Skip to Content

How To Wash Wool: The Complete Guide

We all love the warmth and coziness that our wool garments bring when we wear them. But what we don’t love is when it comes time to clean them. We tend to wonder, “What if I accidentally damage them?” And our wool items are often too expensive for that to happen. If you’re someone who frets over washing wool, don’t worry. I’m here to take all the stress away with this guide.

Washing wool can be tricky as it is more delicate than most fabrics. The preferred way to clean it is by hand-washing it, but it can be time-consuming for larger items. You can also wash wool in the washing machine as long as you use cool water and a detergent made for wool garments. Finally, allow wool to air dry to prevent shrinking.

With the right care, you can keep your wool clothing looking its best for many years. Continue reading to learn everything you should and shouldn’t do when washing wool.

How To Wash Wool

Can You Wash Wool?

Wool is naturally stain and odor-resistant, which are just two of the many great qualities that cause us to love it so much. But that also means that wool shouldn’t need to be washed as much as your clothing made from other fabrics does.

Many people assume that you can’t wash wool and therefore, they never do. But that is a misconception because wool can be washed. It isn’t good for the fabric to not be washed at all, as it can lose some of its wonderful qualities due to dirt and oil from our bodies building up on the fabric.

Wool can also lose some of its qualities if you wash it too often, especially if you are inconsistent with the settings you use. Unless you wear your wool garments a lot during the colder months or become stained, you usually only have to wash them after every two to three wears.

Can You Wash 100% Wool?

Even if a garment is made from 100% wool, it can be washed in most cases. However, it’s important to remember that there are different types of wool, and some of them are more delicate than others.

It’s always a good idea to check the care tag of a particular wool garment to make sure that it is safe to wash it before you do so. Most of the time, it will be recommended that you hand-wash clothing made from 100% wool.

This is not necessarily because wool is so delicate that it can’t be washed in the washing machine. Rather, it is a result of some washing machines being too rough or not able to handle wool garments with care.

What Happens If You Wash Wool?

Nothing bad can happen to wool when you wash it if you use the right settings and products. But, if you use the wrong detergent (for example, detergents with heavy chemicals), it can damage the fabric.

The fabric can also become damaged, pulled, or snagged by using a too intense setting for the wool fabric to handle. The wrong settings, combined with the wrong water temperature, can cause wool to become misshapen or even shrink.

If you have to wash wool, hand-washing is preferred, especially for smaller wool items such as scarves, hats, and socks. This is because hand-washing is usually gentler than washing it in the washing machine, and you have more control over what happens to it.

But of course, larger wool items such as sweaters, coats, and blankets can be difficult to hand-wash due to the amount of space they take up. So, you can wash them in a washing machine as long as you are careful with what settings and products you use.

How to Wash Wool in a Washing Machine

How to Wash Wool in a Washing Machine

Washing machines are designed to make washing clothes easier and more efficient than washing each item by hand. But using the washing machine effectively requires a little bit of knowledge regarding the different settings that your washing machine can, especially when washing more delicate fabrics such as wool.

Can You Machine Wash Wool?

Contrary to popular belief, wool can be machine-washed. But usually, this method should be reserved for larger items that are made from wool. It is usually safer and more efficient to hand-wash smaller wool items, especially if those are the only wool garments you need to wash.

But if you need to wash clothes anyway, you can wash even smaller wool garments as well by placing them inside a mesh bag designed for washing smaller delicate items.

You can wash wool with clothing that is made from other fabrics. Typically, you’ll only want to wash it with natural fabrics such as cotton or linen, as these will require similar machine settings to wash them without causing damage.

It is important to note that any time you wash wool, even if you have other fabrics in the wash, you use a detergent specially made for wool garments, such as Woolite. It is okay to wash other fabrics besides wool with a wool detergent, but wool should not be washed with any other type of detergent due to potential damage.

Wool Cycle on Washing Machine

Washing machines have several different cycle settings depending on the type of clothing that you’re washing. Some washing machines even have a setting for wool garments. If that’s the case for your washing machine, then obviously, that’s the setting that you want to use.

Again, it’s okay to wash clothing made from other fabrics on that cycle as well, but as long as you have a wool item in the washing machine, then you need to use that setting.

If you don’t have a specific setting specifically for wool, you likely have a delicate or gentle setting. That’s the setting you’ll want to use instead. The reason for using either wool, gentle, or delicate setting is because it doesn’t create as much agitation in the washing machine, so it lowers the chances that your wool garments will become damaged.

What Temperature to Wash Wool?

Ideally, you’ll want to use cool or cold water, as either of these temperatures will lower the chances of your wool garments shrinking. The care label should tell you what water temperature to use, but generally, the water temperature should not be higher than 104ºF (40ºC).

Step-by-Step Guide to Washing Wool

When washing wool, using the right settings is key to preventing it from becoming damaged. Consider this a checklist that you can use to make sure that everything is correct before starting the washing machine.

Turn the Garment Inside Out

If you are washing a wool sweater, socks, or anything else that can be turned inside out, it is a good idea. This will prevent any pilling or snags from happening on the outside of the fabric due to brushing up against other clothing or the washing machine itself.

