how to clean a cowhide rug

How To Clean A Cowhide Rug? A Comprehensive Guide

Last Updated: February 5, 2024By

Cowhide rugs have become popular with homeowners and interior designers, adding a touch of rustic charm and natural elegance to any living space. Cowhide rugs’ unique patterns and textures make them a prized possession for many, but proper cleaning and maintenance are essential to ensure they remain a stunning centerpiece in your home.

As with any item made from natural materials, cowhide rugs require special care to preserve their beauty and durability over time. Cleaning a cowhide rug may seem daunting, but fear not! This comprehensive guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of how to clean a cowhide rug, from routine maintenance to tackling tough stains.

Understanding Cowhide Rugs

Cowhide rugs are natural floor coverings made from the skin and hair of cows. They are famous for their durability, versatility, and beauty. Cowhide rugs can add warmth, texture, and style to any room in the house. They come in various shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns, depending on the breed and origin of the cow. Some of the most common types of cowhide rugs are natural, dyed, patchwork, metallic, and printed.

Cowhide rugs are easy to maintain and clean. They do not shed or attract dust mites and are resistant to stains and odors. To keep them in good condition, it is recommended to vacuum them regularly, shake them outside to remove dirt and debris and spot clean them with a damp cloth and mild soap if needed. Cowhide rugs should not be exposed to direct sunlight or heat sources, as they may fade or crack over time. They should also be rotated occasionally to prevent uneven wear and tear.

Cowhide rugs are eco-friendly and ethical products. They are made from the by-products of the meat industry, which would otherwise go to waste. They are also tanned using natural processes that do not involve harmful chemicals or dyes. Cowhide rugs are biodegradable and renewable, unlike synthetic rugs made from petroleum-based materials. Cowhide rugs are also cruelty-free, as they do not involve killing animals for their skins. The cows are raised for meat and milk, and their skins are used as a secondary product.


Preparing for Cleaning

Preparation is crucial for a successful cowhide rug cleaning session, including gathering supplies and inspecting the rug’s condition for optimal results.

Gather Cleaning Supplies and Tools

  • Soft-bristle brush or a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment: A soft brush is essential for gently removing surface dust and debris from the rug. Alternatively, a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment can also be used if the suction is set to a low or gentle mode.
  • Mild soap or cowhide-specific cleaner: Avoid harsh chemicals or detergents that may damage the natural hide. Instead, opt for a mild soap or a cleaner specifically designed for cowhide rugs.
  • Distilled water: Using distilled water helps prevent mineral deposits and streaks on the rug’s surface during cleaning.
  • Clean, lint-free cloth or sponge: This will be used for spot cleaning and applying the cleaning solution.
    Towels or absorbent cloths are necessary for drying the cowhide rug after cleaning.
  • Plastic sheet or tarp: When cleaning the rug indoors, placing a plastic sheet or tarp underneath the carpet to catch any drips or spills during the cleaning process is good.

Inspect the Rug for Damages and Stains

  • Carefully examine the cowhide rug for visible damages, such as tears, loose edges, or bald spots. Addressing these issues before cleaning is essential to prevent further damage during the cleaning process.
  • Take note of any stains or spots on the rug. Identifying the type of stain will help you determine the appropriate cleaning method and solution for each dye.

Determine the Cleaning Method

  • Based on the rug’s condition and the types of stains present, decide whether you will primarily use dry cleaning methods or if some spots require spot cleaning with a mild soap solution.
  • For routine maintenance, dry cleaning methods such as vacuuming or shaking the rug may be sufficient. However, you may need to incorporate spot cleaning with a mild soap solution for tougher stains or odors.

How To Clean A Cowhide Rug?

how to clean a cowhide rug

Cleaning a cowhide rug requires a careful and gentle approach to maintain its natural beauty and texture. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to effectively clean a cowhide rug:

Dry Cleaning Methods

  • Dry cleaning methods effectively maintain cowhide rugs by removing surface dust and debris without water or cleaning solutions, preserving the hide’s natural beauty.

