How to clean a horse rug

Saturday 5th March, 2016

As the winter season comes to an end and we start to feel the warmth of the summer sun on our
skin, now is the time to rethink what rugs you are using on your horse. Some horses will require
heavy rugs to keep them cosy while other hardier breeds will be happily turned out without a stitch
on, but the majority of owners will have used some form of outdoor and indoor rugs during the
winter months. Rugging up is considered essential by many horse owners to provide horses with
warmth and protection against the elements, or to aid cooling and recovery after exercise, meaning
you will likely have a menagerie of rugs to clean before storing for the summer.

One of the huge benefits of using rugs is that it keeps your horse clean, both inside and outside,
however this does mean that the rug itself is going to get pretty filthy. Mud and dirt can be brushed
off a New Zealand rug in between wears, however at some point it is going to have to be fully

The beauty of modern technology is that a large proportion of the rugs on the market today are
machine washable. For those who have horses on the larger side, the prospect of washing your rugs
in a domestic machine is probably an impossibility, however industrial machines and rug washing
services are available for use throughout the UK. If you do decide to DIY, there are some important
steps to follow when cleaning your rug to keep it in tip top condition:

1. Remove excess dirt and mud

You don’t want to have masses of mud floating about in your washing machine drum, so try and get
rid of all gross dirt beforehand.

2. Remove all detergent from your machine’s soap dispenser

Rugs must be washed in very mild soap or specialist detergents so as not to damage the

waterproofing of the materials.

3. Secure all buckles and slip the rug into a mesh bag

This stops any straps or buckles from becoming stuck in the drum which could damage your


4. Select delicate setting on your washing machine

We suggest using a dedicated rug wash solution such as Nikwax rug wash, and follow the

manufacturer’s instructions.

5. Forget fabric conditioners

They may smell great but they will compromise your rugs waterproofing, so leave them well alone.

6. Reproof your rug

Add a rug waterproofed such as Nikwax Rug Proof to increase the water repelling properties of your
rug, if an outdoor rug.

7. Leave to line dry

Never be tempted to tumble dry your rug, not only might you shrink it out of shape, but you could
also damage the waterproofing rendering your rug useless in the winter months.

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