Clothes being washed in a Whirlpool® washing machine

How to wash and dry wool

Warm and comfortable, wool is a common type of fabric that's available in a wide range of weights and textures. Help keep wool items looking great by either hand washing or putting them in the washer on a delicate or gentle cycle. Once washed, you may be able to dry them in a dryer on a low heat cycle or air dry.

Knowing how to properly care for your wool items goes a long way in keeping them feeling fresh. Follow this guide to keep your household’s wardrobe looking great by learning how to wash and dry woolen fabrics without shrinking or pilling.

A woman pouring Swash® laundry detergent into a Whirlpool brand washing machine A woman pouring Swash® laundry detergent into a Whirlpool brand washing machine

What is the best detergent and stain remover to use on wool?

Whether you're handwashing your wool items or using the washing machine to get them clean, use mild laundry solutions like Swash® detergent1 to help protect the delicate fibers of the fabric as they're cleaned.

If your wool fabrics become stained, you may be tempted to use stain remover. Dry cleaning for heavy soil may help protect the fabric better than introducing harsh stain removers that could damage the wool — especially if you don’t see washing instructions or a care label.

A woman placing dirty laundry into the drum of a Whirlpool® washer A woman placing dirty laundry into the drum of a Whirlpool® washer

How to wash wool in a washing machine

While it's usually recommended to dry clean wool fabrics, you may be able to wash certain wool garments in the washing machine. Before washing wool in a washing machine, consult the care label for specific cleaning instructions. Follow these steps for an overview on cleaning wool in a washer.

What you’ll need

 Supplies
  • Mild laundry detergent

Tools

  • Washing machine
  • Drying rack or clothes line

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Step 1: Check for care labels

Before placing your wool fabrics in the washing machine, check the care label for washing instructions recommending specifics like water temperature or washer settings. If the item doesn’t have a care label, wool should be dry cleaned.

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Step 2: Prepare the wool for the washer

Fasten any zippers or buttons to help prevent snagging, lint and pilling of your wool fabric. If items have pockets, make sure to empty them before starting the wash cycle. Place the wool in the washing machine.

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Step 3: Add laundry detergent

Using a mild laundry detergent, add the soap to the washer. Check the manufacturer’s instructions on your laundry detergent for load recommendations, which may vary across fabrics.

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Step 4: Begin the washing cycle

If your appliance has one, select a washer setting for wool. If not, use either a delicate or gentle cycle. Usually, cold water can help prevent fabrics from shrinking.

A person holding a garment under water in a washing machine A person holding a garment under water in a washing machine

How to wash wool by hand

Cleaning your wool fabrics by hand is a great way to protect the fibers of particularly fragile garments and items like vintage coats or handmade blankets from damage. When hand washing, handle the wool with care to keep the items looking and feeling clean by following these steps.

What you’ll need

 Supplies
  • Mild laundry detergent

  • Cool water

Tools
  • Wash basin or sink

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Step 1: Prepare the soap and water

Add a small amount of a mild, wool-friendly laundry detergent to a large basin or sink, making sure to follow any manufacturer instructions for washing different fabric types. Fill the basin or sink up with cool water.

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Step 2: Wash and soak the wool

Submerge the wool in the water and agitate gently with your hands, allowing the soap to distribute evenly. Let the wool soak in the water for about 30 minutes.

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Step 3: Rinse the fabric

Rinse the wool thoroughly with cool, running water. Once rinsed, gently press the water out of the fabric using your hands.

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How to dry wool

Depending on the thickness or weight of the item, wool fabrics should be either air dried or placed in the dryer on a gentle dry cycle. While heavier fabrics like coats and jackets may need the heat of a dryer, it's recommended to air dry older or delicate, lighter wool items.

Follow these steps to learn how to dry wool by air drying or in the dryer.

What you’ll need

 Supplies
  • Wool dryer balls (optional)

Tools

  • Dryer
  • Drying rack or clothesline

An air dry and dryer icon

Step 1: Decide on the dryer or air drying

Check wool items for care labels with specific instructions before putting fabrics through the heat and movement of the dryer. If you don’t see information about drying or if the item is labeled “dry clean only,” skip the dryer and air dry the wool instead. If air drying, lay the item out across a drying rack or other surface to dry flat.

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Step 2: Load the dryer

If using a dryer, load the wool into the appliance. If desired, add wool dryer balls to the load to help air flow and prevent the fabric from clumping.

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Step 3: Select a drying cycle

Choose a delicate or “less dry” setting using the dryer controls.

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Step 4: Fold or hang items

As soon as your clothes are dry, promptly remove them from the dryer and put them away after folding or hanging.

Detergent being loaded into a washer dispenser Detergent being loaded into a washer dispenser

How often should you wash wool?

How often you should wash clothes made from wool depends on the type of item. While wool socks should be washed after every use to keep them fresh, wool sweaters can be worn up to six times before washing again if worn with an undershirt. Keep wool suits or jackets looking their best by washing after five to six wearings. 

Does wool shrink?

Typically, fabrics made of natural fibers like wool are more prone to shrinking when washed in warm or hot water. The agitation and temperatures of washing and drying machines can also distort fabric and lead to shrinking.

Whether cleaning in the washer or by hand, washing wool too vigorously can cause the fibers to tighten together and shrink, so gentle handling is essential to protecting fibers against damage.

A woman folding sheets in a basket A woman folding sheets in a basket

Does Merino wool shrink?

Merino wool is a soft yet strong material that stretches and bounces back easily after washing. However, improperly washing items made from Merino wool may lead to shrinking over time.

Always check your care label before cleaning Merino wool in the washer. In general, be sure to use low temperatures and an appropriate detergent when washing any item made from Merino or standard wool.

How can you remove pilling from wool?

Items made from wool tend to develop pills more readily than other fabrics like silk, denim or linen. While some pilling should be expected through regular use, you may be able to help slow down or prevent pilling by reducing friction or abrasion.

Remove pills from wool items with a fabric comb or battery-operated pill/lint remover, which will help carefully cut or scrape away the fabric pills.

A woman carrying folded laundry cleaned by a Whirlpool® washing machine A woman carrying folded laundry cleaned by a Whirlpool® washing machine

Shop Whirlpool® washers

Whirlpool® washing machines help you get that clean, fresh feeling for your clothes in a style that suits your household. With features like the 2 in 1 Removable Agitator on select models and intuitive controls, you can customize each load to get the right type of fabric care for your laundry every time. Shop the full collection of washers by Whirlpool brand to find the right fit for your home.

Learn more laundry care tips with Whirlpool brand

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1. Swash and the recommending brands are owned and distributed by Whirlpool Corporation.