Sheepskin rugs are made from the hides of mature sheep. The fluffy fleece remains attached to the skin, creating a soft, comfy surface that cushions the feet. While sheepskin is available in a variety of colours, you can also dye it at home. A natural fibre, sheepskin responds well to the acid-based dyes. Wool and leather are made primarily of protein, which breaks down by exposure to acid, allowing the dye to penetrate the surface. You can easily dye small rugs in a bucket, while larger rugs will require a more spacious container, such as a plastic dustbin.
Weigh yourself on a standard scale. Pick up the sheepskin rug and weigh yourself again. The difference in mass will give you the weight of the rug in pounds. For each pound of material you will need 1 packet of powdered dye or ½ bottle of liquid. Be sure to choose a dye that is designed for use on wool and leather.
Place the rug into a sturdy container. Fill the container with enough hot water to completely submerge the material. Squeeze the sheepskin gently to release any dirt or debris from the fibres.
Add 2 cups of distilled white vinegar to the water for each pound of sheepskin. This will lower the pH of the solution, making the dye more effective.
Pre-dissolve powdered dye by mixing each packet with 2 cups of boiling water. Dilute liquid dyes by stirring each bottle into 2 qt. of warm water. Pour the dye solution over the rug. Stir with a wooden spoon to evenly distribute the colouring agents.
Swirl the spoon through the dyed water, keeping the fluid in constant motion for 10 to 30 minutes. The longer the sheepskin is in the solution, the darker the colour will be.
Remove the rug from the solution. Wring the carpet lightly to eliminate any excess liquid and then slide the material into a black plastic trash bag. Seal the bag and set it in direct sunlight for at least four hours. The heat from the sun will help to set the dye into the fibres.
Pull the rug out of the plastic and rinse it with warm water until the water runs clear. Gradually decrease the temperature of the water. When the tap is completely cold, remove the rug and squeeze it gently, wringing out as much water as possible.
Pour 2 tbsp of liquid dishwashing detergent into a bowl. Add 2 cups of warm water and stir vigorously to form soap suds. Apply the soap solution to the damp sheepskin with a sponge. Scrub the rug lightly and then rinse the soap away with cool water.
Spread a layer of absorbent towels across the floor. Lay the rug across the towels and allow the sheepskin to air dry.
Don rubber gloves prior to handling the fabric dye.
Tips and warnings
- Don rubber gloves prior to handling the fabric dye.