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Clean and cosy: how to wash wool

Chilly winter months call for cosy, comfy woollens! Make sure your knitwear looks its best with these tips on how to wash wool blankets, sweaters and more.

Updated Reading Time: 5 minutesBy Cleanipedia Team

Woman wearing a blue woollen scarf and a yellow jumper after washing wool scarf
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Woolly hats and scarves are essential for the cold winter months – they not only help to keep those icy chills away, but they look great, too. But wool can be as temperamental as the weather when it comes to washing. It can lose its shape and texture easily if the wrong cleaning products, or the wrong cleaning techniques, are used. With our guide on how to wash wool sweaters, blankets, scarfs and all of your knitwear, you can protect them from damage so they can protect you from the cold year after year.

If you're looking for how to wash merino wool, these tips still apply — but be sure to check the label of your garment first, just in case!
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How to hand wash wool

Hand washing is usually the safest answer to how to wash wool sweaters and accessories, because you have more control over how the material is handled. While some washing machines offer settings and cycles that mimic hand washing, a good old bucket of water is still the preferred method for many wool lovers.

  1. 1. Fill a bowl with water that is just warm to the touch

    As you may know, wool can shrink in very high temperatures, so it’s always best to use lukewarm water rather than hot. If you’re worried that this will affect the cleaning process, don’t be – many laundry detergents are designed to work in cooler temperatures as manufacturers strive to encourage homeowners to wash at lower temperatures to conserve energy.

  2. 2. Add laundry detergent to the warm water.

    It’s best to use a laundry detergent that is specifically designed for wool, like Persil Non-Bio, or that is designed for delicate fabrics. Follow the directions on the label for accurate dosing advice. If using a powdered detergent, use your hands to agitate the water and encourage the grains to dissolve. Make sure you wear rubber gloves to protect your skin.

  3. 3. Add your woollen item(s) to the bowl and gently swirl around in the soapy water

    If you're hand washing a wool scarf, hat and gloves together, you can probably wash them together to save time (but be aware of washing similar colours together to avoid colour run). Take care to swirl the garments around in gentle motions and not to tug them around, as this could stretch the wool.

    If you're looking for tips on how to clean a wool scarf or jumper that is stained, pay particular attention to this area. Gently massage the soapy water into the fabric, helping to lift the stain. You can leave your items in the water to soak for a while, which will allow the stains to loosen.

How to wash wool blankets, sweaters and more in the washing machine

If you're pressed for time and you'd rather find out how to wash your wool scarf, socks or beanies in the machine than the sink, this can still be a good option.

However, it's not a good idea to just pop them in the wash as you would your normal laundry load. Remember that wool is quite delicate, and it requires a little extra attention when being machine washed. Here’s what to do:

  1. 1. Put your woollen items into the washing machine drum

    You might want to use a laundry bag to add an extra layer of protection. Laundry bags are made of mesh, which allows the detergent and water to saturate and clean the clothes, but protects delicate fabrics from the internal workings of the machine; preventing snagging and damage.

    If you're here to find out how to wash wool blankets, or large bulky sweaters, be careful not to over-fill the machine. If the drum is too full, it's harder for the water and detergent to get around the clothes and they might not get an even wash.

  2. 2. Add a mild laundry detergent and fabric conditioner to the detergent drawer

    You could also use a machine-compatible dosing device which sits on top of your laundry load and is distributed around the machine during the wash cycle. Never pour detergent directly onto the hat or scarf as the wool could absorb the detergent, and your load may not be washed evenly.

    Don't skip the Comfort fabric conditioner — it'll help protect your wool garments from friction in the washing machine and leave them irresistibly soft afterwards!

  3. 3. Pay special attention to the settings you choose for the wash cycle.

    The temperature should be set to cool or warm, not hot, so use a temperature setting of 30 degrees Celsius or less for best results. If your washing machine has a delicate or hand wash setting, make use of this. It ensures a more gentle agitation rather than a vigorous spin, which helps to protect your wool from damage.

  4. 4. Dry flat, or by hanging from a clothes line

    Avoid the tumble dryer: too much heat and friction in drying could easily lead to shrinkage. When your woollens are still a little bit damp – not wet but not yet completely dry – gently shape them with your hands so that your items dry in the right size and shape.

These tips also apply if you're looking for how to wash merino wool. However, if you're washing a wool scarf or jumper that's actually made from cashmere or another delicate hair-based yarn like angora, slightly different methods apply.

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With these simple tricks up your sleeve, you'll know exactly how to wash wool socks, sweaters, beanies, blankets — any woollen items you want to freshen up for the colder months! Prepare to get cosy.

Originally published