How to Clean a Cowhide Rug – 7 Simple Tips

How to Clean a Cowhide Rug

A cowhide rug is the complete skin and hair of a cow, that is cured using either a chrome tanning method or a more environmentally friendly, vegetable tanning process.

This results in a very soft and durable rug that retains the unique markings of the animal, although sometimes hides can be re-dyed to create exotic prints and patterns. 

A cowhide rug is a very durable and beautiful addition to any home. Like any other type of rug, knowing how to clean a cowhide rug will help to prolong its lifespan and keep it looking beautiful for long, check out these simple steps below.

How to Clean a Cowhide Rug

Regular cleaning

You need to set a cleaning routine for your cowhide rug to ensure it gets constant care and maintenance.


Regularly vacuuming your cowhide rug is a great way to remove any collect dirt and debris particles on the rug. When vacuuming, you want to make sure you put the vacuum on the hard floor setting; this enables the brush to drop so that it can pick up hair as its suction catches the dust.

The suction, however, needs to be on a lower power level; this is because Using a high suction can damage the hair on the cowhide rug. If you cannot lower the suction of your vacuum, you can consider using a lower-powered handheld vacuum instead.

When vacuuming, you want to vacuum with the lay of the hair of the rug; you do not want to vacuum against the lay of the hair, as this can cause the hair to get pulled from the follicle, which would leave bald spots on your rug.

When vacuuming a cowhide rug, you want to start in the middle and work your way out; keep doing this in a full circle until you cover the entire rug; this helps to reduce the risk of the vacuum damaging your rug.

You can also go in with a hard bristle brush to help loosen embedded particles in the rug fibers. Keep doing this until you achieve your desired results.

Shaking the rug

Going outside and shaking the rug or hitting it against a wall to get out all of the dust is a very effective way to quickly get off all of the surface particles of the rug; it also helps to remove deeply embedded dirt and debris.

Don’t worry, the hair won’t fall out, as the hides are extremely durable! You want to do this at least every month, on a dry and sunny day.

Once you have shaken the rug out well, hang the rug hide side up on a porch or fence railing or drape it over a clothesline. Let it air out in the sun to disinfect and freshen it.

Rotating the Rug

If you place your cowhide rug on the floor, it will be subjected to constant wear and tear. Never changing rug’s position can cause it to wear out unevenly, causing the rug to look off-balanced and more worn out than it actually is.

This can be negated and managed by rotating the position of your rug regularly. Instead of letting your rug sit in one position for a long time, try switching it up a little bit at least every month.

This enables your rug to receive equal traffic evenly across its surface. You can also change its spot from an area with heavy traffic to an area with low traffic once in a while, to give it a break from being used.

Brushing Your Rug

Regularly brushing your rug will help it retain its looks; brushing is also a great method for removing dirt from areas in the rug that your vacuum might have missed. You can make use of a hard bristled brush or broom, and like vacuuming, you want to brush with the direction of the hair instead of against it.

Spot Cleaning

Spot cleaning your cowhide rug regularly will prevent stains from setting deep into the rug’s fiber; it also helps to prevent the buildup of mold and mildew.

You can make use of non-alkaline soaps or a water/vinegar mix when spot cleaning, but you want to use a very small amount of vinegar when using the water/vinegar mix.

To spot clean, simply Dip a dry, clean cloth into the water/vinegar solution or a damp, clean cloth into the soap, and gently rub the rug in the direction the hair lies. Be careful not to soak the rug as this will damage it.

Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning is another common method of care for cowhide rugs. It’s perfectly safe to use a steam cleaner if that’s your cleaning method of choice.

Pre-vacuum the rug to remove excess pile up before turning to your steam cleaner. Also, make sure to allow your steam cleaner to warm up to its optimal temperature before applying it to the rug.

Pay close attention to your technique while you steam clean. You need to make sure that you clean in the direction of the rug’s hair. You should also keep the cleaner constantly moving so as not to over clean one area.

The rug should dampen during this process. Remember not to let the rug get wet as it could lead to water damage.

How to Maintain a Cowhide Rug

Minimizing Water Contact

You want to reduce the number of times that your cowhide rug gets wet, even if you are steam cleaning your rug, you want to use the littlest amount of water possible.

This is because long exposure to water causes the rug’s backing, which is made of leather, to become hardened, and this can distort the rug’s shape. In case of a wet rug, you want to air dry it immediately. You also don’t want to use a drying machine to dry your rug.

Liquid spills

For liquid spills, you want to clean up the spill immediately it occurs; you do not want to allow any liquid to soak into the rug as this will result in stains that are very difficult to remove.

So once a liquid spill occurs, use a clean towel or sponge to blot out the liquid, and you want to do this in a dabbing motion, do not swipe or rub the spill as the will only cause it to spread.

If the spill happened in your absence or you didn’t find it on time, it might have dried up, or the spill has some solid particles in it, you will need to scrape it up using the blunt edge of a knife or a putty knife. Using your object of choice, remove any areas of dried material until only the stain is left.

You can also make use of a hard-bristled brush, and you want to scrape in the direction of the hair.

After removing the solid particles of the spill, it is time to remove the stain let behind. You can make use of a mixture of shampoo and water for this or the water and vinegar mix mentioned above, but you can decide to add a little bit of dish soap to the mix.

Using your mixture of choice, dip a clean sponge or towel into it and use it to apply the soapy mixture to the stained area; you want to make sure you do not over-saturate the rug and make use of the littlest amount of soap possible.

Using the soapy cloth or sponge, scrub the rug in any direction until the stain is no more, after which take a new cloth and dampen it with only clean water, then Use this damp cloth to gently wipe away any soap residue or remaining stain.

If there’s still stain on the rug, repeat this process until you get your desired results, then allow your rug to air dry properly; these rugs can be dried outdoors, with the backing, not the hair, facing the sun.

Drying it outdoors will also protect wood or carpeted floors from excessive moisture that might damage them.

If the rug is too heavy to carry outdoors, placing a box underneath the cleaned area would elevate the damp section and allow for better air circulation and faster drying. It would also spare potential flooring damage.

Solid Spills

First, using the blunt edge of a knife or a putty knife, scrape away as much solid matter as you can; if the spill is from the grease of food, then your rug is likely to have a stain left behind.

Using Eucalyptus oil, apply a small amount of it over the stained area; Eucalyptus oil helps to break down food or grease stains, allowing you to fully clean the stained area. Gently push the oil into the rug fibers and allow it to sit for a couple of minutes.

Then using a damp sponge, wipe off the oil. Take a clean cloth and start scrubbing the area to remove what’s left of the stain and the eucalyptus oil, and allow it air dry properly, then check to see if the stain was removed completely. If it wasn’t, apply a small amount of dish soap to the sponge and wipe the area again.

If you can’t seem to remove the stain yourself, you may need to have it professionally cleaned.

Under no circumstances should you use a washing machine or dryer on your cowhide rug, as they could totally damage your rug, all stains and spills should be removed with gentle hand washing.


Knowing how to clean a cowhide rug will enable you to prolong its lifespan; while a cowhide rug might not be as delicate as most types of rugs, it deserves proper maintenance and care to ensure that it lasts for a long time.

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