The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Sheepskin Rug for Your Home
Very few things beat the feeling of bare feet sinking into the softest, fluffiest sheepskin rug. Combine that moment with a roaring fire and maybe a glass of wine, and life doesn’t get much better. A poor-quality rug, though, will only be fluffy for a short period of time, before becoming nothing more than a scratchy nuisance for your feet. The only way to continue to retain the soft, luxurious feeling that only a sheepskin rug can deliver is to buy a premium rug.
So, how do you separate the rough from the lush? Don’t worry, because we’re here to help you know exactly what to look out for when it comes to your rug purchase. In addition, we’ll also help you know how to expertly look after the best sheepskin, so that your beautiful rug will continue to welcome you home for years to come.
What is a Sheepskin Rug?
Like cow hides, sheepskin rugs are a natural byproduct of the meat industry. Farmers send their sheep to be processed as meat for both human food and animal feed, but rather than throw away the skin, they make good use of it by tanning and preparing it for use as either leather or, in this case, as a sheepskin rug.
Sheep aren’t slaughtered specifically for their skin, so sheepskins are in no way unethical as a product. Creating rugs from sheepskins ensures that not a single part of the animal has gone to waste.
The wool used in regular carpets is usually much coarser and is processed down into very fine strands before being used in large rugs and carpets that usually adorn homes.
Sheepskins are different in that they are much softer, and only the sheep that produce the finest, softest wool will be considered by reputable companies and stores that create and produce the best sheepskin rugs of excellent quality.
Why Should You Consider a Sheepskin Rug?
Why Not Just Buy a Faux Fur Rug?
Sheepskins having been used for millennia by humans all over the world, keeping them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Despite this, there are some people who still dislike the idea of using fur. Instead, they may argue that a faux fur rug or pillow is just as soft, is usually less expensive, and has all the benefits of a natural sheepskin.
Sadly, this isn’t the case. Natural sheepskins are above and beyond the better choice as a rug. They last longer, they’re more hardwearing, they look better for longer, and they’re made from natural materials, as opposed to being constructed using harmful plastics and chemicals.
But there are some other reasons to choose all-natural, genuine sheepskins, too.
Sheepskin Rugs are the Healthy Choice
How can a rug be healthy? It all has to do with dust mites.
Real sheepskins contain natural oils that act as a natural defense against dust mites, dirt, and light splashes of liquid, including water. This is one of its greatest, and often unknown benefits.
A combination of dust mites, bacteria and water provide the perfect conditions for the growth of mold and other allergy-inducing fungus. While it’s not quite accurate to say that sheepskins are 100% hypoallergenic, you’re much less likely to harbor unpleasant dust and bacteria in a sheepskin than in a faux fur rug.
Faux Fur is Not Ethical
Faux fur is made in abundance because it’s cheaply sourced, and cheaply made. It’s usually constructed from either acrylic or polyester fibers, and both come from petroleum.
The petroleum industry is one of the most environmentally damaging industries on the planet. The energy used to turn petroleum into acrylic is over double that of the cotton industry, and uses hundreds of chemicals, some of which are known to cause cancer.
Polyester and acrylic materials are therefore highly unethical and damaging to the environment. Instead, choose a sustainable, ethically sourced sheepskin, a skin that without being repurposed into a beautiful rug, would only go to waste.
Faux fur rugs will only last a few months before looking shabby and unkempt, and it will only be a couple of years before they look so tired and worn that the only thing to do is throw them out and perhaps replace with another. Not only is this not financially sound, but faux fur takes a very long time to break down in landfill, making it once again a poor environmental choice.
Sheepskins are a Breathable Fabric
It might sound crazy, but sheepskins really can breathe! Air moves among the fibers of the wool and can even regulate its temperature, which is why we love to snuggle up under a sheepskin throw.
And in the summer, you might think the last thing you need is a sheepskin, but the air that moves into the fibers of the rug can remove moisture from the body and cool you down.
That’s why, at both ends of the planet, you’ll find sheep who will eventually have their hides made into rugs.
New Zealand or Iceland – Where’s Best for Sheepskins?
Two of the biggest exporters of sheepskins are situated at opposite ends of the globe: from the warm, and dry climate of Australasia (home to Australia and New Zealand) to the wild, cold, and rugged climate of Iceland, the Nordic nation at the very top of Europe, in the middle of the Norwegian sea.
Naturally, two very different climates will produce very different products, and the sheepskins these countries export are no different. Let’s look at the fundamental variations between them.
