Can You Tumble Dry Wool? (is it safe or does it shrink)

The good news is you can tumble dry some woollen garments. However you need to check the care label first because there are some woollen garments and certain types of wool that can’t be tumble dried. Specifically Merino wool should never be dried in a tumble dryer unless the care label advises you differently.

Even if your woollen garment does allow you to dry it in a tumble dryer, you should limit the amount of time it is drying and keep the temperature setting to low. 

There is a company called the Woolmark Company[1] who are the world authority on wool and they inspect and certify the authenticity and quality of the fibre on all (or nearly all) woollen items. They also inspect tumble dryers and approve those that they consider to be safe for drying woollen items.

Many modern tumble dryers have a specific programme for wool, but this should only be used if the woollen garment has a care label that says it’s OK to tumble dry.

What The Tumble Dryer Symbols Mean On Wool

Tumble Dryer Symbols On Clothes

There are several different symbols that can be found on the care labels of many garments. Instead of running through them all, we’ll just stick to the ones relevant to woollen garments. Which are;

  • A Square With A White Circle
    This symbol indicates that you can tumble dry this particular woollen garment.
  • A Square With A White Circle With One Black Dot In The Circle
    The addition of the single black dot in the circle indicates that this particular woollen garment can be dried in a tumble dryer on the low setting only.
  • A Square With A White Circle And A Black X On The Top
    This symbol means do not tumble or more specifically – this woollen garment can not be dried in a tumble dryer.

How To Dry Wool Without A Tumble Dryer

After washing your woollen clothes, unless the care label states that they can be dried in a tumble dryer, it is recommended that they are dried flat. 

This is especially true for woollen sweaters and jumpers which should be placed on an airer either indoors or in a shady spot outdoors (weather permitting).

If you decide to dry your woollen garments indoors, a good way to speed up the process is to position a dehumidifier in the room to remove excess moisture. 

SEE ALSO: The Best Dehumidifier For Drying Woolen Clothes

If you don’t have a dehumidifier, an electric fan can be used to simulate a breeze. If you do use a fan, remember to leave a window open to prevent too much moisture from building up in the room.

Things To Avoid

You should avoid direct sunlight as this can cause colour fading and also shrinkage at the point of heat. This is also true with placing woollens on radiators which is also not recommended.

Line drying or drying on hangers can cause the clothes to stretch because of the weight of the moisture contained within the fibres.

Woven woollen clothes like jackets should be hung on a padded hanger out of direct sunlight and away from a source of direct heat.

What Happens If You Tumble Dry Wool?

Always check the wash care labels

If you decide to tumble dry your woollen garments, there are a few guidelines you should stick to which are;

  • Check The Care Label
    You should always consult the care label before attempting to tumble dry any clothing. But it’s even more important with woollen garments and especially expensive woollen items like Cashmere or Merino.
  • If In Doubt, Don’t
    If you’re not 100% sure it’s OK to tumble dry your woollen clothes, you should find an alternative way to dry them.
  • Don’t Overload The Tumble Dryer
    Tumble drying works due to the tumbling motion and the rubbing together of the items to remove moisture as they pass. If there are too many items in the drum at the same time, they cannot dry properly. Plus, the more woollen clothes in the dryer, the more likely they are to get damaged.
  • Use Wool Dryer Balls
    These balls of wool are specifically designed to help remove moisture (and lessen the chance of static). If you want your woollen garments to have a fresh, scented smell, add a few drops of your favourite essential oils onto each dryer ball before adding them to the drum.
  • Remove Clothing As Soon As Possible
    Once the dryer has completed its cycle, remove the woollen items as soon as you can to prevent any moisture getting trapped in between the woollen fibres which will cause the garments to get that musty smell which indicates dampness and possible mould. Plus the longer they are in the drum, the more likely they are to form wrinkles which can be difficult to remove without heat.

If you follow these guidelines your woollen garments should survive their tumble drying experience. However, there are a few points that we feel we should point out which are;

  • Tumble Drying Shortens The Life Of Woollen Clothes
    The rough and tumble action that is used in a tumble dryer to dry your woollen (and other) garments damages the material and this can shorten the lifespan of the garment.
  • If The Temperature Is Too High The Clothes Can Shrink
    Too much heat is bad particularly for woollen garments as it can shrink them beyond the point that stretching can repair.
  • Tumble Drying Woollen Garments Can Cause Wrinkles
    Wrinkles and creases form in woollen garments due to irregular or un-uniform drying. Some areas dry faster than others for whatever reason, which results in wrinkles and/or creases.

Removing Wrinkles From Woollen Products

It is possible to remove wrinkles in fact, many will fall out of woollen products naturally due to the weight of the garment. However in some cases (usually caused by arid, dry conditions) the wrinkles and/or creases might remain. 

To remove these hang the woollen item in a steamy bathroom for around 20-30 minutes (the steamier the better) ensuring to hang them evenly and avoiding placing too much pressure on one particular area. This should remove all but the most stubborn wrinkles from woollen products.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to put wool in a tumble dryer?

Whether it is safe to put wool in a tumble dryer depends on a few things. Which are; does the care label state that the item can be dried in a tumble dryer? Does the tumble dryer have a wool setting? Or can you set the tumble dryer at zero heat?

How can I dry wool without a tumble dryer?

The best way to dry woollen clothes is by laying them flat outdoors in a shady position. For woollen jackets you should hang these on a padded hanger in a shady position outdoors or in a well ventilated room.

Will dry wool shrink in the dryer?

It is quite possible that your woollen garment will shrink in the tumble dryer because of the way tumble dryers work. They rely on heat and/or friction, both of which can cause woollen products to shrink.

Which dryer setting for wool?

If the care label on your woollen garment states that it can be dried in a tumble dryer, you will need to check whether the dryer has a setting for wool. If not, use the gentle or cool setting.

Can I tumble dry merino wool?

You can tumble dry some merino wool, you’ll need to check the care label and if it indicates that you can tumble dry, use the lowest setting or wool setting if applicable.

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