Can You Wash Wool In A Washing Machine?

Yes, you can wash wool in a washing machine. Many washing machines feature a wool cycle specifically designed for this purpose. If your machine lacks a wool cycle, you can use a ‘hand wash’ or ‘delicate’ cycle as a suitable alternative. 

Before washing wool items in the machine, always check the care label first. The care label provides the best instructions for cleaning that particular item. Some wool items, such as socks, are best washed by hand, while others, like wool trousers, might require dry cleaning instead.

But how does one go about washing wool without causing any damage? From choosing the right detergent to understanding the drying process, this article will cover essential tips that will change the way you care for wool.

Does Wool Shrink?

woman holding knitted wool sweaters

Wool is prone to shrinking when exposed to heat, agitation, and harsh cleaning methods. The combination of high temperatures and movement from washing machines and dryers can cause the wool fibres to compact and shrink. 

Careful handling and following the care instructions are crucial to prevent shrinkage and maintain the shape and quality of your wool garments.

If wool has accidentally shrunk, it might be possible to unshrink it by gently stretching the damp garment and pinning it to air dry. However, this method should be used sparingly as it can potentially damage the fabric.

How To Wash Wool In A Washing Machine

Wool Silk Wash Cycle

While wool can be machine-washed, it requires a gentler approach to avoid shrinkage and damage. Here’s a step-by-step guide to ensure your wool garments stay looking their best:

  1. Treat any stains on wool clothes before placing them in the machine. This prevents setting the stains during the wash cycle.
  2. Keep light and dark coloured clothes separate when washing wool. Colour runs are more difficult to remove from wool compared to other fabrics.
  3. Ensure zippers and buttons are fastened to prevent any snagging or pilling on your wool materials. Also, empty all pockets.
  4. Don’t use harsh detergents and opt for a gentle wool-specific detergent or a delicate fabric wash. Make sure any powdered detergent is completely dissolved before starting the wash cycle. Avoid using too much detergent.
  5. Turn the clothes inside out. This will help protect the outer surface of your wool clothes.
  6. Always use cold water to wash wool, and select a gentle wash cycle like ‘wool’, ‘hand wash’, or ‘delicate’. Avoid overfilling the machine and reduce agitation to minimise friction.
  7. The high spin cycle in washing machines can be harsh on wool. If possible, turn it off or choose a low spin speed.
  8. The heat from a tumble dryer is a surefire way to shrink your wool clothes. Always air dry your wool garments by laying them flat on a towel or drying rack.

Optional: Soaking your wool garments in cold water before washing can further reduce the risk of shrinkage.

How To Hand Wash Wool

clothing made of alpaca wool

Hand washing is better for wool garments with delicate details like embroidery, or sensitive pieces like vintage coats or knitted blankets, that could be damaged in a washing machine.

Follow these steps for hand washing wool:

  1. Fill a tub with cold water. Use a wool or delicate-fabric detergent, and make sure any powdered detergent is fully dissolved.
  2. Let the wool soak in the soapy water for about 10 minutes, gently pressing and squeezing the fabric to clean it without twisting or rubbing.
  3. Drain the soapy water and rinse the wool item in clean, cold water until all the detergent is removed.
  4. Gently squeeze or roll the wool item in a towel to remove excess water, but avoid wringing or twisting.
  5. Lay the wool item flat on a towel and reshape it before air drying.

Pro-tip: To get rid of smells from wool clothes, soak them in cold water mixed with a quarter cup of scented vinegar. Leave them to soak for 30 minutes.

How Often Should You Wash Wool?

Avoid washing wool garments frequently. Since wool has natural qualities that keep it clean, you don’t need to wash it as often as other types of fabric. Here’s a general guide:

  • Wool socks
    Wash after each wear.
  • Wool sweaters
    Depending on wear frequency and if you layer underneath, you can wash them after 4-6 wears.
  • Wool suits and jackets
    Wash after 5-6 wears.

Pro-tip: Remove wrinkles from wool garments by steaming them. Steaming is the safest and most effective way compared to ironing wool as it could damage the material.

How To Remove Pilling From Wool

A person wearing a wool sweater

Wool items tend to pill more readily than other fabrics due to friction and regular wear. To remove pills from wool, use a fabric comb or a battery-operated pill/lint remover, which will carefully cut or scrape away the fabric pills without damaging the wool fibres.

How To Remove Stains From Wool

If stains appear on your wool garments, you can try using a stain remover specifically formulated for wool or delicate fabrics. 

However, for heavily soiled wool items or those without care instructions, it’s best to opt for professional dry cleaning to avoid potential damage from harsh stain removers.

How To Store Wool

Proper storage is essential to maintain the quality of wool garments. Keep wool items shielded from sunlight to prevent fading, and store them in airtight containers or bags to protect against moisture and insects. 

Instead of using mothballs, which can leave an unpleasant odour, consider using natural alternatives like cedar chips for protection.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you machine wash wool?

Yes, you can machine wash wool, but it’s essential to first check the care label on each wool item. Not all wool is machine washable, so the care label will provide specific instructions whether your garment can be machine washed and under what settings.

How do you wash wool without ruining it?

To wash wool without ruining it, check the care label first if the item is machine washable. Always use cold water and a gentle wash cycle. Use a wool-specific detergent, ensure zippers and buttons are fastened to avoid snags, and avoid overloading the machine to minimise friction. Finally, always air dry wool garments rather than using a tumble dryer.

Does wool shrink after washing?

Yes, wool can shrink after washing, particularly if exposed to heat, agitation, or harsh cleaning methods. To prevent shrinkage, wash wool garments in cold water, use gentle cycles, and follow the care instructions carefully.

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