Vacuuming the Cowhide Rug:

  • Start by ensuring the vacuum cleaner is set to a gentle or low-suction mode. The high suction can damage the delicate hairs of the cowhide.
  • If your vacuum cleaner has a brush attachment, use it to prevent excessive force on the rug’s surface.
  • Vacuum the cowhide rug toward the hair growth to lift dirt and debris effectively. This method helps prevent tangles in the rug’s fibers.
  • After vacuuming one side of the rug, flip it over and clean the other using the same gentle technique.
  • Pay extra attention to the edges and corners of the rug, as these areas collect more dust and dirt.

Shaking and Beating the Rug:

  • Take the cowhide rug outdoors, preferably on a sunny day, to avoid spreading dust inside your home.
  • Hang the rug on a clothesline or a sturdy railing, ensuring it is evenly supported to prevent damage.
  • Gently shake the rug to dislodge loose dirt, dust, and debris. Avoid excessive shaking, as it may cause damage to the hide.
  • Use a soft paddle or a carpet beater to gently beat the back of the rug. This helps to dislodge further dirt and dust trapped in the fibers.
  • Once you’ve shaken and beaten both sides of the rug, use your hands to smooth out any creases or folds.

Dry cleaning methods are simple yet effective ways to keep your cowhide rug looking clean and fresh. Regular vacuuming and occasional shaking or beating can help maintain the rug’s appearance and prolong its lifespan.

Spot Cleaning Stains

Spot cleaning cowhide stains is crucial for maintaining the appearance and preventing permanent set-in. Use specific solutions and techniques.

Food and Beverage Stains:

  • Blot the stain gently with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel to absorb any excess liquid.
  • Mix a small amount of mild soap or cowhide-specific cleaner with distilled water to create a cleaning solution.
  • Dampen a clean, lint-free cloth or sponge with the cleaning solution.
  • Gently blot the stained area with the damp cloth, working from the outside of the stain towards the center.
  • Avoid rubbing, as it may spread the stain or damage the hair.
  • Blot the area again with a dry cloth to remove excess moisture.
  • Allow the rug to air dry completely.

Ink and Pen Marks:

  • Act quickly to minimize the ink’s spread. Blot the stained area gently with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel to absorb as much ink as possible.
  • Mix a small amount of isopropyl alcohol with distilled water in a 1:1 ratio.
  • Dampen a clean cloth or cotton ball with the alcohol solution.
  • Gently dab the ink stain, starting from the outside and moving toward the center.
  • Blot the area with a clean, damp cloth to remove any residue.
  • Allow the rug to air dry, and avoid direct sunlight during drying.

Pet Accidents:

  • Blot the affected area with paper towels or a clean cloth to absorb as much liquid as possible.
  • Mix a teaspoon of mild dish soap with a cup of warm water.
  • Dampen a clean cloth with the soapy water solution and gently blot the stained area.
  • Repeat the process until the stain is no longer visible.
  • Blot the area with a clean, damp cloth to remove any soap residue.
  • Allow the rug to air dry completely.

Oil and Grease Stains:

  • Blot the stain gently with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel to absorb excess oil or grease.
  • Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch over the stained area and let it sit for a few hours to absorb the oil.
  • Use a soft brush or cloth to remove the baking soda or cornstarch, then vacuum the area.
  • If the stain persists, apply a small amount of mild dish soap mixed with distilled water to the stained area and gently blot.
  • Blot the area with a clean, damp cloth to remove any soap residue.
  • Allow the rug to air dry.

Mud and Dirt Stains:

  • Let the mud or dirt dry entirely before attempting to clean the stain.
  • Once dry, use a soft brush or vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment to remove the dried mud or dirt.
  • If a stain remains, mix a small amount of mild soap with distilled water to create a cleaning solution.
  • Dampen a clean cloth or sponge with the solution and gently blot the stain.
  • Blot the area with a clean, damp cloth to remove any soap residue.
  • Allow the rug to air dry completely.

Dealing with Tough Stains and Odors

Dealing with tough stains and odors on a cowhide rug requires a careful and targeted approach. It is best to use a mild soap or cowhide-specific cleaner mixed with distilled water for tough stains, such as old or set-in stains. Gently blot the stained area with the cleaning solution, ensuring it is not oversaturated.

