How to care for wool


Warmth.Warmth. Quality. Breathability. Durability. All words we associate with wool. This is a textile that has maintained its popularity for centuries. No one who has worn a quality wool garment needs to be convinced of its value. However, we must keep in mind that moths and carpet beetles like it too.

As with many natural fibers, wool has the ability to keep us warm in winter and cool in summer. It also has the contradictory ability to repel liquid but absorb moisture in the form of vapor. This property also resists static electricity. Its resilient qualities help it shed wrinkles and resist tearing. If you want to keep your wool garment in tip top shape, read on to learn about how to care for wool.

Daily care and wear

Allow garments to rest 24 hours between wearings. This gives the fibers a chance to regain their shape. Use a garment brush after wearing to remove soil and dust. For finer fabrics, use a damp cloth.

Woven garments may be hung on a padded or shaped hanger. Be sure to empty any pockets and remove belts. When hanging it, keep it buttoned and zipped up.

Knits should be folded and stored in a closed container or drawer. Of course, keep all storage areas clean. Adding white tissue paper between the folds can help to avoid creases.

How to clean wool

Quality garments should only require cleaning once or twice a year. Check the garment’s label to determine the best method of cleaning. These labels are required by law and should not be removed. Fine wools such as Merino may have different laundering requirements. Follow manufacturer’s suggestions.

Take to a dry cleaner if recommended. Be aware that frequent dry cleaning can alter the makeup of the fabric. It will eventually lose its soft, pliable feel. Never use harsh laundry detergents. Choose a mild soap with a neutral pH. If using a powder, make sure it is completely dissolved.

Some garments may be hand washed. Before washing, trace the garment on a large piece of paper. Use a mild soap without bleach. Bleach dissolves the wool fibers. Wash in lukewarm or cool water. Soak 3-5 minutes and work the suds through the garment. Do not scrub or wring. Rinse twice in the same temperature water.

Absorb the moisture in a large absorbent towel. You may use the spin cycle in your dryer to remove excess moisture. Lay the garment on the paper pattern, adjusting to the original size and shape. Allow to dry away from direct heat or sunlight.

Some woolen materials are sturdy enough for machine washing. Check the label. It should say “Superwash.” This is an industry term for machine washable wools. Use the gentle cycle in your machine. Small items such as mittens and scarves may also be machine washed. Use the same temperature for washing and rinsing. Changes in temperature can cause the shrinkage or something called "felting"—a matting together of fibers.

Wool stains

One of the characteristics of wool is that it does not absorb liquids. This allows you to wipe up a spill quickly before it stains. Keep a bottle of stain remover on hand to deal with oily stains. It should be made especially for wool. Remove stains as quickly as possible after they occur. Be sure to test an inconspicuous part of the fabric before using any product on wool. Do not iron over a stain as this will set the stain in the fabric.

Do not attempt to remove stubborn stains on your own. For problem substances such as nail polish, paint, or ink, take the item to the dry cleaner. Give them information about where the stain is located and what caused it.

How to iron wool

Wool will naturally shed wrinkles if given the opportunity. After storage or packing, hang your garment in a steamy bathroom. That may be enough to remove wrinkles.

If pressing is needed, use an iron at wool setting. Iron while damp, on wrong side if possible. Always use the steam setting. Do not slide the iron. Hold it in place briefly to remove wrinkles. If you must press on the right side, use a press cloth to avoid creating a shine on the fabric. If you do get a shiny area, it can be removed by applying vinegar on the spot. Rinse out afterwards to eliminate the odor. Cover zipper plackets and other features to avoid creating an impression on the material.

How to store wool

Store only clean garments. Insects that eat wool prefer to eat soiled and stained areas. Dry cleaning is best before putting them away for the winter. Chemicals in the dry cleaning process will kill any moth eggs or larvae that are present. You may also store with cedar or moth balls. Cedar or herbal moth repellants only repel the pests. You need moth balls to kill them off. Do not allow moth balls to come into direct contact with garments. When taking clothing out for the next season, allow it to air out. This will get rid of the odor of moth balls.

Wool for life

Your wool garments are a valuable addition to your wardrobe. If you learn how to care for wool properly, it will retain its value over many years.