To cope with the freezing cold conditions of the vast Icelandic fields, Icelandic sheep have over the years developed a thick, coarse coat to keep them warm and protected from the sharp winds and freezing rain. This is clearly seen when inspecting an Icelandic sheepskin more closely and there's little doubt that these skins have been keeping the wild Vikings and their descendants warm for thousands of years!
You will first notice that Icelandic sheepskins aren't as large as those of New Zealand or Australia. Icelandic sheep are generally smaller in size, and therefore produce a smaller skin.
Many Icelandic sheepskins also look very different from one another; you’re more likely to get an unusual shape in an Icelandic skin, and this has to do with the way the wool grows on the sheep and therefore the way the skin is removed in order to make use of as much of the skin as is possible.
The length of the pile is around 4 to 6 inches and is very straight. There’s virtually no ‘loft’ in the pile – this means that the wool is so long and straight that it doesn’t stand up on its own. Instead, it lies flat.
This gives a shaggy, almost stark appearance to the rug. For some people, this is exactly what they’re looking for, and can look excellent when placed among the right kind of decor.
New Zealand Sheepskin
The New Zealand or Australian sheepskin is very different, which again is to be expected because the climate is practically on the opposite end of the scale to that of Iceland.
The sheep of New Zealand are larger, and their wool grows in a more uniform fashion. This ensures that sheepskin rugs from New Zealand tend to be larger in size, and of a more uniform shape.
The wool of a New Zealand sheep is much denser and softer, but it’s shorter. For New Zealand and Australian rugs to pass muster, they must have a wool length of at least 65mm, which is only 2.5 inches. It’s therefore shorter than an Icelandic wool, but it’s softer, thanks to its high ‘loft’, which is what gives the rug its springy, soft feel.
Which is the Best Sheepskin Rug?
Like many things in life, it all comes down to personal preference!
Interestingly, a lot of Icelandic people import the rugs for their homes from New Zealand and Australia, and vice-versa! They enjoy the big differences between their own, home-grown sheepskins and those from the other end of the world.
For us, though, we’re all about the soft and luxurious feel of New Zealand rugs. While we do appreciate the quality of Icelandic sheepskins, we find that nothing beats the thick, comforting warmth of the springy New Zealand sheepskin.
Our customers, too, find that the aesthetic appearance of the New Zealand sheepskin much more welcoming in their homes. While Icelandic sheepskins give a rugged, wild appearance, New Zealand sheepskins offer a traditional, warm, and cozy atmosphere to any room they’re placed in.
Customers also want to get their best quality sheepskin that will last them the longest amount of time and will put up with the everyday activity inflicted on a rug, where the entire family will at some point walk all over it several times a day.
The shorter pile of the New Zealand sheepskin means that it retains its shape and excellent condition much longer than that of a rug with a longer pile, such as that of an Icelandic sheepskin.
We ship our sheepskin rugs all over the world, but the overwhelming demand is for the high quality and superior feel of the New Zealand sheepskin rug, which continues to tick all our boxes.
Decorating Your Home with Sheepskin Rugs
Without doubt, it’s expected that your sheepskin rug will make its home on the floor. But that’s not the only place to put a rug, particularly a sheepskin. You may be pleasantly surprised that a sheepskin rug can look amazing and add extra warmth on a bed, a chair, draped over the couch, or even layered on top of another rug!
Let’s look at some different areas in which to place a sheepskin rug.
Sheepskins Say ‘Welcome’
We tend to put rugs on the floor most of the time, and a sheepskin does perfectly well there. It’s an inviting, comforting addition to a room that beckons guests in and welcomes tired feet at the end of a long day.
The shape of a sheepskin rug means that it can look beautiful wherever it’s placed in a room. It doesn’t have to line up at perfect right-angles with the furniture; on the contrary, a sheepskin rug can softly break up cold-looking rooms that contain more austere, formulaic styles of furniture.
Using a sheepskin rug isn’t just about fitting in with a color scheme, as may be the case with more traditional rugs. Instead, it can add both color and texture, completely transforming the style of a room.
Under the coffee table, a sheepskin rug makes for a more intimate space. In the hallway, it invites guests to kick off their shoes and feel welcome in your home. In a home office, it adds a more informal yet still professional flavor.
Sheepskins Say ‘Family’
Those with young children choose to put a creamy sheepskin in the nursery, adding both warmth and an extra level of safety to young children who like to use their cribs as a jungle gym. Nursing moms love to set a sheepskin rug in front of their favorite comfortable chair for quiet feeds on dark, cold nights.
