How to Wash a Wool Sweater in the Washing Machine

Having heard many horror stories of shrunken and distorted washed woollens after they have been mistakenly put in the machine on the wrong setting, trying to work out the best way to wash them can be daunting.

From knowing whether it can even go in your washing machine, to which detergent is best to use, there are many things to consider before you wash your woollies. Remember to always check the label on the item for the best advice on exactly how to wash and dry it.

Should You Use Your Machine or Hand Wash?

The best way to work this out is to first check the label of the items you want to wash. If it cannot go in your washing machine, then this is generally stated on the label saying, “hand wash only” or something similar.

Some washing machines do in fact have a “wool” setting for washing, but you should still be wary about what you put in. Generally, mittens or gloves and light sweaters will survive the machine, but bigger and heavier sweaters or suits should be hand washed or taken to a drycleaner to be professionally cleaned.

Washing machines on a wool setting does not alter the temperature from hot to cold, which is what would usually cause the wool items to shrink. If you do decide to use the washing machine on a wool setting, be sure that the machine never reaches a temperature above 30°C and that you do not over-fill the machine. For the best results, only put in as many items so that the machine is filled to a half-load of normal washing.

What Detergent Should You Use?

Instead of your regular detergent, you should opt for one especially for washing wool such as these reviewed here. Woollen fibres are actually acidic and can therefore be damaged by the use of alkaline detergents on the material.

Products especially for use on wool have a neutral pH of 7, so that the fibres aren’t damaged. In addition to this, some detergents that contain enzymes to lift dirt from materials can also cause damage to the fabric, causing it to shrink or even matt in some cases.

Hand Washing Your Woollen Items

Washing your woollies in the sink is a fairly straightforward way to remove the dirt from them if they are too large for a machine or your machine doesn’t have the correct settings.

Use a special wool detergent for handwashing and fill the sink or bowl with warm water that you are comfortable putting your hand into before placing the woollen item into the water.

You only need to move the item around in the water, do not scrub at any marks and then leave it to soak for a few minutes. When you are satisfied, you can rinse out any of the remaining grime and soap before drying.