Wool is a natural fibre that we love to cuddle up with on cold winter nights! You can’t go wrong with a wool blanket, a woolly jumper or a much-loved woollen hat.
But as with any item of clothing or home decoration, wool needs to be cleaned and maintained or it’ll start to look tired and grotty.
But how do you wash wool without messing it up? Find a complete guide to washing wool below!
Follow the tips and steps below to clean your woollen items.
Tips to Consider When Washing Wool
Here are a handful of tips you should think about when cleaning any kind of woollen item:
- Don’t use fabric softener.
- Choose a gentle washing cycle.
- Either choose a low spin speed on the washing machine, or skip the spin cycle altogether.
- Don’t dry wool in direct sunlight.
- Try to remove all your jewellery before starting the cleaning process. Rings and bracelets have a tendency to catch and snag wool.
- Test your chosen laundry detergent out first by applying a small amount to a hidden seam.
- Choose a product that has the Woolmark certification, meaning it is safe to use on wool.
- You should air dry wool as this is safer than other drying methods.
- Wash wool items inside out.
- Don’t wring the water out of your woollen items. It’s better to roll your wet items up in a towel and press the moisture out of them.
- Check the care label on your woollen item(s) to see how it should be cared for.
- Don’t scrub your wool, however tempting it may be! This could potentially damage the delicate material.
How to Wash Wool in a Washing Machine
The washing machine is a very quick and convenient way of washing things. However, although a lot of woollen items can be washed in a washing machine, not all can.
So, double check to see if your wool is washing machine friendly before you carry out the method below.
What you need:
Steps to follow:
- Make sure your wool can be machine washed before you continue.
- Pre-treat stains before you pop your item in the washer.
- Turn your item(s) inside out, if possible.
- Optional: Pop your woollen item(s) into a mesh laundry bag(s) before you add it to the drum.
- Select a water temperature that is 30℃ or less.
- Choose the hand wash/delicate/wool cycle on your washer.
- Reduce the spin on your washing machine.
- Add a wool-friendly detergent to the appliance – see our recommendations if you’re not sure which to choose.
- Start the cycle.
- Run an additional rinse cycle to remove excess product.
- Remove the laundry from the machine.
- Move on to the drying phase.
How to Wash Wool by Hand
Hand-washing wool is a great way of protecting your wool from washer-related wear and tear. It’s far gentler on the material and it can improve the lifespan of the item in question.
Of course, hand-washing can be more time consuming, but it usually yields very good results!
What you need:
- A suitable laundry detergent
- Cleaning area – for example a sink, bucket or bathtub
- Woollen laundry
- Cold water
Steps to follow:
- Remove any jewellery you’re wearing before you continue.
- Hold your woollen item up and check it for stains.
- Pre-treat stains with a small amount of detergent and cold water. Rinse the area before washing.
- Turn the item inside out, if possible.
- Find a suitable cleaning area, for example a bucket, sink or bathtub. But make sure you clean the area before you start cleaning your wool in it.
- Fill the washing area up with cold water.
- Pop a dose of wool detergent into the water. Follow the instructions on the packaging pack for the exact dose.
- Make sure the wool is completely submerged in the water.
- Knead the wool very carefully when it is in the water.
- Leave the wool in the water for half an hour.
- Continue to knead the material very carefully.
- Drain the dirty water out of the washing area.
- Hold the item under the cold water tap and rinse it – continue to do this until you no longer see any product residue coming off the material.
- Move on to the drying phase.
How to Dry Wool
It’s usually better for your wool if you air dry it naturally. This’ll stop any potential shrinking from happening, and should help to keep your item in better shape for longer.
To dry wool simply:
- Gently pull the item, particularly if it’s a jumper, into its original shape.
- Pop some neutral-coloured towels down on a flat surface.
- Lay your wool on top of the towel. Make sure it’s flat out and not crinkled up. Avoid hanging wet wool up because it can stretch out of shape easily.
- You can roll the wool up inside the towel to extract moisture from it.
- Unroll the towel.
- Leave the wool to dry flat out on the towel.
- Try not to leave the item to sit in direct sunlight.