At Christmas time, some choose to put sheepskins around the base of their Christmas tree – this can add an even cozier, inviting atmosphere at undoubtedly the most wonderful time of the year!
Sheepskins Say ‘Comfort’
If you’ve ever sunk your feet into the softest of soft New Zealand sheepskin, then you’ll have understood the impulse to lay down on it and have a nap! But by placing your sheepskin rug in the right place, you can have all the comfort without having to lie on the floor.
Instead, drape a sheepskin at the end of your bed or on your couch. On top of your duvet, the rug serves as an extra layer of warmth in the wintertime and sitting on top of a rug on the couch will be perfect for cold January evenings. You’ll probably find that you’ll need more than one for the couch, as the whole family and even the pets will want to get in on the action.
Speaking of pets, those of us who love to indulge the furry members of our family find that a sheepskin rug is the perfect place for an animal to sleep. That’s not surprising: dogs and cats love to snuggle into warm, soft, comfortable bedding, and it doesn’t get much warmer, softer, or more comfortable than a sheepskin rug!
Let’s just say that all our sheepskin rugs are made to a very high human standard, but that the pets of the household will consider such a treat the best investment you ever made!
Layering Sheepskin Rugs
They’re perfect as they are, and even the smallest of sheepskin rugs can hold their own in a vast room, but they also do very well when placed on top of another rug to add finesse to an established décor.
It sounds unusual, but when done correctly, the layering of rugs can really make your living room, or indeed any other room, stand out as a feature space.
Vintage wool or Kilim rugs that are made with a flat weaving technique and fashioned into a busy print can present a bold statement on the floor, but adding a light, single-shade sheepskin rug as a layer on top can double the warmth factor and add a bohemian edge to a room.
Other Uses for Sheepskin Rugs
Perhaps you’ve been inspired by the above ideas and have seen that it’s not just on the floor by the couch where a sheepskin rug can be placed! This classic rug is surprisingly versatile and can being a warmth to parts of the house where you’d never even considered it might.
Other places a sheepskin rug looks (and feels) great include:
- • In the car – don’t let those long drives feel like such a chore when you can cover your car seat with a sheepskin rug or two
- • On a stool as a centerpiece – when you drape a classic item like a rug over a rustic stool, it serves as a striking feature as well as a comfortable seat in the case of a surprise visit from friends or family!
- • As the perfect photograph background – we’ve all seen the pictures of adorable newborns snuggled in the warmest of sheepskin rugs and blankets, and in today’s social media climate you can give a classic edge to your brand by advertising your products while they’re placed on a sheepskin rug
- • As a wall hanging – it can be done with a cowhide rug, and it can be done with a sheepskin rug, too! Cold brick walls can be instantly made to look more welcoming with the careful hanging of a sheepskin
As you can see, thinking not so much outside the box but outside the floor means that you now have more reasons than ever to consider adding the versatile sheepskin rug to any (or all!) or your favorite spaces.
What Size Sheepskin Rug is Best?
Because a sheepskin is a natural product, it makes sense that much of the time, the size of your sheepskin depends on the size of the sheep. And this can be determined by the sheep’s breed, too.
While New Zealand sheepskins have a more uniform shape, they can come in different sizes. It could be that a regular sized sheepskin is perfect for slipping under the coffee table, but it’s not big enough to fill the large floor space of your dining room.
It means that whether you like sinking your feet into the large lounge rug in front of the fire, or just warming your toes on the small sheepskin throw on the bed, there’s no need for compromise. You can have both!
And if comfort’s your number one goal, then consider a sheepskin pillow, too. Although, your eye may also have been caught by a Tibetan curly fur lambskin pillow. What’s the difference between these pillows, and which one should you choose?
Sheepskin Pillows vs Tibetan Curly Fur Lambskin Pillows
Let’s just say first that we love both sheepskin and Tibetan curly fur lambskin pillows. For softness, comfort, and a natural softness that will make you melt into your couch, these pillows cannot be rivaled.
There are a couple of differences between the two types, though, so just like in the case of the different kinds of sheepskin we mentioned earlier, it’s good to be aware of how to make the best choice for your room.
If you know your sheepskin, then you know exactly what to expect with a sheepskin pillow or cushion. They are fluffy and furry and look fabulous against your couch. With dense, soft wool with a high loft that springs back up no matter how long you lie on it, a sheepskin pillow is a must-have for modern décor.
Tibetan Lamb Pillows
Fewer people know about Tibetan lamb and the pillows that they produce, and this isn’t surprising, because Tibetan lamb skins are much rarer to source than a sheepskin.