Set Your Water Temperature

The next thing you should do is set your water temperature. Remember that cool or cold water is best for wool to prevent shrinking. If the care tag doesn’t specify which setting to use, it is best to be safe and go with a cold setting. Your garments will still get just as clean.

Select the Type of Cycle

After choosing your water temperature, select the wool, gentle, or delicate cycle to ensure that there won’t be too much agitation. Remember to place your smaller wool items into a delicates bag as well.

Add Detergent

Finally, add the appropriate amount of wool detergent to the wash, depending on the size of the load. Most detergent dispensers have lines on them to indicate how much detergent to use for different load sizes. But if you’re only washing one or two wool items, you don’t need that much detergent.

Even if you’re washing other clothes with wool, it’s recommended to never fill your washing machine more than halfway full. If that’s the case, you’ll still only need about half a capful of detergent. Once you’ve double-checked your settings, you can start the machine.

How To Hand Wash Wool

How To Hand Wash Wool

Remember that hand-washing wool is preferred because it is even gentler than using the gentle cycle on your washing machine. And this is likely the cleaning method that the care label on the garment will recommend. But even when hand-washing wool, there are some precautions that you’ll want to take. Here are the steps to follow to hand-wash wool properly.

Fill a Sink or Washbasin With Water

First, you’ll need to find a big vessel to fit whatever wool garment you want to be washed. Usually, a sink or washbasin will do, but you may need to use a bathtub to hand-wash larger items.

Fill whatever vessel you’re using with enough water to cover the item. You’ll want to use lukewarm to ensure that it isn’t too hot or too cold. Then, add a little bit of wool detergent and gently agitate the water to distribute the detergent as evenly as possible.

Submerge and Soak the Fabric

Next, you’ll want to submerge your wool garment in the water so that it is completely covered. For larger items, it’s a good idea to wash them one at a time. But for smaller items such as socks, you can wash them both at the same time.

Let the fabric soak in the water for about 10 to 15 minutes. This will allow the detergent time to work at removing dirt and getting the fabric clean.

Gently Agitate the Fabric

After the fabric has had time to soak, you will want to gently move it around inside the water to ensure that dirt and excess soap are removed from the fabric’s surface. You do not have to (and shouldn’t) scrub the fabric to remove the dirt as this could damage it.

Rinse the Fabric

Do not wring or twist the fabric to rinse all the soap out. Instead, you will want to empty the sink or washbasin, then run new water and rinse the fabric by allowing the water to run over it. Continue until you no longer see detergent on or coming from the fabric and the water runs clear.

Remove Excess Water

Again, you do not want to wring or twist the fabric to remove excess water. Instead, lay the garment out flat on a towel and roll the towel up so that the garment is inside of it. Then, gently press on the towel to remove the excess water. Once all the water has been removed, the garment should feel damp but not soaked.

Washing Wool With Vinegar

Wool does an excellent job at repelling stains, but that doesn’t mean that it will repel all stains all the time. Did you know that you can use vinegar to help remove those stains? Vinegar has acidic properties that allow it to break down dirt and stains and also remove odors. And when mixed with water to dilute it, the vinegar will not damage wool either.

When using vinegar to wash wool by hand, you will want to use it separately from the detergent. After giving your wool garments the initial wash, you can drain the water and replace it with clean water. Then, add about 1 cup of vinegar to the water and rinse your clothing in it.

You can also use vinegar if you are washing it in the washing machine. You can add about 1 cup of vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser to be automatically released during the rinse cycle or add it directly to the rinse cycle yourself. Don’t worry about the vinegar leaving behind a smell, as the smell should disappear as the clothing dries.

Washing Wool With Shampoo

Wool is essentially the hair of a sheep, so you can also use shampoo as a form of detergent when you wash it. They make wool shampoos that are specifically for hand-washing wool. But, you can use baby shampoo as well, as these are usually free of chemicals, so they won’t damage your wool fabrics.

When using shampoo to wash wool, you just add a capful or two directly into the water the same way you would detergent. Allow the wool to soak in the water and absorb the shampoo for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Then, you will want to continue washing the wool the same way, gently swishing it around in the water to remove the excess shampoo. Rinse it to remove the rest of the soap; the use the towel method to gently press out all of the excess water.

How to Wash Wool Sweaters

How to Wash Wool Sweaters

Wool sweaters tend to get worn a little more than other wool garments, so they may have to be washed more as a result. The steps for washing wool sweaters are pretty much the same as washing other wool items, but you take a little extra care if the sweater has a zipper, buttons, or embellishments of any kind on it.

In Washing Machine

At the very least, you need to be sure that you turn your wool sweater inside out to prevent pilling and snags. But if your sweater has embellishments or hardware on it, it’s a good idea to place it inside a mesh laundry bag before you wash it to prevent snags and abrasion against your other clothes as well. Then, follow these steps.

  1. Place the inside-out sweater or the mesh laundry bag with the sweater inside in the washing machine.
  2. Set the water temperature dial to the cool or cold water cycle, depending on what the care tag inside the sweater says.
  3. Set the machine to the wool, gentle, or delicate cycle (whichever applies to your machine).
  4. Add the appropriate amount of wool detergent.
  5. Double-check the settings and start the machine.

