Wool is a pretty incredible fabric: It’s antimicrobial, breathable, odor-resistant, and extremely durable. It can also be tricky to wash and dry.
While some wool is machine washable, other garments should be hand-washed, spot-treated, or dry-cleaned. Here are some mistakes to avoid when washing wool, to ensure yours stays in good condition (and doesn’t shrink).
Mistakes to avoid when washing wool
Washing wool isn’t especially difficult—it’s just a matter of doing it the right way. Here are some examples of doing it the wrong way:
Not reading the care label
Look, we get it: Laundry care labels can be confusing. This is why we have an entire post dedicated to decoding them.
But taking the extra few seconds to read the care label on an item of clothing made of wool may mean the difference between preserving the piece, and potentially harming it. So before anything else, find out how to wash the wool.
Letting stains set in
Spill something on a wool sweater or blanket? Spot-treat it immediately. First, pour a little cold water or seltzer on the stain. Then, gently dab it with a clean, absorbent cloth.
Putting any and all wool items in the washing machine
Ideally, this is something you’ll avoid in the future by reading the care label, but we’ve all been in the position of knowing that something should be hand-washed or dry-cleaned, but consciously making the decision to pop it in the machine because it would be easier. Don’t do that with wool.
If the label says “dry-clean only,” you should probably do that. If it says “hand-wash only” or has the symbol for it (a hand facing downward into a container of water), here’s how to do that:
How to hand-wash wool
The hand-wash symbol is a recommendation to use water at a temperature between 86°F (30°C) and a maximum of 104°F (40°C ), per these instructions from the American Wool Council:
- First dissolve a fine detergent in plenty of water.
- Allow the wool item to float in the solution and move it around carefully.
- Do not rub, pull or wring out.
- Immediately rinse the item well.
- Place between two towels and lightly press to remove excess water.
- Lay the garment out flat to dry in its original shape.
Shrinking it in the dryer
Some wool can be put in the dryer, but again, it’s a matter of reading the care label to find out if your item falls into that category. If not, place the piece of clothing between two clean, dry towels, and gently press it to remove any excess water. Then, lay it out flat, in its original shape, and let it dry somewhere away from direct sunlight or sources of heat.
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