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Ever wondered how to wash wool?

Can you wash wool? Learn how to hand wash wool, or, if you don’t have time for that, how to wash wool in the washing machine.

Updated By Cleanipedia Team

How to wash wool: blankets and jumpers folded in a pile on a chair
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Key Steps

Can you wash wool? You can, and here’s how:

  1. To hand wash, soak in tepid soapy water, then rinse.

  2. To machine wash, use the gentle or wool programme with cool water. Turn the spin cycle down as far as possible.

  3. Don’t use biological detergent.

  4. Don’t tumble dry.

Wool’s a tricky material, and it can shrink or felt if it’s not treated properly. Here’s our guide to how to hand wash wool or, if that’s not possible, to minimise the risk of damage in the washing machine.

We have a specific guide to how to wash merino wool, if that’s what you’re here for.

It can be hard to get stains out of wool once they’ve set in. Spot clean as soon as possible by blotting with warm water and wool-friendly detergent. It’ll mean you don’t have to worry so often about how to wash wool items fully, too.
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How to wash a wool sweater in the washing machine

Can you wash wool in the washing machine? It’s something you’ve probably been advised against.

You shouldn’t put your woollies in the washing machine on a regular cycle. Agitation is bad for wool. If they’re spun around rapidly while wet – and that’s what washing machines do – they’re likely to mat or shrink. If you want to shrink clothes made of wool, take a look at our guide to shrinking and unshrinking wool.

If you want to be safe, hand washing’s usually your best bet with wool. If you don’t have the time to wash by hand, though, here’s how to wash wool in the washing machine:

  1. 1. Soak the wool in cold water

    Do this for up to an hour before washing

  2. 2. Put the machine on a wool, delicate or hand wash cycle

    This should be 30 degrees or lower

  3. 3. Turn the spin cycle off or set it as low as possible

    Depending on your machine, the cycle may turn it down automatically

  4. 4. Use a detergent that’s designed for use with wool, ideally

    Never use a biological detergent with wool. The enzymes in biological detergents don’t just eat stains; they eat wool as well

  5. 5. You can use a fabric conditioner...

    ...such as Comfort Pure, but keep the quantity very small when you’re washing wool. If you’re washing merino wool, skip the fabric conditioner.

Don’t use the tumble dryer for wool. Use a towel to press out the bulk of the water (you can roll your wet jumper up in the towel to do this), then lay your jumper out on a second towel to dry flat. Make sure it’s drying in the shape you want it to end up in, and don’t leave it in direct sunlight or right next to a radiator, as heat could make it shrink.

How to wash a wool blanket

If you maintain your wool blankets properly, you won’t have to wash them too often. Here’s how to deal with different levels of soiling on your wool blanket:

  1. If your wool blanket is looking dull,

    try giving it a good brushing with a soft upholstery brush.

  2. If a stain is bothering you, give it a spot clean.

    Mix a little wool-friendly detergent into some warm water, dampen a cloth and use it to blot the stain away. Try to resist the temptation to scrub vigorously.

  3. If the whole blanket needs a clean,

    follow the five-step machine-washing guide above.

The main difference between washing a wool blanket and the above how-to-wash-wool-jumper technique is how they’re dried. Blankets are usually too big to dry flat on a towel. Hang your wool blankets up to dry, ideally in the open air. As with wool clothes, though, wet wool blankets should be kept out of direct sunlight. If you don’t have a shaded bit of garden to hang them in, it might be better to hang them indoors.

How to hand wash wool

If you’ve got the time, it’s safest to wash wool by hand.

  1. 1. Mix a little detergent into water

    Use wool-friendly detergent and lukewarm water.

  2. 2. Soak the wool in the soapy water for ten minutes.

    Swish it slowly around for a few seconds to get it completely wet, then leave it alone in the water. Don’t rub the wool together.

  3. 3. Rinse the wool.

    Rinse under cool running water.

Again, to dry, press out some of the water with a towel, then reshape the wool on a fresh towel and leave it to dry flat, away from direct heat.

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Take care with your wool, and it’ll take care of you. Knowing how to wash wool can mean the difference between a jumper that lasts a week and one you’re able to wear for years.

Originally published