How To Wash Wool
“It shrinks easily, it’s difficult to look after, it’s hot, it’s itchy…” – People have so many preconceived ideas about wool and how to wash wool clothing. But did you know that in fact wool is anti-allergenic, temperature regulating, repels odour and needs to be washed far less frequently than most other fabrics?
When washing and cleaning wool there are just three things to remember:
1. Wool is anti-bacterial and doesn’t need to be washed often – it naturally repels dirt and is self-cleaning. Simply hang your wool up for a few hours (ideally outside) and it will regenerate. My father has Icelandic wool sweaters that have never been washed, they are hung out on misty and cold nights.
2. When washing wool always use a wool and silk wash or shampoo. Wool shampoo is pH neutral and doesn’t contain the enzymes found in bio detergents, which can break down wool molecules. Our favourites are: Diana Wool & Silk Shampoo and Ulrich Natürlich Natural Detergent for Wool, Silk & Skins. You can also use a mild, natural baby shampoo. Avoid fabric softener and fabric conditioner.
3. If in any doubt, hand-wash. Many of the wool brands we sell, including Misha and Puff, FUB and Joha, can be machine-washed on a cold wool cycle but if in doubt it’s worth hand-washing. Certain things like hand knits and alpaca knits will always need to be hand washed.
Here at MamaOwl we’ve actually found that hand-washing wool can be a relaxing experience that adds to your appreciation of the beauty and delicacy of your purchases. It’s even something children can enjoy getting involved in! So here are our top tips for spot-washing, hand-washing, drying and generally caring for your wool.
How to Spot-Wash Wool
Spot-washing is a great way to make your woollen clothes last even longer between washes. Simply dampen the patch you want to clean and dab (don’t rub) with a little diluted natural baby shampoo or wool wash, using a soft sponge or cloth. If the mark has soaked through, place a cloth or towel behind the layer of jumper, trousers or garment as you dab to absorb any excess and prevent the stain from soaking through to more of the item.
How to Hand-Wash Wool
Fill the sink or a bucket with cold or tepid water and add your wool wash or shampoo. Submerge the garment and gently swish it around (again, don’t rub or wring as this can cause the wool to felt). Leave the garment to soak for ten minutes and then rinse through twice with cold or tepid water. Always make sure the wash and rinse water is the same temperature.
How to Machine-Wash Wool
Lots of our wool brands can be machine-washed including FUB, JOHA, ENGEL, Misha and Puff. Always check the labels before hand. If you have a good washing machine with a good wool program you could also wash hand wash items, but it is worth trying with some small item first.
Choose a cool wool or cool hand-wash programme rather than a standard 30-degree wash (even if the garment says it can be washed at 30 degrees or more – sometimes the rinse cycle can be higher than the stated temperature). Don’t forget to use a wool detergent or wool shampoo.
How to Dry Wool
Knits may stretch if hung, so lay the garment flat on a dry towel and roll it up to absorb as much water as possible (don’t be tempted to wring it or squeeze it). Leave it to dry flat on a rack or dry towel, re-shape if needed – smooth out the hems of jumpers or sweaters or flatten trousers or leggings.
With wool fleece, like Engel’s you need to be even more careful when drying, they are very delicate when wet, stretch into shape and lay on a flat rack or towel to dry. Wringing or squeezing will flatten the fleece.
Can I Spin Wool in the Washing Machine?
If the care label on your garment says it is hand-wash only then you should also avoid spinning it in your machine. If it’s machine washable wool then we’d always recommend using a spin cycle of 400rpm or less.
Does Wool Shrink?
Hot water, sudden changes in water temperature, radiators and tumble driers can all cause wool to shrink. But with a little care it is possible to avoid shrinking.
Wool can shrink a little after the first wash or two so if in doubt we’d recommend sizing up. Our merino wool base layers, vests, undershirts, bottoms and leggings from Engel and Joha are all naturally stretchy and fit to the body beautifully so we often recommend buying a size bigger to get the most wear and value as your children grow.
How Do I Stop My Garment From Pilling?
Some pilling is unavoidable in high-quality natural wool garments and is more common in looser knits. For merino wool and smooth knits, we recommend removing the pilling with a wool comb such as our Solid Beechwood Cashmere Comb or an electric wool shaver. For looser knits, remove the bobbles by hand. We’d like to introduce a clothes shaver to our range soon – we’ve been testing various models but haven’t yet found ‘the one’ so if you have any recommendations then please let us know in the comments below.
You can find all our care products here.
By Anna K