it to dry at room temperature. Do not dry it with heat, such as a machine dryer or placing it in front of a heater. It is normal for it to take a day or more to dry completely.
  11. When the piece is almost dry, but still slightly damp, stretch it gently to reshape it back to the original shape.
  12. The wool can be brushed in one direction to remove some of the curling of the wool. Remember, it will not look like it did prior to washing. Sheepskin goes through a lot of  processing and ironing before being made into items.

Machine Washing Method

You Will Need:

  • Sheepskin shampoo
  • Washing machine
  • Wire wool brush

Steps to Clean the Sheepskin:

  1. Begin by filling the machine with room-temperature (not too warm!) water and adding the sheepskin shampoo.
  2. Place the item in the machine and allow it to agitate for a few minutes. The piece should no longer be floating in the water.
  3. Stop the machine and allow the piece to soak for up to 10 minutes. Excessive agitation will cause the wool to curl and become more matted.
  4. It is okay to run the spin cycle to remove the excess water.
  5. Rinse if you’d like or if the directions indicate it is necessary.
  6. Dry using the methods above. Do not machine dry (even with no heat).

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Once clean, apply a sheepskin protector and water repellant to ward off future stains and damage.
  • Do not use any harsh chemicals, Woolite, bleach, enzyme cleaners, fabric softener or hot water to clean your shearling pieces.
  • If the piece is old or damaged, it is not recommended that you wash it.
  • To wash gloves easily, wear them while washing. Stretch them gently and evenly while still warm to retain their shape and fit.
  • If items are stiff after washing, wear them to loosen them up a bit.
  • Sheepskin conditioners are also available and can be applied to the leather surface if needed.

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