How to Wash Wool

Washing Wool

You don’t have to be afraid to wash wool, you just have to be careful. Depending on the size of the item to be washed put enough hot water in a basin or sink with just a drop of dishwashing detergent. Swish the detergent just once or twice, don’t make bubbles. Lay the wool item in the basin and STOP! Just let it lie there for a few minutes or so, don’t overdo it on the time but don’t do too little. The detergent will lift out the oils on it’s own without your help. Carefully lift the item out, supporting all of its weight. Don’t let any parts dangle. Lay it to the side on a towel. Fill the basin with rinse water and lay the item back in the basin. Do this two or three times or until the water is clear when you put it in. You can let the item drain in the basin after letting the water out or if it is a small item move it to a colander. After most of the water has drained out, move the item to a large absorbent towel, roll it up into the towel and press to remove excess water, repeat until the wool is damp. Lay the item out flat on a screen or another towel, shaping it gently back to its original shape and let it dry.


  1. Do not swish, wring, pull, twist or stretch wool in any way. When it is wet, wool is going to remember what you did to it and it will be impossible to get it back to its original shape.

  2. If you are working with a sweater, for example, trace a pattern onto a piece of paper before you wash it. Then when you are lying it flat to dry, reshape it using the pattern with a plastic cover over it as your guide.

  3. If your favorite wool sweater has become hard and even itchier, you can add a few drops of cream hair conditioner to the wash water to soften it.

  4. There are a number of products on the market that say they are good to use to wash wool – the best and cheapest is under your sink – plain old dishwashing liquid like Dawn or Ivory. Just make sure it is the gentle kind and not one with a lot of add-ons.

  5. If you put your wool item in the wash water and it turns dirty and gross right away, dump the water out and do it again. Just like you might have to wash your hair more than once, you might have to wash the wool more than once to get it clean.

  6. Don’t use chlorine bleach on wool at all. It will cause the wool to yellow and will break down the fibers.

  7. When you are reshaping the wool after washing, this is called blocking. You might find that an area of the item is shrinking or pulling in on itself. You can pin those areas to whatever drying frame you are using to keep them from pulling too much.

  8. Most wool items only need to be washed seasonally, like right before winter. The more you wash a wool item the more chances you have to ruin it so wash with care and only when the item needs it.

  9. After my wool sweaters are completely dry, I like to air dry them in the dryer to fluff them back up. Only do this AFTER they are dry and only use the air dry selection on the dryer – no heat!

  10. As wool is really nothing else than animal hair, I decided to wash it carefully with shampoo and then rinse it with some hair balm in order to replace the washed-away natural coating (lanolin) with similar substances. It works fine and I’m also quite happy about the resulting nice smell of my sweaters, caps and so on.

  11. If what bothers you is just your woolen items bad smell (e.g. after having been in some place with smoke and/or food odors), you should hang it up in a well ventilated area for some hours. You’ll be amazed how efficient this is!

  12. You don’t have to be afraid to wash wool, you just have to be careful. Depending on the size of the item to be washed put enough hot water in a basin or sink with just a drop of dish-washing detergent.

  13. Frankie M. says:

    I love all kinds of wool – especially sweaters from Barbour and Johnstons of Elgin, which I avidly collect. I wash all of my knitwear by hand in my enameled sink, which I scrub spotlessly before submerging the garment only using Woolite. I have never tried shampoo before (perhaps one with a conditioner, such as Pert), but will give that a try and see how it goes. It only makes sense that this would be ideal since wool is hair anyway. My garments are always laid flat on a stand drying rack (which I purchased at Target for $15) next to my dehumidifier in my basement and this works excellently. The garment (depending upon its thickness) takes 2-3 days with me rearranging the garment periodically.

  14. J. Brown says:

    Wool isn’t that hard to wash. Using wool detergent and placing the washing machine on gentle wash or wool wash is just fine as long as the item doesn’t say dry clean only. Wash wool separate from other items.

  15. I have a thin wool sweater that I hand-washed per the instructions on the label. It smells HORRIBLE. I think it smells like fish and my husband says it smells like a perm. It didn’t smell bad before. Please, any advice will be helpful!

  16. I have an older wool tuxedo jacket that has a few bubbles in the fabric. There are in the front just below the pockets.
    Anybody know how to get rid of them or make them less noticeable?

  17. I, too, washed my wool, and it kinda smells like burnt hair. Just a slight smell as it is drying. Is this normal? When it is completely dry, will the scent go away?

  18. Read on another site that using white vinegar may be helpful, but have NOT tried it myself. I’m still trying to be brave enough to wash the lightly woven wool wrap I’ve had for many years rather than take it to the dry cleaners.

  19. Hi,
    I have a white wool tuxedo, but has a tiny dark mark on the back of it. Can someone offer me any advice on how to get rid of that mark?

  20. Brian,
    The key to stain removal is knowing what cleaning solution will work on what type of stain. In other words, without knowing what the stain is, it is difficult to recommend something to remove it. It is usually best to take a wool item to a dry cleaner for stain removal, even when knowing what the stain is though. Wool can easily be damaged by a variety of cleaning solutions, such as bleach, ammonia, or enzyme stain removers. Thankfully, dry cleaners are used to identifying and removing unknown stains.

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