Once you’ve seen a Tibetan lambskin pillow, though, you’ll never forget it. Not only that, but you’ll also want to snap it up immediately. This iconic wool is unique in that its pile is long and naturally twisted into corkscrew curls that make you want to run your fingers over the pelt.
This wool is so soft and thick, no doubt because the mountains of Tibet, where the sheep freely roam, is home to some of the harshest weather conditions on the planet. The sheep have adapted to this cold existence by growing a wool that keeps them snug and warm.
You can never be uncomfortable when leaning your cheek against a Tibetan lambswool pillow; the wool is so soft it’s likened to cashmere.
Because it’s rarer than New Zealand sheepskin, the price of Tibetan lambskins is likely to be a little higher. For that reason, you may want to be kinder to your pocket by going for the sheepskin pillows, but if you’re happy to chip in a little more for your pillows, you won’t regret picking up some made from Tibetan curly fur.
Beware, though: your kids will want to snuggle with them in bed, and your guests will want to steal them, they’re so comfortable!
Decorating with Sheepskin and Lambskin Pillows
While rug placement might take a little forethought and some tilting of the head and squinting of the eyes, there’s none of that to be had with pillows.
Their very joy lies in their ability to be put carefully on the sofa, flung onto a chair, or plumped up and placed in front of your regular pillows to give a little more of a comforting feeling to your bed.
Unless it’s heavily and commercially dyed (and we wouldn’t recommend doing anything too drastic so such naturally beautiful pelts), these pillows will also fit practically any décor you choose to employ.
Tibetan curly fur pillows are especially good at promoting serenity and calm, and the calming natural shades of mink and beige that they often feature in can give a relaxed atmosphere to a room within seconds of their placement.
A good rule is to make them symmetrical when you place them on your couch: put one at either end of a regular-sized sofa, or even one at either end with an extra in the middle for larger pieces of furniture.
This is because the eye is automatically drawn to these feature pillows and to have one at one and nothing (or worse, a non-matching pillow) at the other end can immediately look strange. The eye loves uniformity and patterns, and symmetry and comfort together will draw guests in.
In the bedroom, placing the lush softness of sheepskin pillows at the front, and clean, sharp linen pillows behind will make for a warm and inviting scene. You may always have seen making the bed as an unwanted chore, but just imagine being welcomed home by such a comforting image when you return from a long day.
How to Choose the Best Sheepskin Rug
Now you know that a sheepskin rug is exactly what your home needs, then it’s time to choose the perfect one for your home. Here are a few tips on choosing the best sheepskin rug.
Tip #1 – Don’t Buy a Faux Fur Rug
For every genuine product on the market, there’s a cheaper knock-off. But while you might think a faux-fur sheepskin rug will do the trick, you’ll sadly be disappointed.
Only real sheepskin will give you that genuine softness, springy comfort, and lush, indulgent feeling. Faux fur might seem soft in the store, but once it’s home and subject to use it’ll quickly lose its appeal and become coarse and uncomfortable.
Within the natural hide world, you get what you pay for. And genuine sheepskin rugs pay for themselves for years to come.
Tip #2 – Consider the Size and Shape
We firmly believe that when it comes to sheepskin rugs, bigger is better. Sheepskin rugs are statement pieces that can really WOW you especially in larger sizes.
Consider the shape you would like to use whether it be natural shapes or rectangular. Depending on your style and décor, this can make a huge difference in how the rug looks in your home.
Tip #3 – Look at the Wool Density and Loft
The wool density, or number of fibers in a square inch, determines the quality of a rug. The more the fibers, the better the quality.
The loft relates to the ability the wool has to retain its height, standing tall and straight even after it’s been stepped on.
Thankfully, we’ve already sourced only the best New Zealand sheepskins, which cannot even leave the country for commercial use until they’re deemed to be of a high-enough grade concerning their density and loft, thus ensuring premium quality.
Sheepskin Rug Product CareOnce you’ve got your sheepskin rug home and it’s sitting pride of place in whatever room you’ve decided to put it, then you’ll soon find it’s a favorite accessory of the entire family’s!
It means plenty of people enjoying the feel of its softness and warmth under their feet, and maybe even a couple of pets enjoying its cozy pile. It’ll collect crumbs and drops of drink that might spill on it over time.
This is all natural, of course. Your sheepskin rug is meant to be enjoyed by the entire household and thankfully, a premium quality rug is a hardy item that will last you many years, if you look after it properly. And here’s how to do so.
