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Removing Stains from Wool: How to Clean Wool Clothes

Wool can easily be stretched and damaged in the machine – discover how to clean & protect wool clothing with this useful guide.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

Written by Eunice Samson

removing stains from wool

When the temperature drops, 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.

From how to remove stains from wool, to using the washing machine’s wool cycle – here’s everything you need to know about this difficult material!

  • 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.

  • Removing Stains from Wool with A Spot Clean

Spot cleaning your garment is quite simple to do, just as long as you take care. Mix a drop of liquid laundry detergent (like Breeze with ActivBleach) with cold water to dilute it well, and apply the soapy water 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 fibers, but don’t scrub. Allow the item to dry naturally, and store it in a well-ventilated area to let the fibers breathe. This is one of the most effective methods for removing stains from wool!

  • Soak in Cold Water

If your care label states that machine washing is okay, 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 the fibers have absorbed the water. Soaking in cold water can help protect the wool from shrinking in the washing machine.

  • Use a Gentle Detergent

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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’s often tempting to use more than the recommended amount, but this could make clothes feel stiff and rough. With wool, using too much detergent can leave a residue that could damage your garment.

  • 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. 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. Select a washing machine wool cycle no higher than 30 degrees, and if your clothes are only lightly soiled, 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 that 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. To avoid stretching wool, dry flat by putting 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 learn how to clean wool clothes properly! Follow our advice and you’ll never be afraid to wash wool again.

When washing wool, be sure to use a high quality detergent like Breeze. You can rest assured it won’t damage or harm your clothing during the wash.

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

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

  • Use the gentle cycle and avoid washing at any higher than 30 degrees.

  • Dry flat to prevent the wool from stretching.

Do you want to learn which household cleaning tasks cause the most stress?  Then read our Heated Household data analysis. 

Frequently asked questions on removing stains from wool

How can we take care of woolen clothes aside from washing them?

Washing any of your woolen clothes will clean them but can shorten their overall life. To make sure they last as long as possible you need to know how we can take care of woolen clothes without washing them. If you find a new stain on a piece of your woolen clothing blot it with a cloth of water and soap to help remove the stain. After wearing your woolen clothing, allow it to air dry in the sun before putting it back in your cupboard if it's good for another wear (e.g. hasn't got dirty or sweaty).

Why is drying wool clothes in a tumble dryer not recommended?

The tumble dryer is not the best option for wool clothes as it can often deform, stretch, and even shrink your clothing because of the high heat. The best option for drying wool clothes is to air dry them - ideally in the sun for an hour or so.

How do you remove wool pills and bubbles from wool clothing?

Piling is the annoying bobbles of fuzz that can collect on clothing and especially on woolens. If you need to know how to remove wool pilling the first lesson is never try and pull the piling off as you may end up taking a bigger thread with it. Instead, look for a clothing comb or brush and gently brush down your piece of clothing. If you want a really good way of removing these bobbles have a look for a wool razor that can ‘shave’ the bobbles off.

Can you make a DIY wool-safe stain remover?

If you are looking for an easy wool-safe stain remover that you can make at home, you are in luck. For alcohol, juice or coffee stains, use equal parts rubbing alcohol and white vinegar with a bit of water. Dab it on the stain using a clean cloth. For oily stains, dab with a little white spirit making sure not to get any white spirit on your skin as it can cause irritation. Always dab and do not rub as that can push the stain deeper into the wool.

Originally published