How to Wash a Horse Rug

A horse rug is worn by the horse to help keep it warm. Most working horses have some rugs. They are big, heavy pieces of clothing that are difficult to handle and clean. There are different types of rugs. Stable and turnout rugs are bulky and heavy. Summer sheet and coolers are relatively light and usually small enough to go in a domestic washing machine; however, they can damage them. This article will tell you how to look after your rugs and washing machine.


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    Lay the rug over a fence and bang it to remove dirt and grass
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    Use an old dandy brush to brush out the worst of the dirt.
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    Turn the rug over and brush the underside to get rid of the worst of the sweat and hair.
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    Fill a large bin with hot water and non-bio soap. and non detergent soap, as the detergent can harden the proofing layer and over time cause it to peel off.
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    Put the rug in the water and beat it with a clean broom.
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    Leave it to soak.
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    Lay it out on the floor and scrub it with a brush or broom.
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    Remove any straps that are removable. Put them in a pillowcase or special wash bag to protect the washing machine.
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    Make any remaining straps as short as possible and cover them with a sock to protect the washing machine.
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    Wash in the machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. It's a good idea to add a small amount of disinfectant which will kill any bacteria and reduce odours.
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    Hang the rugs up on a strong washing line or over a fence, ideally in the wind and sun. They can also be hung with the breast straps fastened over a pole, however the pole must be high enough to keep the rugs off the floor. If necessary hang them inside or under the stables overhang.
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    Check that the rug is completely dry, especially if you are about to store it.


  • Washing rugs reduces their working life. By putting a cotton sheet under the rug to help keep it clean and following steps 1-3 regularly, as well as doing some spot cleaning, you will reduce the amount you have to wash the rug and therefore increase its working life.
  • Rugs damage washing machines with metal fitting and excess hair and dirt. Following these steps will reduce this, but the weight of the rug can also damage the machine. Stopping it before the spin cycle can minimise the damage. Larger and heavy rugs are best done in a commercial machine which empty by gravity and not a pump as on a domestic machine. It's the pumps that get damaged by washing rugs in domestic machines and can leave you with an expensive repair.
  • Always clean and dry a rug completely before storing it or sending it for repair.
  • You can have rugs professionally cleaned. This is expensive, but useful if they are going to be stored, and you can often get them repaired and re-proofed at the same time.
  • To help keep the water in the bin hotter for longer, insulate it with bubble wrap, feed bags, other rugs, etc.
  • Depending on how dirty the rug is and how hardy your washing machine is, you may be able to skip some steps.


  • Try not to dry the rugs in the tack room. Too much moisture in the air can rot leather.
  • Washing horse rugs in a washing machine may invalidate the machine's warranty.
  • Washing rugs can affect waterproofing. Use a specially-formulated washing powder or re-proof the rugs.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Depending on the type of rug, brushing it with a very stiff brush or broom may damage it.
  • Under the stable overhang is a useful place to dry rugs, giving the benefits of being outside and also having some protection if it rains, however makes sure that all the horses will be fine with this and won't spook too badly. Take them down if it is too windy.
  • Some washing powder can cause an allergic reaction in some horses. There are some specially designed for horses.
  • Wet rugs are very heavy. Ask for help carrying them if necessary.

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Categories: Horse Grooming