Prevention is Better than Cure
First, be sure to keep your rug out of direct sunlight and away from moisture. The wool can lose its color, and damp areas can destroy the pelt. So, protecting your rug from the elements should be your primary goal.
Clean as You Go
Naturally, you want your rug to be used but this means it’ll sometimes attract spills and stains. The trick is to deal with them immediately, before they soak in and get any worse.
For spills, use a dry cloth and absorb as much as possible and if any remains, dampen the cloth and blot out the stain. Wipe in the direction of the fur and keep blotting and wiping until the stain’s gone.
Use Only Approved Products
Regular soap and detergents, even mild ones, can damage the fleece of your rug or pillow. Never use bleach or other cleaning chemicals as these will quickly damage the natural fur.
Instead, upon purchase, ask about the best cleaning products for the wool type. The answer may change depending on whether you’ve bought a New Zealand wool rug, or a Tibetan curly fur pillow, for example. Not all wools are the same.
Brush and Shake Regularly
Your sheepskin rug is a natural hide product and could be likened to the skin of a beloved pet, which occasionally needs a brushing when its long hair gets tangled. Get hold of a wider-toothed, metal brush and gently work through the fur once every few weeks.
Take the rug outside into the yard or over the balcony and give it a good shake. For larger rugs made of several pieces, hang it over the washing line and give it a beating to dislodge dust, crumbs, fibers, pet hair, and other small pieces of dirt that can make its way into the fleece.
Only Ever Dry Naturally
If you’ve cleaned your rug from a stain or have used approved detergents, the temptation might be to speed up the cleaning process by blasting the rug with a hair dryer or putting it in the dryer.
Don’t do either of these things! Intense heat applied to the rug, especially from the dryer, can cause the wool to shrink and can also damage the hide. Treat the rug gently by spot drying with a dry cloth or towel, and then allowing the rug to dry naturally. It’s best laid out flat, out of the sun, and it will soon dry on its own.
Frequently Asked Questions
By now, you’ll be much better informed and you’re probably ready to make your choice! But, just in case you’re still not totally sure of the best way to select and care for your rug, we’ve put together a list of FAQs to put your mind at rest.
#1 – Does it Matter Where the Sheepskin Came From?Yes, it absolutely matters! Premium sheepskins should only ever be sourced from herds that supply the best quality fleeces. Now, depending on the kind of wool you prefer, the wool’s origin will be of even more importance. For example, we only source premium quality New Zealand hides for our sheepskin rugs, and New Zealand and Tibetan hides for our pillows. This is because we know it’s the only way to guarantee the quality of the fleeces, and we’d never stock an item where we were unsure either of the quality, or the source.
#2 – Can I Choose the Color of my Sheepskin Rug?
Of course! It’s not a game of potluck when shopping for a sheepskin rug. No matter whether you choose from our natural colors or dyed colors, you will experience the same longevity and durability that will last for many years to come.
#3 – Can My Baby Play on a Sheepskin Rug?
The softness of a sheepskin rug is perfect for a baby’s delicate skin, and the natural bacteria-reducing qualities of sheepskin make it a very safe fabric.
Because of the long fibers, you should never leave a baby unattended on a sheepskin rug. Provided you’re always there to make sure the baby doesn’t get the fibers into its mouth, you’ll find your little one will love the soft, plush comfort a sheepskin rug brings.
Things to Avoid
Now that you know exactly what to look for when searching for the perfect sheepskin rug, it’s good to be reminded of a couple of things to avoid on your hunt.
- • Only buy from a reputable company – look for evidence that the rug has been sourced from countries like New Zealand, who have very high standards when it comes to the quality of the sheep fleeces that they produce.
- • If possible, have a feel of the fleece you’re buying. You’ll be able to tell just by running your hands through the fur whether it’s of a thick, dense quality. If the fur feels thin and dry, then move on. It’s possible that instead of being 100% premium wool, your sheepskin has been bulked up with either poor-quality yarn or even polyester or acrylic fibers.
- • If you’re in any doubt as to the material used, run your hand back and forth quickly over the rug, then touch your hair. If your hair stands on end, then you’ve created static electricity. And real sheepskins never create static! Chances are that in this case, you’re looking at faux fur, and not the real thing.
We’re Here to Help if You’re in Any Doubt!
Hopefully, our comprehensive buying guide has answered all your queries and has given you everything you need to look at one of our beautiful sheepskin rugs for your home.
But if you’re still in any doubt or you need some extra clarification, then don’t hesitate to ask! We’re here to answer any questions you may have, whether it’s the size of the rug you need, or how to look after the soft, fluffy pelts for years to come.