100% merino wool shirt label

How to Wash Merino Wool

Merino wool is a soft, fine fleece known for its softness, odour-resistance and breathability.

Additionally, it boasts temperature-regulating and moisture-wicking properties, which makes merino a popular choice for outdoor enthusiasts.

As such, you’ll find all kinds of activewear from base layers and socks to lightweight sweatshirts made from this unique natural fabric.

However, merino wool is also a relatively delicate material. Because of this, many people are unsure of how to launder these garments.

After all, improper washing may cause the wool to shrink, lose its shape or even tear.

That’s why, in this post, we’ll teach you how to wash merino wool safely and effectively to maintain its quality and extend its lifespan. Let’s dive in!


Does Merino Wool Shrink When Washed?

knitted merino wool

One of the biggest concerns people have in terms of how to wash merino wool is shrinkage. And while this is certainly possible it’s also easy to avoid.

The golden rule is to stick to temperatures of 30°C and below. This means washing merino wool in cold or lukewarm water to prevent damage to the fibres.

Anything higher runs the risk of you felting, and this kind of matting is almost impossible to reverse.

Likewise, avoid putting merino wool in a tumble dryer unless the care label says otherwise. Even then, always use a low heat cycle.


How Often Should You Wash Merino Wool?

drying merino wool

Just like other wool garments, merino wool is naturally dirt repellent and odour resistant.

As a result, you can generally get two to five wears out of your clothing before needing to launder it.

The longer you can go between washes, the better for the wool. Not convinced? Try hanging your merino wool items out in the fresh air or near an open window between wears.

Letting the wool breathe is often enough to rid the fabric of any odours. And if spot any dirt marks, you can always gently brush them off or dab them with a damp cloth.


Does Merino Wool Need Special Detergent?

merino wool and wool detergent products

The best wool detergents are gentle liquid cleansers designed specifically for delicate items.

Two good options are Ecover Delicate Laundry Liquid for Wool & Silk and NikWax Wool Deodorising Sports Wool Wash.

There are lots of other brands available too, just make sure you stay away from biological detergents. While they’re great for breaking down stains on more robust fabrics, the enzymes within them will eat away at the wool.

Likewise, coarse powders can damage fine wool fibres, so stick to liquid detergents.


Can You Put Merino Wool in the Washing Machine?

merino wool care label

How you should wash your merino wool item will depend on the specific garment, so check the care tag first.

While most modern merino wool items can be laundered in the washing machine, some may be hand-wash only.

If they are safe to wash in a machine, start by turning your woollen clothes inside out to help prevent snagging and pilling.

You should also fasten any zips and poppers for the same reason. If you’re particularly concerned about a delicate item, place it in a laundry bag.

Next, choose a wool or delicate cycle for minimal agitation and make sure the temperature is set a 30°C or below.

Then double check that the machine is set on a low spin programme before pressing start. This is key as excessive spinning can stretch and warp merino wool.

As above, use a gentle wool detergent and do not use fabric conditioner. This will coat the fibres and affect its moisture-wicking abilities.

The good news is, you shouldn’t need a softener as merino is naturally soft and cool water will help to maintain the smoothness.

Once washed, remove from the machine as soon as you can to minimise wrinkling. Then either lay over a drying rack or spread over a clean towel to dry.

To speed up the process, you can also roll up the garment in the towel, gently pressing out the excess water as you go.

If needed, you can steam the item once dry to remove creases, but avoid ironing wool.

Tip: never hang merino wool over a heated radiator or in direct sunlight as this can lead to shrinkage.

Similarly, even if marked as dryer-safe, using a dryer will ultimately shorten the life of your garment. Therefore, you should avoid tumble drying unless absolutely necessary.


How Do You Hand Wash Merino Wool?

handwashing yellow sweater

If your item is hand-wash only or you’d rather not put it in a machine, here’s how to wash your merino wool by hand…

Fill a large bowl or a clean sink with lukewarm water and add a couple of drops of liquid wool detergent.

Stir well to create a sudsy solution, then submerge your wool garment.

We’d recommend soaking it for up to 20 minutes, depending on how dirty it is. However, don’t leave your merino wool submerged in water for too long as it may become distorted.

It’s also a good idea to gently agitate the item every few minutes. This mimics the motion of a washing machine (on a lesser scale) and will help to loosen any dirt trapped in the fibres.

Finish up by rinsing the garment well under the cold tap, then lightly squeeze or press out the excess water.

Don’t wring out your merino wool, or any other type of wool for that matter! This can warp the fabric beyond repair.

washing merino wool

To dry, place in a large clean towel and roll up while gently pressing to transfer the water into the towel.

Once you’ve done that, place on a flat drying rack or a dry towel laid out on a table until completely dry. Don’t hang wool items to dry as they will no doubt stretch out of shape.

Tip: blot any stains with a damp cloth dipped in cold water and a small amount of detergent before washing.

If it’s a stubborn oil or grease stain, try applying some mild washing up liquid instead. Then rinse well under a warm faucet and launder using your preferred method.

And that’s how to wash merino wool in two simple ways! You can also find more wool care and stain removal tips in our dedicated laundry section.