Keeping rugs clean in winter can be difficult, especially if you’re relying on an ordinary washing machine. Some owners opt for professional rug laundry services, but if the cost outweighs the convenience, try some alternative approaches.

Stable rugs

Dressage rider Andrea Basildon has given up stable rugs altogether. Instead, she uses lightweight turnout rugs on her horses.

“Most stable rugs absorb moisture, which is why they get smelly,” she says. “Turnout rugs are designed to repel it, so I keep one for each horse that is used only indoors and doesn’t get plastered in mud.

“It means that I can scrub off stable stains without the rug lining getting wet. I use a cotton sheet or a thermal knitted rug underneath, depending on how cold it is — both are lightweight and easy to wash and dry in an ordinary machine.

“The horses’ coats stay clean and the top rugs only need washing once at the end of the winter.”

Old tights

Even lightweight rugs usually have metal fittings, which can cause damage to washing machine drums. Riding club member Sue Bartle says that the solution lies in an old pair of tights.

“Cut off a length about 1ft long for each fastening and thread it through the slit at the bottom where the surcingle goes through. Then tie it round in a double knot, fastening the knot so it cushions the sharp end. This stops the fastenings digging into the drum and should stop them clanking around.”

Wave goodbye to washing machines?

Livery yard owner Rosie Marchant doesn’t bother with washing machines at all.

“We’re a small yard, with just five horses, so we clubbed together earlier this year to buy a small power washer,” she says. “It cost about £70 from a local DIY centre and we’ve found that using plain water is enough to get our rugs clean. The force of the water blasts off all the mud and dirt and it’s more than paid for itself already, especially as it can be used to wash cars and stables too.”

Like this? You might also enjoy reading these:

Stain remover

Washing a whole rug to clean a relatively small stained area can seem a waste of time and effort. Show hunter pony owner Carole Benton found the answer in a bottle of stain remover called Magic Green Spot Remover (www.cowboymagic.com).

“It worked well on a grey pony and didn’t leave a residue, so we tried it on his rugs,” she said. “I did a patch test first, then used it on a large stain. We follow the same instructions as for the pony — spray it on, rub it in gently, leave it for a few minutes, then wipe off with a damp cloth. It’s halved the number of times we need to wash rugs completely.”

This feature was first published in Horse & Hound (2 December 2004)