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How to distinguish genuine sheepskin from a ‘fake’

At Sheepers, we not only love all things sheepskin but also truly believe that nothing is more sustainable, cost-effective, and sustainable as sheepskin. And, who can resist them, right? They’re so beautifully warm and impossibly luxurious to the touch although, unsurprisingly, the material has been used in clothing and homeware for centuries.

While sheepskin continues to grow more popular, including elegantly made sheepskin hot water bottles, the growing trend has resulted in fake or ‘made to look like sheepskin’ products.

Want to learn how to distinguish between real sheepskin and a knockoff? This insightful article is all you need.

First telltale sign of real vs. fake sheepskin: Materials

Let’s shed some light on fake sheepskin first.

Fake sheepskin fabrics and products are typically made from synthetic materials. These would be polyester or acrylic, both of which can mimic sheepskin convincingly, either knit or backed into woven fabric.

These fabrics are mostly synthetic, so you can bet your ‘fake’ sheepskin product will have a heavy environmental impact.

Now, real sheepskin, as the term suggests, is actually made from the wool of a sheep. More precisely, these are leftover by-products from the food or meat industry which would otherwise end up in waste or landfills. Our sheepskin hot water bottles, for example, are made from a material which is a by-product of the meet industry – the offcuts used in the making of the hot water bottle covers is waste from the manufacturing process of other products we offer, such as sheepskin slippers and sandals.

We gather and reuse the offcuts so they never end up in landfills. It’s a ‘wasteless’ design, in essence, so it has a relatively low environmental impact.

Here are more ways of knowing whether the sheepskin product you are using is real or a fake.

touching sheepskin from a 'fake'

Run your hands through the sheepskin

A very practical and rather simple method to tell a fake sheepskin product from a genuine one is to simply stroke the fibres.

Real sheepskin has fibres that are very densely packed together along with a finish that is silky-smooth to the touch. If you do the same with fake sheepskin, you will find that it has a somewhat plastic-like feel to it, even though it may feel soft at first. The fibres will not be as densely packed together and you might even find the texture to be prickly.

Also, you should be able to feel the pelt beneath the fibres when you stroke real sheepskin. Fake sheepskin is typically thinner, so you’ll likely feel the backing fabric right underneath the surface while gliding your fingers through the fibres. This will never be the case with real wool, because its nature-intended purpose is to keep sheep warm!

Is sheepskin washable?

We’re definitely not suggesting that you bundle your Sheepers outerwear, for example, into a washing machine to carry out a little experiment because the instructions clearly indicated “not machine washable”.

But if you ever buy sheepskin products from anywhere else and the product in question came has a tag saying that it is “machine washable”, it is likely fake. Why? Because real sheepskin requires proper care and specialised washing – it should never be placed in a washing machine because it’s going to shrink and come out mangled, stretched out, or bent out of shape. It will almost always never retain its original properties, shape, feel, or texture.

This is we always recommend gentle spot cleaning using a mild detergent and water, and even offer comfort bands with our sheepskin hot water bottles for optimal care

Examine your sheepskin product’s backing

As mentioned earlier, genuine sheepskin products typically have the wool attached to the skin, whereas a knockoff will have fake fur attached to an artificial backing fabric. A litmus test for this would be to simply examine the pelt, that is, the non-wooly side.

How do we do this? Gently tug away the wool from the backing. The wool will not come away easily in case of genuine sheepskin. You’ll also notice that the underside will be completely smooth, like suede or leather.

On the other hand, if your sheepskin is fake, it’ll barely take you any effort to tug away the pile – in fact, the exposed backing will likely feature a woven texture.

The ultimate test: Get your sheepskin damp or wet

Disclaimer: Exposing real sheepskin to any kind of dampness or liquid is an all-around bad idea!

However, if you’ve already tried the steps above and are still not sure if your sheepskin product is real, the wetness test may serve as a good last resort.

Remember, real sheepskin is supposed to keep sheep nice, warm, and dry during long rainy seasons. So, this means it will remain warm even with rain falling over it. Artificial sheepskin simply doesn’t have these insulating properties, so it will feel cool or cold to the touch as most of the water will be absorbed.

Now, to test this out properly, take a small amount of cold water, say, a medium-sized mug, and pour it slowly over a small area of your sheepskin product. Feel that area through the back of your hand. Does it feel cool to the touch or does it feel warm? With real sheepskin, the material should feel warm as it retains heat quite efficiently while with a fake, the temperature will drop fast as there is little insulation.

Always choose sustainable sheepskin products over non-sustainable ones

When we talk about fake vs. real sheepskin, most people automatically assume that artificial sheepskin is a more environmentally friendly choice. And, why shouldn’t they?

After all, livestock can contribute to global emissions but here’s the key thing to remember: fake sheepskin products are made from plastic, and that’s derived primarily from oil. We all know about the problems with that.

This is why at Sheepers, we’re very proactive when it comes to sustainability – we use leftovers from the foot industry to craft all our genuine sheepskin products, including this lovely sheepskin cream cushion and sheepskin pet bed.

With Sheepers, you are guaranteed real and sustainable sheepskin products to beautify your home or upgrade your wardrobe.


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