Can You Wash Wool With Shampoo? (read this first!)

There are so many myths about wool clothing, most probably spread by manufacturers of synthetic fabrics. You see, wool is actually a great fabric, it regulates temperature, keeps bacteria at bay and doesn’t need washing very often. When it is time to wash your woollen garments you will need to treat them differently to many of your other clothes.

One question that gets asked over and again is whether woollen garments can be washed using shampoo. The answer is yes, but there are a few provisos so keep reading to find out more.

Is It OK To Wash Wool Using Shampoo?

You can use shampoo on woollen items but only baby shampoo because it’s pH neutral. Where it can get confusing is because there are several wool detergents that are marketed as “wool shampoo”.

Wool has a neutral pH so using a pH neutral shampoo will not do it any harm. Wool is a natural fibre like our hair in many ways which is why using a baby shampoo is fine.

However, using a regular shampoo would damage the woollen garment because of all the harsh chemicals it contains. Which could cause the fibres to become damaged.

You should only use a hair shampoo on a woollen garment when hand washing because the chemicals in shampoo can cause problems with your washing machine. The problem is, the shampoo will produce too many soap suds which could seriously damage your machine.

If you are going to use a shampoo on your woollen garments we would recommend using something like Johnson’s baby shampoo.

Johnson's Baby Shampoo, 200 ml, Multi
  • Pure and gentle daily care
  • Pediatrician and dermatologist-tested

Because it is pH neutral and soft enough to not harm the wool fibres. Be warned, you will only need a miniscule amount because a little baby shampoo goes a long way and you will need to rinse it all out.

What You Need To Know About Washing Wool

Before you wash your woollen garments there are a few things you should know. Which are;

Wool Doesn’t Need To Be Washed Too Often

Wool is antibacterial, repels dirt (self cleaning) and doesn’t need to be washed very often. All that is usually needed to refresh woollen garments is to hang them up for a couple of hours.

This is best done outdoors (weather permitting) even if it’s damp and misty.

Wool Needs A Certain Type Of Detergent

Wool is pH neutral and needs to be washed using a pH neutral detergent. There are several wool and silk detergents often marketed as “shampoo” or at a push you could use a pH neutral baby shampoo.

Wool shampoo is pH neutral and won’t break down wool molecules like regular detergents that contain many harsh chemicals and enzymes.

There are several wool detergents available, here are a few of the most popular;

The Lab Co. Cashmere and Wool Laundry Wash

This product is said to clean, nourish and rejuvenate. It also contains cedarwood which is a natural moth repellent.

Lona Scott Cashmere, Wool & Delicates Shampoo Detergent

Lona Scott Cashmere, Wool & Delicates Shampoo Detergent 475ml, Made in UK - Scentless
  • Suitable for Cashmere, Wool & Delicate Fabrics
  • Highly Concentrate - 40 Washes

This product is specifically designed for use on wool, cashmere and other delicate fabrics. 

Cashmere and Wool Eco Wash

Cashmere and Wool Eco Wash by Clothes Doctor Laundry Detergent Liquid Gentle Washing Machine and Hand Wash Safe Nourish and Protect Your Knitwear and Delicate Fabrics (50ml)
  • Cashmere and wool are delicate natural fabrics that deserve special treatment (as we all do from time to time). Our No.3 Eco Wash for Cashmere and Wool is a gentle pH neutral formula that extends the life of your knitwear through cleaning, renewing and softening. It is lightly scented with Himalayan cedarwood and orange oil, to provide natural moth defence. Use this treatment in a hand wash or add to a delicate machine cycle.
  • This luxurious liquid is the perfect alternative to dry cleaning, which is damaging to our clothes and planet. It is also packaged in 100% aluminium with a compostable label, making it infinitely recyclable in an efficient closed-loop system. Perfect alternative to Dry Cleaning: this luxurious liquid provides the perfect results of dry cleaning without damaging your clothes or the environment like traditional methods do.

This product is also specifically designed for use with wool and cashmere and is scented with Himalayan cedarwood and orange oil which will repel moths.

You should also avoid using any fabric softener or conditioner on woollen items.

It’s Best To Hand Wash Woollen Garments

Before washing any woollen items, you should check the wash care label. Some will say that the item can be machine washed. If that is the case, we would recommend using the wool cycle or in the absence of a wool cycle use the delicate cycle using cold water.

Hand washing is always the best option when cleaning woollen items and as wool only needs to be washed around twice a year, it’s not so hard to hand wash a few woollen garments.

Spot Wash Any Stains

Sometimes, especially with children’s woollen garments, you might notice the odd stain. Instead of washing the whole garment, all you need to do is make the area of the stain damp, and gently dab it with some diluted wool detergent or baby shampoo.

It’s important that you only dab the stain, don’t rub it and use a soft cloth or sponge to apply the diluted detergent.

