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Cowhide Cleaning and Curling

Cowhide rug general weekly and monthly care instructions

Watch this video to see our cowhide cleaner being demonstrated using common spills like red wine.

Cowhide hair-on-hide is best used in a domestic home environment. You can use a cowhide rug in your home's entrance way but it will show wear more quickly. We think they work better in a lounge, dining room or bedroom.

It's OK to fold your cowhide rug, but it will need some time to relax after it is unfolded. If your cow skin rug is good quality the creases will come out after a few days laying flat. A heavy weight like books can speed up this process. You can also steam iron the cow skin on the underside or hairy side to reduce creases more quickly.

Cowhide does move on carpet because of the carpet underlay but on wooden floors it stays in place very well, the textured leather underside has natural grip. You do need to be a bit careful in bare feet on the soft and silky upper side. Sometimes Velcro dots (the teeth grip kind) around the edge help stop the cowhide rug from being kicked up at the edges on carpet or a non-slip rug underlay (on hard floors like wood and concrete).

The sun takes its toll on all furnishing fabrics. We recommend keeping the dyed and printed cow skins out of direct sunlight to avoid any possible fading. Natural cowhide rugs are fade resistant but everything fades given enough sun and enough time.

How to clean a cowhide rug - General 3-6 monthly maintenance

Cowhide general cleaning
Cowhide Cleaning Case Study One - Read about a white cowhide rug that really needed a clean. How do it turn out?

Cowhide Cleaning Case Study Two - Read about a lady who treated a very old cat pee smell on a cowhide rug. Did it work?

Cowhide and cow skin rug cleaning instructions

Download FREE* cowhide rug cleaning instructions PDF for individual private use - not for re-distribution or use on other websites (*copyrighted content)
Include your cowhide rug or cowhide ottomans in your normal cleaning routine, simply vacuum with the vacuum head brush down (for hard floors) and if possible the suction reduced to the rug setting. Or give your rug a shake outside to remove dust and small dry particles of dirt.
Brushing with a hard plastic bristle brush or broom helps to keep the hair soft and fluffy and to remove dirt, sand and larger dirt particles trapped in the hair. Rotate your rug or move to a different location from time to time so that it wears evenly.
DO NOT wash in a washing machine, hose down or dry clean a cowhide rug.

For common spills or accidents like red wine, coffee, tea, juice, food, soup, urine, faeces and vomit - soak up or wipe up spills with a paper towel or sponge as soon as possible. Remove any solid matter with the blunt edge of knife by scraping gently in the direction of the hair. Try not to push nasty accidents deeper into the leather. The Gorgeous Creatures cowhide cleaner is antibacterial.
Lightly spray your cowhide rug with the Gorgeous Creatures cowhide cleaner treating a small area at a time, complete one section before starting the next.  
Wipe the cowhide vigorously in any direction with a damp (but not wet) clean cloth. Do not soak the hide or get it too wet. Rinse the cloth in fresh water and wipe again to remove any residual cleaning solution until clean. Repeat if necessary.
Wipe the whole hide with a clean dry towel to remove as much moisture as possible. Dry the cowhide flat and slowly away from direct heat and sun.  

Our cowhide cleaner is not a stain remover which is why it is so important to treat spills immediately.
On a sunny day you can put your cowhide outside with the underside facing the sun to freshen and remove moisture. Store cowhides in a clean dry place, preferably rolled around a tube core and then wrapped with a clean cotton sheet to protect from dust and dirt while in storage. If the cowhide rug becomes musty after being in storage clean the whole hide with our Gorgeous Creatures cowhide cleaner which contains special ingredients that inhibit mould and mildew growth.
We recommend that white, cream, beige or other light coloured cowhides be sprayed with a light coating of colourless nubuck and suede water proof spray from a cobbler or shoe shop when they are new. If you clean the cowhide with our cowhide cleaner you can re-spray the surface with nubuck water-proofer again for added protection.

