Washing wool clothing requires special care, given the fabric’s delicate nature. You can hand-wash or machine-wash it at home, but to maintain its shape, there are specific instructions to follow.

In this article, we will cover wool shrinkage and how to avoid it as well as the frequency at which you should wash wool garments. We’ve also included steps to hand-wash or machine-wash wool clothes and tips on how to dry them.

Can Washing Wool Cause Shrinking?

Washing does not cause wool to shrink; other factors contribute to it. One is washing or drying wool in warm or hot water. High temperatures can cause the ingredients of your detergent to latch onto the natural fibers of the wool, making them stick even closer. This is why wool clothing commonly undergoes dry cleaning.

Another factor that causes wool garments to sink is agitating them by scrubbing and wringing them out too much. This is why it’s not advisable to use a machine when washing wool at home.

This shrinking effect is often reversible, but there are instances where washing—especially when done using a machine—can cause holes in wool garments. Due to the delicate nature of wool, many wash and fold services and commercial laundry services offer specialized cleaning for these clothes.

How Often You Should Wash Wool

It depends on the type of clothing and how often you wear them. Wool jackets and sweaters don’t have to be washed every after use; you only need to wash them after the fifth or sixth use. Wool socks need to go into the laundry bin after every use for hygiene purposes.

Hand-Washing Wool

This is the safer option when you can’t get a local laundry service and must wash your wool garments at home. Before you dive into it, it’s essential that you read the manufacturer’s instructions.

Checking the label is a must when dealing with any type of clothing at home. This label provides instructions if your wool needs a specific detergent or must be washed at a certain temperature.

What You Will Need

  1. Wool or mild liquid detergent
  2. Cool water
  3. Basin


  1. Prepare the soap and water.

Put cool water into your basin. Make sure you get a basin that is big enough for your garment. Pour in the laundry detergent. If your clothing doesn’t come with instructions, make sure you’re using a detergent safe for this fabric type.

  1. Wash and soak the wool.

Submerge your wool clothing into the water. Make sure that the soap reaches every inch of the item. Avoid agitating it too much to prevent shrinkage. Let it soak for about 10 minutes. There are some wool types that you shouldn’t soak in water. Again, make sure you read the label first.

  1. Rinse the fabric.

Rinse the item of clothing with cold water until you’ve removed all the detergent. Avoid wringing the fabric. Prepare to dry.

Machine-Washing Wool

While it’s not advisable for all wool garments, some types are safe to wash using a machine. If you have this garment and have decided to do it at home, here are the steps:

  1. Read the manufacturer’s instructions.

This is even more crucial when using a washing machine because any misstep can cause irreversible damage to your garment. This will provide you with all the necessary information, such as the detergent required and machine settings.

Furthermore, there are types of wool that are for dry cleaning only. If it doesn’t come with instructions and you can’t hand-wash it, it’s safer to send it to your dry cleaning services provider or wash and fold laundry service.

  1. Add cool water and detergent.

Always make sure that you use a mild detergent to wash wool. Cool water is better than warm or room-temperature water as it decreases shrinkage.

  1. Start the washing cycle.

There are some machines that have a setting for washing wool. If you don’t have this in yours, look for the setting intended for a delicate wash. Once the cycle is done, prepare it for drying.

Drying Wool: Machine or Air-Dry?

There are only two recommended options when drying wool at home: air-drying or machine-drying using a gentle setting.

You may think that air-drying will not be sufficient to deal with thicker garments. This makes you want to resort to machine-drying it at a higher heat, but remember that heat is the major culprit of wool shrinkage.

How to Air-Dry Your Wool Clothing

The first step in air-drying wool is to look for a rack or flat surface where it can be laid out. If you hang-drying wool, chances are it will stretch out due to the water weighing it down. Laying wool clothing flat helps maintain its shape.

It’s best to allow it to dry naturally in the air, but avoid placing it directly under the sunlight. Don’t use any kind of heater, such as a radiator. This may dry it quickly, but it can damage your clothing.

Wool Washing Tips

Here are tips on how to properly and safely wash your wool clothing.

Use vinegar to remove the smell.

If your wool smells funky, don’t vigorously treat it with scented detergent. Vinegar is an excellent alternative for removing undesirable smells from any clothing. It can also kill mild bacteria that can cause bad odor and itchiness on the skin.

Add a cup of vinegar to a basin filled with cool water. Submerge your wool garment and swish it gently. Once it has soaked thoroughly, remove it from the vinegar bath and rinse well. Proceed to hand-wash it.

Send your wool clothing to professionals for cleaning.

While it can be done at home, washing wool if you haven’t done it before can be very stressful. If you don’t want to deal with any of that, sending it to a wash and fold laundry professional is always an option. They have the tools and skills to deal with it.

Commercial laundry services also often offer specialized cleaning for clothing and other items made from wool.

Wash wool at no more than 40º Celsius.

We’ve talked about how temperature is crucial in washing wool, but for those who need a clear guide, 40º Celsius is your limit.

The Bottom Line

Washing wool may be more complex than you think, but it can still be done at home with the proper steps. Make sure to follow the instructions on the care tags and, if in doubt, call the professionals.


  1. https://youtu.be/sSQluIfD618
  2. https://www.thecreativefolk.com/does-wool-shrink/
  3. https://www.wellandgood.com/how-to-wash-wool/
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  5. https://www.woolmark.com/care/how-do-i-dry-wool/
  6. https://www.woolmark.com/care/how-to-wash-a-wool-sweater/