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How to Wash Wool

Wool is a delicate material which can easily stretch or shrink in the wash. Find out how to clean & protect your wool clothing with our easy-to-follow guide!


Reading Time: 5 minutes

how to wash wool

When the temperature gets a little cooler, many of us reach for our wool jumpers to help keep us warm and snug, but does the thought of washing this delicate material scare you? If so, you’re not alone. Many people fear wool because they don’t know how to wash wool 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. So whether you want to know how to wash a wool blanket, or prevent your favourite jumper from shrinking in the wash – here are some other tips and tricks that will help you out, too:

  • Check the Care Label

Before washing woollen jumpers or blankets, you should always check the care label first. 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 – preferably designed to wash delicates – 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 wool 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 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 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 wash 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 know how to wash wool in order to keep it 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 of washing woollen jumpers again. This year, you can dig out your favourite woollen items without fear.

When washing wool, be sure to use a mild detergent – one that is specially designed to wash woollen and delicate garments. Always read your clothing care label and follow the necessary instructions!

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

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

  • Choose the wool cycle (and a cool temperature) on your washing machine.

  • Dry flat to prevent the wool from stretching.

Originally published