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How to Wash Wool Clothes: The Ultimate Guide

The Sauce Boss
Mar 14, 2024
Laundry Tips

To wash wool clothes in the washing machine, use cool water and the gentlest cycle your machine has. Always wash wool separately from the rest of your laundry and place the items in a mesh bag for extra protection.

Wool is one of the most luxurious fabrics in anyone’s wardrobe, but it’s also one of the most finicky fabrics to wash. Made from the fleece of sheep, llamas, and alpacas, wool’s natural fibers are super sensitive to heat and agitation.

Luckily, you should be able to get several wears out of your wool items before they need cleaning. But when the time inevitably comes, it’s essential to wash your wool correctly— otherwise, your soft and cozy clothes can end up pilled and shrunken.

Keep reading to learn how to wash wool at home like a pro. Just remember to always read the care instructions on your garment before proceeding.

How to Wash Wool in the Washing Machine

Knowing how to properly wash your wool clothes goes a long way to keep them looking, feeling, and smelling fresh. The following wool items are (generally) safe to machine-wash, assuming you follow the care instructions:

  • Socks
  • Sweaters
  • Pants
  • Blankets
  • Winter accessories, such as mittens, scarves, beanies, and gloves

Pro tip: Structured wool items like blazers, outer coats, blazers, and suit coats always need to be dry-cleaned. The exterior wool fabric is washable, but the fabrics that make up the inner structure can easily get ruined during a machine wash cycle. Always check the care label on your garment before washing it.

1. Separate Your Wool Items

Before washing your wool clothes, it's important to separate them from your sheets, towels, and other clothes. Wool can easily pick up lint and fibers from other materials, so it's best to wash them separately.

2. Spot-Treat Any Stains

Inspect your wool garments for any stains or spots. Use a gentle stain remover or a mild detergent to spot-treat any discolored areas before putting them in the washing machine.

3. Put Your Wool Clothes in a Mesh Bag

To add an extra layer of protection for your wool garments during the wash cycle, place them in a mesh laundry bag. This prevents excessive agitation and rubbing against other items, reducing the risk of pilling or stretching.

4. Choose the Delicate Cycle

Most modern washing machines come with a delicate or gentle cycle specifically designed for fabrics like wool. Select this cycle to minimize agitation during the wash cycle and keep the wool fibers intact.

5. Set the Water Temperature to Cool or Cold

Hot water can cause wool fibers to shrink and pill, so it's essential to use cool or cold water during the wash cycle—ideally below 80°F (27°C). This helps maintain their shape and prevent damage.

6. Add Laundry Detergent

Ideally, you should use a detergent specifically formulated for wool and cashmere clothing. These wool “shampoos” tend to be more gentle than traditional laundry detergent and have ingredients like lanolin, which is a natural oil found in wool.

If you don’t want to splurge on a special wool detergent, opt for premium laundry pods like Laundry Sauce, which is free from artificial dyes and phthalates. You can also use baby shampoo if you have some handy.

Never use bleach, fabric softener, or scent booster beads with wool, as these can damage the fibers.

7. Remove Items Promptly After the Cycle

As soon as the wash cycle is complete, remove your wool clothes from the machine. Letting them sit too long can lead to wrinkles and creases.

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How to Dry Wool

Air drying is the safest—and only—way to dry wool. Never put your wool items (including wool blends) in the dryer. Even small amounts of heat can shrink wool items by two sizes or more. Stick these steps:

1. Lay your wool item flat on a drying rack or clean towel to air dry. Remember, avoid tossing it in the dryer!

2. For a smooth, wrinkle-free finish, use your hands to gently reshape your wool item and smooth out any wrinkles.

3. Speed up the drying process by laying your wool item flat on a clean towel. Keep it in its original shape, then roll it up in the towel (just like rolling up a sleeping bag) to soak up excess water.

4. Remember, never hang wet woolens! The water weight can cause the fabric to stretch and lose its shape.

If you notice any wrinkles in your wool, steaming is the safest method to remove them. Always avoid ironing wool—that can crush the natural pile of the yarns.

How to Hand-Wash Wool

Hand-washing wool can be a great option if you don’t want to run a separate wash cycle. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Mix a few drops of wool detergent or baby shampoo into a clean basin or sink filled with cool water.

2. Add your wool item and let it soak for about 30 minutes, massaging it gently.

3. Drain the soapy water and refill the basin with clean, cool water. Rinse your wool item until the water runs clear and there's no more soap left.

4. Gently press the water out of the wool item in between your hands. Don’t wring out the water—this can warp your wool item.

5. Lay your freshly washed wool item flat on a clean towel. Reshape it to its original size and let it air dry.

    How to Remove Stains from Wool

    For a small stain on wool, we recommend spot-treating it. Work a stain remover or a bit of wool shampoo into the affected area by gently rubbing it with your fingers. Don't scrub it with a brush, as this can cause the fibers to pill.

    Now, let’s say you spill red wine on your wool sweater. Your first instinct might be to spray it down with stain remover. However, dry cleaning may be a better option for stubborn stains and soils—especially if there aren’t clear washing instructions on the care label.

    Dry cleaning uses special solvents instead of water, which can help prevent shrinking and preserve the shape and color of your wool garments.

    Should You Dry Clean Wool Clothes?

    The only way to know for sure whether a wool item needs dry cleaning is to check the care label. If it says “dry clean only,” don’t ignore it. It’s better to be safe than sorry, right?

    Plenty of everyday wool items can be safely machine-washed or hand-washed at home with a gentle detergent, saving you time and money. However, structured wool items like blazers, outer coats, and suit coats almost always require a trip to the dry cleaners to preserve their integrity.

    Luxurious Clothes Deserve Luxurious Laundry Detergent

    You invest plenty of time and money into your outfits—why downgrade them with detergent that smells like your grandma’s stale laundry room?

    Whether you’re washing your winter wool or summer swimsuits, Laundry Sauce elevates your wardrobe with luxurious fragrances like Australian Sandalwood, French Saffron, Italian Bergamot, and more. Clean has never smelled so good.

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