- When the item is dry, store it. If you’re going to hang an item up, use soft hangers with padding.
It is possible to dry some items made from wool in a tumble dryer, but as mentioned above, it’s usually better to air dry woollen products.
If you’re going to use a dryer, make sure you check the care label on your woollen item first.
Once you’ve done this you can dry the item, but make sure you use a very low heat setting/wool setting, only run very short cycles, and pull your woollen item(s) out of the dryer before it’s completely dry. You can then dry the items naturally for the last few minutes.
If ever you’re in doubt about drying your woollen items in a dryer, just don’t do it. Instead, stick to a more natural method!
When Should You to Take Wool to a Professional Cleaner?
Wool is a very delicate material that must be washed in a particular way. One wrong move with wool, and you could end up shrinking it and ruining an entire outfit in one go.
So, if you’re a bit concerned about cleaning your wool, you do have another option: professional cleaning services.
A professional cleaning service is at hand to help you with your woolly worries. Plus, they’re the person you need to visit if you have a ‘Dry clean only’ wool item to clean.
Specialists in this field usually have access to different tools and products that you might not get at home. So, they should be able to help you with your cleaning task.
You can find a suitable person/store by doing a quick online search.
Before you go ahead with this cleaning service keep in mind the following points:
- If you opt for this cleaning method it will come with a price tag, and each location will vary on this.
- Always ask plenty of questions. Find out about the cleaning process, what products will be used, and how long the process takes.
- Pick someone with experience.
- Choose a reputable company.
- Do your research before you go.
How to Keep Wool Fresh In Between Cleans
It’s not essential to wash wool all the time, so here are some tips you can action to keep your woollen items fresh in between washes:
- Remove stains as soon as possible.
- After you’ve worn a woollen item, air it out!
- Keep an eye on your natural fibres when they’re in the wardrobe – pests might take a fancy to them.
- Store your woollen items properly.
- If you rotate your wardrobe as the seasons go by, remember to give your woollen items a wash before you store them. This’ll remove any stains, general dirt and bacteria from the fabric.
- When storing woollen items, make sure you use air tight containers/bags, and put moth repellents in the wardrobe, so you stop unwanted pests from creating havoc in there.
How Do You Wash Something That Is 100% Wool?
You can wash 100% wool by hand or in a washing machine. Just check the care label on your woollen item before you start cleaning it, so you know how to wash/dry the item properly.
In addition to this, if your wool is washer safe, make sure you choose the gentlest cycle possible and stick to using cold water (or water that’s less than 30°C).
Can You Machine Wash 100% Wool?
It is possible to wash items that are made from 100% wool in a washing machine as long as the care label states it is safe to do so.
If the care label states that you should ‘Hand wash’ or ‘Dry clean only’ an item, then this is how you need to take care of the item in question. Not adhering to the advice on the tag might result in you damaging the woollen item.
What Happens If You Wash Wool That Is ‘Dry Clean Only’?
If you forget to check the care label, or you ignore the advice on the tag, and you go ahead and clean your woollen item in the washer, your item might come out of the wash looking a tad worse for wear!
It’s likely that your wool might’ve shrunk, particularly if you used hot water, and you might see some felting reaction happening between the wool’s fibres.
It may not be the end of the world for the item in question, and you may be able to undo some of the damage. But ideally you don’t want to put your wool in this situation in the first place.
It’s always best to check an item’s care label before you wash it. And you should definitely make a point of doing this when you’re handling delicate materials, like wool, which are usually expensive!
And remember, if ever you see ‘Dry clean only’ you really need to stick to this advice!
What Happens If You Wash Wool in the Washing Machine?
If you wash wool in a washing machine correctly (with a gentle cycle, cold water and wool-friendly detergent), your woollen item should leave the appliance in a good, clean condition.
If you wash your wool in a washing machine on the wrong cycle, in water that’s too hot and with an unsuitable detergent, you’re probably going to be facing a mountain of woolly problems.
It’s very likely that your woollen item will have shrunk, and it may even be a little snagged if it’s been agitated too much.
Bethan has a passion for exploring, reading, cooking and gardening! When she’s not creating culinary delights for her family, she’s concocting potions to keep her house clean!