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How to Wash Wool

Woolly jumpers are essential when it gets colder! Find out how to take care of your delicate woollen items with this simple guide on how to wash wool.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

how to wash wool

When the temperatures start to drop, many of us reach for our wool jumpers to help keep us warm and snug, but does the thought of washing wool scare you? If so, you’re not alone. Many people fear wool because they don’t know the proper methods for getting it clean without risking damage. Wool is well known for being very temperamental, and could shrink or stretch when subjected to extreme conditions or when handled too vigorously. The trick when washing wool is to be as gentle as possible, which will help you to keep your wool looking good year after year. Here’s some other tips and tricks that will help you out, too:

When washing wool, it’s best to use a quality laundry detergent, like OMO. Just read the instructions on the label before using, and check the care label of your garments for further information.

Check the Care Label

Before you wash wool, you should always check the care labels on your clothing. Some very delicate wool blends shouldn’t be washed, and if this is the case the care labels will indicate this. If you can’t wash your garment, don’t worry. By spot cleaning and airing your wool you should be able to get it clean and fresh without needing to saturate it or use large quantities of soap.

Spot Clean

If you do need to spot clean your wool, it’s quite simple to do. Mix a drop of liquid laundry detergent with cold water to dilute it well, and apply the soapy water just to the soiled area, keeping the rest of the item as dry as possible. Very gently use your hands to massage the soapy water into the fibres, but don’t scrub as this could cause the wool to felt. Allow the item to dry naturally, and store it in a well-ventilated area to let the fibres breathe.

Soak in Cold Water

If your care labels states that machine washing is OK, you should always soak your wool in a bucket of cold water before popping into the machine. Allow to soak for roughly one hour or until you are sure that the fibres have absorbed the water – the garment should look a little puffy. Soaking in cold water can help protect the wool from shrinking in the washing machine.

Use a Gentle Detergent

Wool fibres are very delicate, and they can easily become damaged through the use of harsh chemicals found in some laundry detergents. For best results, use a mild detergent – preferably one that is free from ‘industrial strength’ stain removers, bleaching agents, and strong fragrances. The more natural and gentle the detergent the better.

Read the Manufacturer’s Instructions

Do you know how much laundry detergent you should be using? It can be easy to use more than the recommended amount, and this could make our clothes feel stiff and rough. With wool, using too much detergent can leave a residue which could damage your garment. Always check the recommended dosage on your OMO detergent, and add the correct amount.

Use a Detergent Ball

If you prefer to add your detergent straight into the drum of your washing machine, rather than using the detergent drawer, make sure you pick up a machine-safe detergent ball. This is because you should never add undiluted detergent directly to a wool garment, as it could encourage the wool to felt. A detergent ball keeps the soap away from the clothing until the machine fills with water, dilutes the soap, and distributes it evenly throughout the wash.

Set the Temperature to Cool

High temperatures are the main cause of shrinking in wool, and if you put an adult-sized sweater through the wash at 40 degrees, you’re likely to find a child-sized version when you come to empty the machine. 30 degrees celsius is really the warmest temperature you should use for washing wool, but if your clothes are only lightly soiled, you should go even cooler than this.

Run a Gentle Cycle

Washing machines are typically very safe to use, but extra care should be taken with delicate materials such as wool. Machines was by vigorously tossing the clothing around the drum, but wool can begin to felt if it’s dragged or pulled. If your machine has a gentle or hand wash setting, make the most of it. These settings run at a slower spin speed which safeguards your delicate materials.

Dry Flat and Naturally

If you hang wet wool from a clothesline, the weight of the garment will stretch the fabric, leaving you with a sweater that’s now more like a dress. To avoid stretching wool, dry flat by laying some towels onto the floor and placing the clothing on top. When the clothing is still slightly damp, use your hands to reshape the clothing, so that it dries in the correct shape.

As you can see, it’s really not that difficult to keep wool fresh and clean. The most important aspects to remember are using a cool water temperature, gentle products and machine cycles, and drying naturally. Follow these great pieces of advice and you’ll never be afraid to wash wool again. This year, you can dig out your favourite woollen items without fear.

  • Always check the care label on your garment before washing. Some very delicate wool blends may be dry cleaning only.

  • If your garment is stained, spot clean the item before placing in the washing machine.

  • Use the gentle cycle on your washer and avoid washing at any higher than 30 degrees Celsius.

  • Dry flat to prevent the wool from stretching.

Frequently asked questions on washing wool

Can I wash wool in the washing machine?

Yes, you can wash wool in the washing machine, but you need to take care to follow the care instructions on the wool garment or item. Use a gentle cycle with cool water, and add a mild detergent that is specifically designed for wool. Avoid using hot water or bleach, as this can damage the wool fibers.

Can I dry wool in the dryer?

No, you should not dry wool in the dryer, as this can cause shrinkage and damage to the wool fibers. Instead, lay the wool item flat on a clean towel and gently reshape it to its original size and shape. Allow the wool to air dry completely, away from direct sunlight or heat sources.

Can I iron wool?

Yes, you can iron wool, but you need to take care to use a low heat setting and a pressing cloth or ironing cloth to protect the wool fibers. Avoid using steam, as this can cause the wool to become misshapen or stretched out.

Originally published