Seeing is believing - this demonstration shows the cowhide cleaner in action with common household spills including red wine, butter, oil, jam, tomato sauce, food, catfood and urine.

cleaning product demo common spills

Cowhide Cleaning Product - How to clean a cowhide rug

how to clean cowhide

Watch this video about quality cowhide verses cheap cowhide before you buy a cow skin rug! What to watch out for and what to avoid.

Good quality cowhide vs bad cowhide

Not all cowhide rugs are the same, in fact each one is absolutely unique in the way they look, the colour, shape and size, but also the feel of the leather and the texture and softness of the hair. People often ask me what the difference is between a good quality cowhide rug and a bad quality cowhide rug. There is no one simple answer, basically cheaper cowhides tend to be a much lower quality.

This whole process starts right at the beginning with the selection of the skins through the tanning process and the equipment and chemicals they use plus the skills of the leather technician. The longer they spend processing the skins and the higher the quality of the tanning chemicals they use the better quality the finished product will be. You can't rush the tanning process, it takes weeks. The leather should be soft and floppy, easy to fold (not stiff or rigid) and also an even thickness over the whole hide. The hair should be glossy and soft to touch.

All cowhides have natural flaws, they are a natural by-product. The big visual difference between a good quality cowhide rug and a bad quality one is often in the way that these natural flaws are treated. Poor quality hide repairs do a hack job and the results are often dreadful and ugly. In a good quality hide any repairs should be almost invisible from the hairy top-side. Watch our video that explains this is more detail and shows some examples.

Are your cheap cowhide rug edges curling up? Cigaring and what to do about it.

There are a number of things that might cause edge curling on cow skin rugs. A poor quality cow hide that has been unevenly split during the tanning process is a strong possibility. Because the leather fibres in the thinner areas dry out faster than leather fibres in the thicker areas it can create uneven surface tension and make them curl. Expect cheap cowhide to curl quite quickly, within months of purchase. This curling is sometimes called cigaring.

However even a good quality cowhide can curl with the right environmental influences. Again if the top surface fibres are drying and contracting faster than the underneath fibres due to heat exposure like strong sun or a heater blowing hot air over the cowhide over a long period of time. Or the reverse can be true for under floor heating which dries out the underneath faster than the top surface.

They are most vulnerable to curling around the narrow leather parts like the front legs and the cheek leather near the head. Curling is simply something that low quality cowhide rugs can do, it should be considered the "nature of the beast".

There isn’t really a cure but try to roll the leather back in the opposite direction to the curl and give it a squeeze massage. A light misting of water can also help put a small controlled amount of moisture back into the cow skin leather. You can steam iron cowhide rugs on either the leather or hair side with a cloth between the iron and the cow skin.
If it really bothers you and continues to curl then the only other option is the trim off a slice of leather removing the curling area. Use a sharp craft knife blade and cut from the underside starting by wiggling the knife through the leather in the middle of the cutting path, then slowly draw the blade in a gentle curve mirroring the original shape of the cowhide rug and running the blade off the edge of the hide, repeat going in the other direction to complete the cut.

This technique cuts the leather but not the hair leaving a nice layer of hair still falling over the edge of the cowhide. I find it easiest if the cow skin rug is on the floor (upside down), I then stand on the cow skin rug to hold it down and lift the edge that I am cutting about 10cm away from the floor so the leather is taught. Be careful and watch out you don't cut your floor or your leg!!!!

Of course it is very likely that curling will happen again if the cowhide is cheap and poor quality or the environmental factors are still happening. If cigaring is an ongoing annoyance then perhaps cowhide rugs are not the best flooring solution for you. Buy a sheep skin wool rug instead.

We have been selling beautiful top quality cowhide rugs in New Zealand for over ten years, it is interesting to note that in the last two years the NZ searches for cowhide trouble shooting and cowhide curling info has sky-rocketed after poor quality cowhide was introduced to New Zealand. Cheap hides WILL fail so don't buy them!