Product Review: Nikwax Rug Wash & Rug Proof

Blankets need a refresh? We’ve got just the thing.

All photos by Kristen Kovatch.

By this stage of the season, one of two things has happened to you: a) you’re happily comfortable in the state of your horse blankets’ waterproofing, or b) you’ve discovered that your blankets have tragically lost their waterproofing as winter carries on.

If the answer is b), then you have two further options before you: you can put a bunch of blankets on your Christmas list and hope that Santa hustles them to your door, or you can get yourself a bottle or two of Rug Wash and Rug Proof by Nikwax.

(And even if your original answer was a), read on, because in the spring, you’re gonna want to get a few bottles of this stuff when you put your blankets away. Trust me on this.)

As the owner of a trio of horses who live out 24/7 in some pretty intense winter weather, it’s critical to me that my blankets and sheets stay waterproof all winter long. I’m not offended by dirt and stains — that’s par for the course when they basically live in their blankets — but I’m definitely not pleased when I get to the barn to find my horses standing shivering in a wet blanket that’s soaked them all the way through. Sure, they could stand in the shelter and stay dry, but they’re horses, and they do silly things, like stand in the pouring rain for no apparent reason.

So I was intrigued by the Nikwax Rug Wash and Rug Proof, which promised to clean and re-waterproof my sheets, respectively. Nikwax shipped me a bottle of each to sample and review.

Looks great, smells even better.

Here’s a pretty typical-looking sheet in my collection: it’s got some stains and ground-in filth from general wear in a wet and muddy season. While I blasted off the worst of the dried mud with a hose before I put this thing in my car to transport it home (and by extension, to sneak it into my home washing machine while my husband was at work), it’s clearly still rocking some stains.

One 34-ounce bottle of Nikwax Rug Wash will last you a while, even if you’re cleaning a lot of stable sheets or multiple turnouts — the instructions on the bottle call for five ounces per blanket with the recommendation that you only wash one at a time (and, you know, good luck mashing more than one blanket in a machine at a time anyway).

You can either figure this out with a liquid measuring cup, or you can sacrifice a tablespoon (there are two tablespoons in an ounce). I will state for the Horse Nation record that I very cleverly measured with water how many ounces there were in the lid of the Nikwax bottle, except that rather un-cleverly, I failed to actually write that down, so I can’t tell you here.

Anyway, I measured out my five ounces of Rug Wash, added this to the washer AFTER the drum had filled, and set the washer to the settings as prescribed on the label, and hoped that I wasn’t doing any damage to my machine.

Spoiler: I wasn’t. However, I admit that I had some reservations when it came to the Rug Proof.

It looked and smelled rather like glue, and the label called for me to pour a half a bottle into my washing machine in order to re-waterproof the sheet. I had visions of my husband’s work shirts coming out all sticky with sleeves stuck together, or the aroma of white glue lingering on our clothing for weeks until I would be forced to finally admit I had washed horse blankets at home. I considered the consequences, thought hard, and poured.

Note that washing and re-waterproofing are two separate processes — I ran the wash cycle once with the Rug Wash, and then a second cycle with the Rug Proof. And much to my joy, the water-based Rug Proof not only ran through my washing machine with nary a sign it was ever there — no lingering residue, no lingering aroma, and no mystery spotting on a later cycle — but the sheet came out simply gorgeous after a cycle in the dryer!

Welcome to my porch, by the way. It’s rather shabby as I spend virtually no time here, I’m always at the barn.

But pretty is as pretty does — the Rug Wash obviously worked, but did the Rug Proof actually re-waterproof the sheet? Fortunately, with rain in the forecast, there was an easy way to tell without sacrificing the comfort of one of my horses: I threw the sheet over a deck chair at home, watched it rain for 24 hours, and eagerly dashed back out to see how the sheet had stood up to the elements.

Looking a bit damp on the outside…

…but that’s a dry chair underneath! It worked!

Very damp uncovered control chair, for comparison.

The Rug Proof has multiple methods of application spelled out on the label if you have compunctions about pouring it in your home washing machine, or only need to re-waterproof a specific area of a blanket. Know that I was happy to potentially sacrifice my own machine for your peace of mind regardless.

Extend the life of your sheets and blankets with Nikwax! Learn more and find a retailer at