One of the questions we're often asked at City Cows is 'do I need to do anything special to clean and care for my cowhide rug?' I thought I'd share some of the tips and tricks I've picked up over the years.
When properly cared for, cowhide rugs can last for years. Cowhide rugs only require a little regular maintenance, but this extra effort will go a long way to keeping your rug looking and feeling great.
Cleaning your cowhide rug is easy, provided you follow some simple steps and make sure you're not using any substances that might damage the animal skin.
Be careful where you put your cowhide rug
The first step for caring for your cowhide rug is deciding where to put it. Whether it’s on the floor, used as a throw over a piece of furniture or hanging from the wall of your sitting room or office, try to ensure that you keep it out of direct sunlight.
Sunlight can cause the natural markings of the cowhide to fade over time, sapping it of its rich, warm colours. Fading begins as soon as you place a rug in direct sunlight, although you probably won't notice it during the first year. If your rug is in sunlight, it helps to keep your blinds or curtains closed while your out of the house during the day.
Humid or damp rooms can cause problems for your cowhide rug. Too much moisture can weaken the animal skin, making it stiffen and crack. Moist environments can also encourage mould to grow, which further damages the rug.
Walking on your cowhide rug
A lot of customers tell us that they use their cowhide rug as a eye-catching centrepiece for their entrance hall. This creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere the second you walk into your home. However, it also means that lots of people will be walking over your cowhide rug.
Over time, this can cause natural wear and tear. One way to keep your cowhide rug looking fresh and feeling soft is to periodically rotate it. I do this every couple of months. This will mean that you, your family and your guests' footfall will be evenly distributed over the whole rug; no one part will become seriously worn.
Keeping your cowhide rug clean and free of dust
Customers often ask whether they should be vacuuming their cowhide rugs. Vacuuming a rug is fine, just be careful not to push the nozzle too hard against the direction of the cowhide's hairs. This can cause the cow hide to shed. It's perfectly normal for some hairs to come loose during cleaning; a cowhide rug is a natural product after all so it will shed some of its hair over time.
Personally, I prefer to dust my cowhide rugs the old-fashioned way; I take it outside and either give it a vigorous shake or (on larger rugs) I use a carpet beater to shake all the dust off. I try and do this once or twice a month.
Accidents happen; no matter how careful you (or your guests) are, eventually, food and drink are going to end up spilling on your cowhide rug.
For light spills, use a damp cloth or sponge and rub the area going with the grain of the hair. You can use a little mild soap (such as Dove) if needed; but try to avoid specialist leather products such as saddle soap as this will damage the cowhide. I've also found using a mild shampoo (such as a baby shampoo) to be really effective at cleaning up light stains.
Whenever you clean your cowhide rug with a damp cloth or sponge, you should make sure that you dry it immediately. As I said above, moisture can damage the rug, causing it to become brittle. Use a dry towel to remove any excess moisture. Never use a source of heat, such as a hairdryer or direct sunlight, to dry your rug, you'll only damage the animal skin.
Getting rid of stubborn stains
What do you do if you've spilt food on you cowhide rug? Solid material can be removed using a knife or a wire brush (brushes used for grooming pets are particularly effective). Brush with the grain of the hairs and the solid material should loosen and fall off. A damp sponge or cloth can then be used to wipe down the rug's surface.
Particularly stubborn stains can be removed using a spray bottle containing a mix of water and white vinegar, at a mix of about 1 part vinegar to 99 parts water. The vinegar will help to neutralise odours by killing any bacteria on the rug. Lightly spray a small area of the rug with this solution, then wipe it with a damp sponge. As before, make sure you dry the dampened area immediately with a towel.
Finally, I like to air out my cowhide rug outside every three or four months. This gives the rug a blast of fresh air. An hour or so in the sunshine will kill bacteria on the rug (sunlight is a natural disinfectant). This is the only time I allow my cowhide rugs to come into contact with direct sunlight.
If you follow the steps above, your cowhide rug will stay looking and feeling great for many years to come.