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Instructions for washing sheepskins

Here at Dartmoor Sheepskins we feel that life is for living, and as such you may well find yourself needing to clean your well-used sheepskin. This is a quick guide on how to wash a sheepskin.

We often get asked how to wash a sheepskins, is it even possible? The good news is that you can wash a sheepskin in the washing machine if you follow these simple rules.

How to wash a sheepskin in a washing machine: to

  1. To wash a sheepskin, set the washing machine at a low temperature – 30°C or lower. Your machine might have a WOOL setting, this will work well.
  2. Use a small amount of Biological or Non-Biological Washing Powder.
  3. Avoid additives like Fabric Softeners or Stain Removers.
  4. Tumble Dry on a Low Heat to prevent the wool becoming distorted, again if your machine has a wool setting this should work well – don’t worry if not, just keep the temperature down.
  5. Shake the sheepskin out when dry, and enjoy!

Please Note:

This information does not imply any guarantee, we only guarantee the quality of sheepskins we supply ourselves. Inferior sheepskins may have thin or poorly tanned hide, and as such may deteriorate over several washes, or even in just one wash. The sheepskins we supply will retain quality over many years, and can be washed using this method many times. We even used one as a baby changing mat, and washed it very regularly, it has lasted for years. As with many things in life, the better the quality you start with, the better the result you end up with.

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Are Sheepskins Ethical?

Are sheep slaughtered to make sheepskins?

Are sheepskins OK for the environment?

A sheepskin is a sheep’s skin and has come from an animal that has been slaughtered.

Dartmoor sheepskins come from animals that have been slaughtered for meat. Sheepskins are a byproduct of the meat industry. Fewer than 1 in 200 sheepskins are tanned (0.045%), the rest are treated as hazardous waste.

We eat well over 15 million sheep each year in the UK, but we tan only 60,000 sheepskins. Instead of using this resource, we destroy it.

At Dartmoor Sheepskins we believe that non-toxic biodegradable sheepskin should be used, not burned or buried, nor replaced with plastic fabrics.

Keeping it real

Every second of every day a lorry load of plastic fabrics are burned, or added to landfill. Every year, millions of sheepskins do the same. A sheepskin will last for many years, even if given the most basic level of care. And at the end of its long and useful life, a sheepskin has the good grace to rot into the earth. It returns.

Friends of the Earth commissioned a study which found microfibers even in our own selves. From the report:

Washing machines and wastewater treatment plants aren’t designed to trap the minute plastic fibres that our clothes shed during washing. Many of these fibres sneak into our waterways and ultimately the oceans. And lots are caught up in sludge at the treatment plants – which is then sprayed over our soils as fertiliser.

Friends of the Earth

“In 2005 [we ate] 14.1million lambs (+ 2.2million ewes and rams) Only 60,000 UK skins p.a. are processed by the remaining UK tanning sector, less than 0.45% of the total”2015 Sheep Industry Report

Almost all British sheep live outdoors and receive the highest levels of animal welfare. Sheep raised on Dartmoor, for example, will see few fences in their entire lives.

Go back less than two decades and wool was the primary reason for sheep farming in Britain. Wool comes from living animals that have been shaved before the weather gets too hot. In 2001 the ratio changed in favour of meat – we currently keep (a lot) more sheep to eat. This is the source of our sheepskins.

We cannot address the needs of people who cannot live with such an overt animal product in their life. If that’s you, we hope there’s no hard feelings.

The art of creating soft, lasting hides has been passed down through generations. It’s a craft skill in an industry that slumped from an anti-fur sentiment. People concerned about animal welfare have legitimate concerns, but these sheep have already been eaten.

Barbed wire is not compatible with good sheepskin

The sheepskin industry can do little to improve sheep welfare, and buying sheepskin has zero effect on sheep lifespan. Almost all aspects of sheep husbandry are guided by the demands of the meat industry. All except one. The best sheepskin will come from sheep that have never torn their skin on barbed wire fences. We believe that sheep raised in an open landscape, like Dartmoor, produce the best fleece and live the best lives.

Our textile industries responded to the public demand to ditch fur. After Jeff Banks championed sheepskin on The Clothes Show on BBC 1 in the 80’s, Vivienne Westwood countered with a demand that fashion labels and consumers ditch fur. In a time of peak consumerism (and cheap oil) this was an obvious ethical choice. The trouble is we still wanted ‘fur’.

People cleverer than this writer created faux fur, which approximates that of animal origin but is made instead from plastic, derived from oil. Some of it is pretty good and feels authentic. Most doesn’t come close. None of it has the exothermic properties of wool. None of it degrades very quickly. All of it sheds microfibers in use, and particularly during washing and drying.

Sheepskin can be washed and dried much easier than you might think, using the same energy as a pair of jeans. During the wash, sheepskin sheds fewer hair fragments than polyester fabrics, and those that it does shed are harmless.

We urge you to again enjoy sheepskin, an otherwise waste product. Sheepskins do come from sheep that have been slaughtered, but we are currently, literally, throwing them away. Feel free to join our mailing list below, which comes with a 20% discount code “welcome20”, redeemable at the checkout.

All our products come in plain biodegradable packaging. Simply recycle, or compost at home.

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Why do we sell sheepskins?

Child sleeping on sheepskin

When our daughter was no bigger than a scan photo we bought our first sheepskin. We went from the hospital directly to get a pure cream medium length sheepskin for our unborn baby to sleep on.

The luxury of sheepskin has always made me feel safe, it’s always been reassuring to me. After a hard day you can rest your baby on a sheepskin and you’ll know it’ll feel loved. No matter how cruel the world can seem, you can always return home and rest your head in utter luxury.

So when our tiny little girl was born, and even tiny nappies seemed rough on her delicate skin, we laid her on the very thing that felt safest, our first sheepskin.

That skin served us well, it’s been through the wash countless times, every time it’s a little surprise to tumble dry the thing and find it like new… Well, nearly new (our little girl is now eighteen).

We now have many sheepskins in our lives, all of them special. But that first cream coloured sheepskin will always feel extra special. It’s served as baby bed, changing mat, seat cover for Nan, it was a pet bed for a while, but after a wash it always bounces back like new.

This is why we started Dartmoor Sheepskins, only with our company each sheepskin is unique – we don’t sell standard anything, each skin is personally selected, we only stock sheepskins that we would want to live with ourselves. Each time we sell a sheepskin, we do so knowing it can do as much for you as our first sheepskin has done for us. And when you come home from a hard day, I know that resting your head on one of our skins will give comfort and reassurance.