Hand Wash

If you have time, it is recommended that you hand-wash wool sweaters, especially if they have embellishments on them. If this is the case, hand-wash the sweater by itself. Follow these steps to do it properly.

  1. Fill a sink with lukewarm water.
  2. Add your wool detergent and mix it into the water.
  3. Submerge your sweater and let it soak for 10 minutes.
  4. Gently swirl the sweater around in the water.
  5. Rinse the sweater under clean water.
  6. Roll the sweater up in a towel and gently press the excess water out.

Can You Wash a Wool Coat at Home?

The care tag inside most wool coats recommends dry cleaning due to having shoulder pats or linings in them. However, you can wash a wool coat at home if you wish. But the best way to do so is to hand-wash it.

You’ll want to take some extra steps before you wash the coat. First, you should brush the coat using a lint brush or roller: then, pre-treat any stains using a mild stain or spot remover. Avoid using bleach, and avoid scrubbing wool. Instead, you will want to gently dab the stain remover onto the stain.

After the pre-treatment, you can hand-wash your wool coat using the same steps for hand-washing other wool garments. However, you will probably need to use a large utility sink or bathtub to accommodate the size of the coat. And you should allow the coat to soak for 30 minutes instead of 10 minutes.

Should You Use Fabric Softener On Wool?

You may assume that using fabric softener on wool will make the fibers softer, but this isn’t the case. A fabric softener should not be used on wool because it coats the fibers and interferes with some of the natural qualities of wool fibers, such as lowering the moisture-wicking and stain-resistant abilities. It can also make the fibers less soft when it coats them and leaves a chemical buildup.

Best Wool Wash Detergent

Woolite Delicates Liquid Laundry Detergent

Woolite Delicates Hypoallergenic Liquid Laundry Detergent, 50 oz, 33 Washes, Machine and Hand Wash EligibleWoolite Laundry Detergent is hypoallergenic and contains no harsh ingredients, bleach, or enzymes that can damage your clothes.

It can be used for machine-washing or hand-washing wool garments and is gentle on your hands as well.

One bottle of this detergent can be used for up to 30 washes of your wool garments. Woolite can be used on any fabric in addition to wool, and it helps prevent your clothes from fading.

Combined with using the right settings, it also won’t cause your clothes to stretch or shrink.

How to Dry Wool

Now that you’re familiar with how to wash wool let’s talk about how to dry it. It is recommended that you never dry wool in the dryer because this is the leading cause of wool shrinking. Instead, wool should air dry, but you shouldn’t hang it up because it can stretch out of shape.

The best way to dry wool garments is to lay them on a towel or drying rack to dry flat. If for some reason, your wool clothing did become misshapen or stretched, which can happen even if you use the right settings, you will need to reshape it before it dries. That way, it can hold its shape as it dries.

When drying wool, it’s also important to let it dry in an well-ventilated area but not too hot. The area in which you dry the wool should also be free of moisture so that your wool can dry effectively.

Sometimes, wool garments will say on the care label that they can be tumble-dried in the dryer. But you should only do this if the care label says that it is okay. If you do use the dryer, use the low-heat or air-dry setting.

Remember that heat combined with the tumbling motion of the dryer can cause shrinking. If you use any other setting besides those two mentioned above, there is a high possibility that wool will shrink.

How to Clean & Care for Wool

How to Dry Clean Wool at Home

How to Dry Clean Wool at Home

Sometimes, the care tag on your wool clothing will recommend dry-cleaning. Usually, this is the case if the clothing has embellishments on it. Dry cleaning is recommended because it is the safest way to prevent snags. But, it can also be effective if your wool clothing is heavily stained.

Taking your clothing to a professional dry cleaner can be inconvenient, so you can dry clean it at home instead. Home dry cleaning kits can be purchased in the laundry aisle at your local store. These kits are specially made for more delicate fabrics, including wool and cashmere.

But, it’s important to note that the “Dry Clean Only” label is usually just a precaution. Most clothes with that label can still be hand-washed. They don’t have to be dry-cleaned because hand-washing is still the gentlest way to wash delicate fabrics.

How to Store Wool Clothing

How you store wool clothing when it is not in use is just as important as how you wash it. Storing it correctly is part of caring for it properly. When storing wool, folding it is preferable rather than hanging it. Hanging it for an extended period of time can cause it to stretch and become misshapen.

When you store your wool garments, place them in either a bin with a lid or a vacuum-sealed bag. At the very least, if you must hang them, hang them inside a garment bag to protect them. The biggest thing is that you will want to keep dust, moisture, and moths away from your clothing. Avoid using mothballs as well because they can leave an odor on your wool clothing. Opt for cedar planks instead to keep moths away.


Washing wool clothing shouldn’t be a tricky and stressful task once you know what you are doing. You want to make sure that you use a detergent made for wool fabrics. Using a cool or cold water temperature and gentle agitation will prevent shrinking, whether you use the washing machine or hand-wash wool. Share this article if it helped take some of the stress out of washing wool and leave a comment. Thanks for reading!