You may need to repeat the process several times for particularly stubborn stains, constantly blotting, and not rubbing. When addressing odors, sprinkle baking soda liberally over the entire rug and allow it to sit for a few hours. Baking soda is excellent at absorbing odors. Afterward, vacuum the carpet thoroughly to remove the baking soda. Alternatively, you can use a commercial odor-neutralizing spray designed for cowhide rugs.

Drying the Cowhide Rug

Drying the cowhide rug properly prevents mold and mildew growth and maintains its shape and texture. Here’s how to effectively dry your cowhide rug after cleaning:

Blotting and Removing Excess Moisture:

  • After cleaning the rug, gently blot the damp areas with clean, dry towels or absorbent cloths to remove as much moisture as possible.
  • Avoid excessive force or rubbing, as it may damage the delicate hair and hide.

Air Drying:

  • Lay the cowhide rug flat on a clean and dry surface, preferably outdoors in a shaded area. Avoid direct sunlight, as it may cause fading or discoloration.
  • Ensure the rug is evenly spread out to retain its shape during drying.
  • If the weather does not permit outdoor drying, you can lay the rug indoors, but ensure the area is well-ventilated and has good air circulation.

Avoiding Heat and Artificial Drying:

  • Never use direct heat sources like heaters, hair dryers, or steamers to dry the cowhide rug. Excessive heat can damage the hide and cause it to become stiff or warped.
  • Avoid using fans directly on the wet rug, as it can create excessive air pressure and dislodge the hairs.


  • Allow the cowhide rug to air dry naturally. Depending on the rug’s size, thickness, and ambient humidity level, drying may take several hours to a day or more.
  • Avoid stepping on or using the rug while it is still damp to prevent potential damage.

Fluffing the Rug:

  • Once the rug is fully dry, fluff the hair gently with your fingers or a soft brush to restore its natural texture and appearance.

Preventative Measures and Maintenance

Preventative measures and routine maintenance are crucial to keep your cowhide rug looking its best and prolong its lifespan. To protect your carpet from future spills and stains:

  1. Consider placing it in low-traffic areas or hanging it as a decorative wall.
  2. Avoid placing the rug in direct sunlight or near heat sources, as this can cause fading and damage the hide.
  3. Use rug pads or non-slip mats underneath the carpet to prevent slipping and shifting.
  4. Regularly vacuum the rug using a soft brush attachment to remove surface dust and debris.
  5. Promptly clean up spills and stains as soon as they occur to prevent them from setting in.


Can I Wash A Cowhide Rug With A Water Hose?

No, washing a cowhide rug with a water hose is not recommended, as it can damage the hide and lead to permanent deformation.

Is It Hard To Clean A Cowhide Rug?

Cleaning a cowhide rug is not difficult, but it requires gentle care and proper techniques to preserve its natural beauty and texture.

What Happens If A Cowhide Rug Gets Wet?

If a cowhide rug gets wet, it can lead to damage, discoloration, and potential deformation of the hide if not dried properly and promptly.

How Do You Refresh A Cowhide Rug?

To refresh a cowhide rug, gently shake it outdoors, use a soft brush to fluff the hairs, and air it out in a well-ventilated area.

Are cowhide Rugs Machine Washable?

No, cowhide rugs are not machine washable due to the delicate nature of the hide and the risk of damage. They should be cleaned using dry methods or spot cleaned with gentle solutions.


Maintaining a cowhide rug is crucial for its natural allure and longevity as a home decor piece. Regular dry cleaning methods like vacuuming and shaking are effective, while spot cleaning with mild solutions tackles specific stains. Careful drying and preventative measures protect the rug from damage, while routine maintenance ensures its continued beauty. Following these guidelines, you can confidently care for your cowhide rug, making it a cherished and eye-catching addition to your living space.

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Monique Valeris

Monique Valeris is a prominent house editor with a keen eye for design and a passion for creating warm and stylish interiors. With a wealth of experience and a fresh perspective, she blends contemporary trends with timeless elements to create aesthetically pleasing and functional spaces. Valeris's editorial contributions extend beyond the printed page, engaging with her audience through various platforms to share insights and tips. Her ability to effortlessly blend different design styles and her dedication to promoting inclusivity within home aesthetics set her apart as a leader in the field.

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