How to Easily Clean a Cowhide Rug

When looking to add some rustic charm to homes, a cowhide rug is a popular option. These rugs rarely shed, and with a little care, they can last a lifetime. Cleaning these rugs can be a bit intimidating since they are, after all, animal hide, and require different techniques than your typical rug. We’ve done some research and have the answers you need to keep a cowhide looking brand new for years to come. So how do you clean a cowhide rug?

How to Easily Clean a Cowhide Rug

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A cowhide needs a gentle touch to keep it clean without damaging the hide. For spills, soak up the liquid immediately then clean with a damp cloth and non-alkaline soap like Dove or baby shampoo. Solid material should be scraped away with the blunt edge of a knife or the side of a spoon. Always be careful to move with the lay of the hair rather than against it. 

This is, of course, only a brief description of how to clean a cowhide rug. For more detailed information, keep reading to get all the tips and tricks you need to keep your cowhide pretty and pristine.

How to Care For a Cowhide Rug

There are several ways to keep your cowhide rug in good condition. Follow these methods to make sure your rug doesn’t keep stains and cut down on wear and tear.

Rotate Your Rug. 

Your rug will suffer from wear and tear, unfortunately. But how it shows that wear and tear can be managed by rotating it. Instead of laying the rug one way in front of your couch, try spinning it a bit every month or so. This will allow your rug to catch heavy traffic evenly across its surface rather than only in one or two spots. You can also move your rug to different places throughout the house to give it a break from being used.

Clean Regularly. 

Cleaning your rug regularly will help keep stains from setting in and prevent mold from growing deep in the hair. You can spot clean as needed with non-alkaline soaps or a water/vinegar mix. If you’re using water and vinegar, though, use a minimal amount of vinegar. A ratio of 99% water and 1% vinegar should work well. 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 lays. Be careful not to soak the rug as this will damage it.

  • For regular stains: You can spot clean with the water/vinegar solution or the soap, but eucalyptus oil has shown to be effective as well. Dab a small amount onto the stain then rub away with a dry cloth.
  • For grease stains: Try first scraping any solid matter off of the rug with the blunt side of a knife or the edge of a spoon, then wipe with a damp cloth and gentle soap. If this doesn’t remove the grease stain, though, and often they don’t, you may want to get in touch with a professional cleaning service.

To find this cowhide cleaning soap on Amazon, click here. 

Click here to find this baby shampoo on Amazon. 

Shake and Air It Out. 

Once a month or so, take your rug outside on a dry, sunny day and shake it out. This loosens dust and dirt particles stuck deep in the hair of the rug and keeps mold from developing. 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.

Can Cowhide Rugs Be Vacuumed?

Yes! Vacuuming a cowhide is a great way to collect all the little dust and dirt particles that your rug catches from the air and traffic it’s exposed to. When vacuuming:

  • Make sure to put the vacuum on the hard floor setting. This allows the brush to drop so that the hair gets separated, and the suction can catch the dirt.
  • Lower the suction. Using a high suction can damage the hair on the hide. To avoid this happening, lower the suction setting to a lower power level, such as upholstery. If you can’t reduce it, you may want to try a lower-powered handheld vacuum instead.
  • Always vacuum with the lay of the hair. If you vacuum against the lay of the hair on the rug, the hair could get pulled from the follicle, which would leave bald spots on your rug.
  • Start in the middle and work your way out. Run your vacuum from the middle of the rug and towards the edge. Turn a full circle as you do this until you have covered the entire rug. The hair of the rug will naturally lay this way, so it will reduce the risk of the vacuum damaging it.
  • If you can’t get everything out with the vacuum, go over it with a bristle brush. Brushing the rug with a hard-bristled brush will loosen the particles that are stuck in the hair. Then you can vacuum the rug again to get the last of it.

To find this handheld vacuum on Amazon, click here.

To find this hard bristled brush on Amazon, click here.

How Do You Get Dog or Cat Urine Out of a Cowhide Rug?

Hey, it happens. A new pet that isn’t wholly housetrained takes a tinkle on your rug. Or maybe it’s an older pet that’s having a hard time and doesn’t quite make it outside or to the litter box. You forgive your precious furry bundle, of course, but you don’t want your rug to be left smelling horrible! So what do you do?

  • Soak up the urine. Immediately, or at least as soon as possible, soak up the excess wetness with a clean cloth.
  • Wipe the spot with water/vinegar solution. Vinegar is a nifty little liquid that, while it smells strong at first, as it dries loses its smell. It also takes away the smell of whatever else was on that spot. See where we’re going with this? A cloth slightly dampened with water that’s mixed with a bit of vinegar will clean the area as well as get rid of any odor that’s left.
  • Air it out. If the vinegar and water don’t help the odor, try airing the rug out on a dry, sunny day. The fresh air and sunshine should help kill any bacteria left behind by the urine, which is what’s keeping the smell around.
  • Pet Odor Neutralizer. You can use a heavily diluted pet odor neutralizer to try and remove the scent. When using these, stick to only small areas at first to make sure they don’t damage your rug. Natural enzyme solutions are best for this.
  • Consult a professional. If all else fails, talk to a professional rug cleaner. They’ll have the right tools to clean your rug without damaging it.

Click here to find this pet odor remover on Amazon. 

For more tips on cleaning pet accidents off a cowhide rug, check out this post. 

Can You Get a Cowhide Rug Wet?

Please don’t toss your cowhide in the washing machine. If your cowhide rug gets wet, the hide will shrink and buckle, effectively ruining it. If your rug does get wet, you can try the steps on this site to keep it from being a total loss.

How Do You Flatten a Cowhide Rug?

If you notice one or two places on your rug are buckling or curling, or if it has been folded up and has creases, there are a few things you can do to flatten it back out.

  • If your cowhide is curling up around the edges, a few sprays of water and some heavy books can flatten it back out.
  • If your rug has some creases from folding, first try letting the rug lay on a flat surface for a few days. This should get out any wrinkles.
  • If you have stubborn creases, use an iron to get them out. Take a damp (not saturated) towel and lay over the hairy side of your rug. Set your iron to the lowest heat setting, so you don’t burn the rug then iron over the towel. Once you’ve ironed the entire rug this way, flip the rug over, so the hide side is facing up. Let the rug cool, then flip it back over. Tada! Perfectly smooth cowhide rug.

Clean Cowhide

Cleaning a cowhide rug is relatively simple once you know the ins and outs of caring for one. Making sure to use damp cloths only, gentle soaps or water/vinegar solutions, and being gentle with the hide will allow it to stay a beautiful part of your home’s decor for many years.

To find rustic decor like cowhide rugs, check out our post here.

We also have a rustic design guide with inspiration here. 


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  1. Thanks for the tip that vinegar would be my best friend if ever one of my pets pees on my rug. My mother once told me that having a cowhide rug would be a good addition in my living room to complement the animal print covers of the throw pillows on my couch. These cleaning tips are quite helpful since my dogs would probably take a while before they get used to a new piece of furniture and might dirty during the first few weeks of having it.

  2. What an incredibly detailed guide on caring for cowhide rugs. I’ve always adored the rustic charm they bring to a space but felt unsure about maintaining them. I find it is also helpful is using a soft-bristled brush after vacuuming to gently fluff up the hairs and restore the rug’s natural luster. It’s amazing how these small care techniques can make such a big difference in preserving the beauty of these stunning rugs. Thank you for these great insights!

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