How To Hand Wash Woollen Garments

woman holding knitted wool sweaters

When it is time to wash your woollen items, check the wash care label. If the items are hand wash only, it’s really not that much of a big deal.

  1. Simply fill up a bucket or the sink with cool water and add the correct amount of wool detergent. 
  2. Swirl the water around to ensure the detergent is mixed in. 
  3. Then place the woollen item in the water and make sure it is fully submerged. 
  4. Gently swirl it around and then allow it to soak for around 10 to 15 minutes. 
  5. After it has soaked, rinse the garment in cold water until the water runs clear (typically 2 rinses).

It’s important that the temperature of the washing and rinsing water is the same.

How To Machine Wash Woollen Garments

Check the wash care label first, then turn the items inside out to help prevent pilling and felting.

Place your woollen garment(s) in the drum of the machine, add the correct amount of wool detergent to the dispenser and select the wool/delicate/hand wash cycle and a cool temperature.

Press start and that’s it, once the machine has finished you’ll need to dry the items.

You should never use fabric softener on woollen items as the chemicals in the softener dry onto the fibres of the wool and prevent it acting in the way that it repels dirt etc.

How To Dry Woollen Items

Once the items have been removed from the washing machine, they should be laid flat on a dry towel. You should then roll the towel up (with the woollen garment inside). As you roll, you should gently press the towel to remove excess water from the wet woollen item(s).

Never wring woollen items as this could cause damage to the fibres and also cause the item to become misshapen.

The item(s) should then be laid flat on a clothes rack or on a dry towel. If the item needs to be reshaped it should be done now before the garment dries. Reshaping should be done gently so as not to cause any damage to the fibres.

You should never store any woollen garments away that are wet or even slightly damp. They should always be dried in a well ventilated area out of direct sunlight and away from any direct heat.

Never dry woollen items on radiators or in front of a sunny window for example. Woollen items should never be tumble dried either as this will cause shrinkage and other often irreversible damage to the fabric.

Drying Wool Blankets

Wool blankets are soft, warm and easy to care for with many just needing to be aired outdoors to refresh them. However, they will need a wash occasionally and when they do you will need to know the best way to get them dry.

It is best to hang wool blankets over a clothesline out of direct sunlight. Sunlight can cause the colours to fade and if the sun causes the wool to dry too fast, it can become coarse and scratchy. 

You should never put wool blankets in a tumble dryer because not only will they become rough and scratchy, they can also lose their shape too.

How To Dry Woollen Sweaters

After washing woollen sweaters, they should be laid flat on a clothes rack or airer and dried in the shade. Never in direct sunlight as this could fade the colours and leave the sweater feeling rough and scratchy.

How To Dry Woollen Jackets

Woollen jackets should be hung on hangers to allow them to fall into shape properly as they dry. Once again they should be kept out of direct sunlight.

Should Woollen Items Be Dry Cleaned?

A person wearing a wool sweater

Dry cleaning relies on spraying the items with chemical solvents to remove stains and smells. Whilst it is possible to dry clean woollen garments, in fact, some are “dry clean only”, we don’t recommend dry cleaning in general.

We use far too many chemicals as it is and dry cleaning is all about using chemicals. They don’t dry clean sheep and we don’t dry clean our hair, so why would we want to dry clean woollen items that can be washed in the regular way?

Obviously, if the item says “dry clean only” then it will need to be dry cleaned. However, many woollen garments can be machine washed or hand washed which means exposing them to less chemicals which has to be a good thing.

Having said that, there are many people who swear by dry cleaning their wool sweaters to preserve their shape, maintain their colour, remove stains and keep the quality of the fabric. 

Can You Use Hair Conditioner On Wool?

It is widely reported among the knitting community that using hair conditioner on wool helps to soften the fabric. However, as many hair conditioners contain harsh chemicals and colours too, they could damage or at least stain your woollen garments.

Whilst it is often said to be done, using hair conditioner on woollen items is not something we would recommend. Hair conditioners work in much the same way as fabric softeners by coating the fibre strands with some sort of moisturiser.

Anything that coats the wool fibres can’t be good for the wool and could make it lose some of its unique qualities. Which is why we would never suggest using hair conditioner on wool. 

Having said that, we do know that many people use hair conditioners to get shrunken wool items back to their original size and shape. But we would advise you do so at your own risk.

SEE ALSO: What Is A “Small Load” Of Laundry?

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use instead of wool wash?

If you need to wash any woollen items and you don’t have any wool detergent you can use any pH neutral shampoo, like baby shampoo.

Can I use baby shampoo on wool?

If you don’t have any wool detergent you can use any pH neutral baby shampoo. But only use a minute amount because a little goes a long way.

Can I use hair conditioner on wool?

While it is often said that using hair conditioner on woollen items can help to restore them to their original shape and size after they have shrunk, we wouldn’t recommend doing so. Just like fabric softeners, hair conditioners coat the fibres with a chemical substance that can have a detrimental effect on the fabric.

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