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How to clean your horse’s turnout rug

how to clean your horse's turnout rug

Turnout rugs are essential to keep your horse dry and comfortable when he’s out in his field. They repel water but are also breathable and allow your horse to handle temperature changes. And for both of these reasons it’s important that you take proper care of them as this will ensure the best performance and long life.

Cleaning is key.

Dirt and mud on the surface of a turnout sheet will cause it to absorb water, making your horse cold and clammy. Additionally, if your horse has a wet rug sitting on him for an extended period, it can have negative health effects. Regular cleaning will keep your rug in tip-top condition. Spot-cleaning is a great way of keeping your rug clean throughout the year, in between washings, without over-washing them.

We are approaching the time for the end-of-season wash, so follow our Do’s and Don’ts for the best results in addition to the sporadic instances of exceptional dirtiness, is typically best.


  • Consult the rug manufacturer’s cleaning instructions before you start 
  • Remove excess dirt with a damp cloth or sponge 
  • Hand wash at a cool temperature using a non-biological soap. Washing in high temperatures can damage the waterproof nature of the fabric 
  • Drip dry on a washing line or equivalent 
  • Store in a cool, dry place.


The Don’t list is a bit longer!

  • Don’t spray your rug with a high-pressure hose as you will damage the small pores allowing water to enter immediately
  • Don’t use a harsh bristled brush to scrub the outer denier, you can spike the membrane
  • Don’t use hot water as it will very easily damage the rubber-like waterproof membrane on the underside of the fabric. This will render it useless.
  • Don't use detergents or any type of chemical on your turnout rug as this can damage the waterproofing membrane too
  • Don’t use additives like Tea Tree Oil or Eucalyptus oil etc on your rugs as they can affect the membrane lining
  • Don’t be tempted to put it in the washing machines as the continual agitation of the rug going around in the machine can damage the waterproof membrane
  • Don’t put it in the tumble dryer
  • Don’t leave your rug out on rails in direct sun for days or weeks at a time.

Why do turnout rugs need more care?

You might be wondering why turnout rugs need more care than, say, a stable rug. It’s to do with the polymer membrane lining which gives the rug it's waterproofing. The membrane is like a rubber compound and has an inherent moisture content which varies with environmental conditions like humidity etc. Waterproofing eventually fails in a rug when the lining ages and the polymer dries out and becomes brittle.

    What products exist to help me with my rug cleaning?

    Some manufacturers recommend using a wash bag which can prevent the breakage of any straps, pockets, and buckles that are attached to the rug.

    Moorland Rider Horsewear Wash Bag

    Nikwax Rug Wash is gentle cleaner that gently lifts out dirt and revitalises all water-repellent finishes on a turnout rug deep cleans while ensuring the best possible waterproof performance and breathability.

    Nikwax Rug Wash

    Sadly water-repellency isn’t forever. Over time, the factory-applied water-repellent coating will wear off. When this happens, there is no need to throw away your rug! After cleaning thoroughly with Nikwax Rug Wash, use Nikwax Rug Proof to add water-repellency while maintaining breathability. It’s important to use a waterproofing product that maintains breathability, so your horse can regulate their temperature efficiently when the weather changes.

    Shop our range of Cleaning and Reproofing products.

    Nikwax Rug Proof

    What’s the best way to store my turnout rug?

    Your rug is one of your horse’s key belongings and an expensive one at that. So, the way in which you store it will have a big effect on how well it will last. Here a few tips:

    • Air stored rugs from time to time as long, extended periods, can accelerate the breakdown of the waterproof membrane. The rug needs to be aired from time to time to allow it to 'breath' and to ensure the polymer lining doesn't dry out excessively. Rugs that get used infrequently are usually the ones that have the shortest membrane life because they either dry out or grow mould
    • Ensure that your rug is completely dry before you store it away because if it’s damp or sweaty mould and mildew will eat away at the waterproof membrane over time.

      Shires Rug Storage Bag

      Shop Rub Washing and Reproofing


      Kim Horton

      Co-Founder of EQUUS and a keen equestrian, when Kim's not at her desk she's with her horse, Waldo.

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