Proper Care of Wool Clothing: Tips & Tricks

Proper Care of Wool Clothing:Wool has been a popular fiber for clothing for thousands of years.  As a natural fiber, it is breathable and absorbent.  Wool is warm even when wet, making it ideal for winter coats and ski sweaters. Wool can also be spun into fine yarn for socks and baby clothing, or even for fine lace shawls.  Wool garments and accessories can last a long time, given proper care.  Here are the essential of wool fabric care.

wool fabric care

Cleaning Wool Fabric

Wool clothing care includes cleaning as needed.  Wool coats and jackets can be brushed with a clothing brush and hung on a shaped or padded hanger to air out before returning to the clothes closet.  When brushing and airing are not enough, coats and jackets should be professionally dry cleaned.  A dry cleaner will be able to handle not only the wool but the various linings and interfacings that make up a structured garment like a coat or jacket.

Other wool garments can often be hand washed in lukewarm water and mild soap or detergent.  Special washes such as Eucalan are made to be mild enough for hand washing delicate clothing.  (Surprisingly, according to one of your readers, despite the name, Woolite, which was designed for washing nylon lingerie, is actually not a good option for washing wool.)  Be sure to check care labels before washing, however, as there may be cautions due to non-washable trimmings or other blended fibers.  Sweaters can be washed according to their care labels.

If you knit your own wool garments, lucky you!  Simply save the wrapper from your ball of yarn for care instructions.  Superwash wool has already been treated so it may even be machine washed.  Assume all wool is hand wash only unless you have a label that says otherwise.

wool fabric care

Hand Washing Technique

Fill a clean sink or plastic dishpan with lukewarm water. Have a clean plastic basin of lukewarm water nearby for rinsing.  Add a small amount of mild detergent, such as a teaspoonful of baby shampoo, to the first sink or basin.  Place the garment in the sudsy water and squeeze gently until water has reached all parts of the garment. Place hands under the garment to support the weight of the item and prevent stretching as you lift the item from the sudsy water and place it in the clean water.  Squeeze the rinse water through the garment.  If necessary, empty the first basin, refill with clear water, and do a second rinse,

For drying, lift the garment and squeeze out excess water, but do not wring or twist.  Lay garments flat on a towel and roll up the towel to absorb more water.  Now lay the garment flat to dry if it is a sweater or other stretchy garment. Firmly woven fabrics may be hung to drip dry instead. Again, check the care label, if available.

wool fabric care

Final Thoughts on Wool Fabric Care

Other animal fibers are cared for in similar fashion, including cashmere, alpaca, angora, and llama as well as blends of these fibers with sheep’s wool.  All wool-like fibers share the trait of shrinking or felting if subjected to friction in combination with extremes of water temperature.  Wool is turned into felt by intentionally washing in hot water, agitating, then rinsing in cold water.  To prevent this, simply do the opposite, as detailed above.

Wool clothing care usually does not include pressing or ironing, but occasionally a bit of steam may help a garment spring back into shape.  Use the wool setting on the iron and a damp press cloth between the clothing and the iron.  There are also Teflon covers available to help prevent accidental scorching.  If you have a hand steamer, hold it a few inches away from any wrinkles and let the steam relax the fibers.

Store wool clothing folded flat (sweaters and other knits) or hanging on a proper hanger of shaped wood, molded plastic,  or padded wood or wire.  Darkness prevents color fading.  Be sure to watch out for moths in storage areas and consult a professional before they damage your garments.

Enjoy the beauty and comfort of wool.  Protect your investment in quality clothing with a bit of intelligent wool fabric care in washing and storage.  If you have any other tips that would help the other readers, please be so kind as to leave them in the comments below.

wool fabric care

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10 Responses to Proper Care of Wool Clothing: Tips & Tricks

  1. Natishia Curry says:

    I used to work in a Dry Cleaners years ago, if a wool garment came in that had perspiration it had to be washed in water & dry cleaned. It was soak washed in a 5 gal. bucket. But dry cleaners are equipped to steam & stretch back out anything that might have shrunk a little. They use stretcher bars shaped for clothes. The steam relaxes the yarn so it losses wrinkles and can be stretched if not felted. So I wash all my dry cleanables. But if I have something I want to look perfect, I take it to a cleaners.

  2. Patti Godot says:

    Actually Woolite was formulated to wash nylon lingerie. It is probably the worst thing to use in washing wool. Eucalan is an excellent product for wool. And it does not require, nor should you rinse it out. It helps replace the lanolin that gives wool its elasticity and breathability.

    • So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Patti, thanks so much for sharing that information. I’ll update the article appropriately. It sounds like you have some technical understanding of wool and wool fabric? Kind regards, Mayra

  3. Bea Witten says:

    I’ve read that it is very important to rinse very well if your soap was Woolite.

  4. Anne says:

    Have they reformulated “woolite” again? Back in the late ’80 my best friend was running a yarn store. A woman had purchased yarn at the shop and knit herself a beautiful suit. It had checks or a different color knit into the fabric. She came into the store in hysterics because she had washed the suit [which she had spent months knitting] in woolite and it had “broke” the dye and the knitted suit was all one blah color.
    Apparently as the preference for Polyester yarn had supplanted wool yarn the manufactures had reformulated woolite for ladies underwear and facilitate the removal of blood [a protein] which helped to break the dye on the wool yarn [also a protein].
    If they have not changed the formula for woolite yet again I would stick to Euculan It is what I use to wash my hand knitted socks.

    • So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Anne, thanks for all this additional info. I’ve already updated the article about this based on the feedback from another reader but hopefully, these comments will continue to add to everyone’s understanding. I think you are correct that Woolite is now best for nylon lingerie and not for wool.

  5. jane says:

    Thank you for the information about Wool Care. I was looking for it and luckily I surfed onto your website. I will be coming back for more

    Here's my pic:

  6. Terri says:

    I’ve been a hand knitter for many, many years and have always used low cost bargain shampoo without conditioner. wool, like hair is natural and shampoo is PH balanced.

  7. kiki keye says:

    My gram made muslin bags ( big enough to hold about 6 oz) of lavender to hang in our closets. They were a lovely non toxic replacement for moth balls.

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