5 Washing Tips To Keep Your Wool Sweater In Perfect Condition

If you live somewhere that experiences cold temperatures, you've probably reached for your wool sweater once or twice already this year. Not only is wool one of the warmest materials, but it's incredibly durable too. According to American Wool, the fabric lasts so long because its fibers can take a good deal of beating. In fact, they can withstand being bent up to 20,000 times before tearing, which is probably why you still own that wool sweater you got in the second grade. Though it's super-difficult to damage wool, it's not impossible.


Washing wool sweaters is a tricky job, as a lot can go wrong if not done the correct way. You might have heard horror stories of a friend's wool sweater shrinking in the wash, or maybe you've even experienced it yourself. You can try to put off washing it as long as you can, but you have to do it sometime. To prevent any mishaps, here are five washing tips to keep your wool sweater in perfect condition.

Wash in cold water only

If there's one thing you should know about washing wool sweaters, it's that you never ever use hot water. Wool can shrink from 20% up to 50% Ab Crafty states, so if you're throwing your sweater in with the water turned all the way up, you're not going to like what you see when you take it out. It's one of the quickest ways to ruin your sweater, and unfortunately, most shrinkage can't be reversed. When wool fibers rub together, they create the fabric we call felt. Once that's happened, it's impossible to un-felt the wool, and the shrinkage is permanent, Manteco explains.


To prevent your beloved sweater from becoming doll-sized, ensure the water in your washing machine is at a maximum of 30 degrees Celsius, according to Better Homes and Gardens. Some washing machines have a wool setting, but if yours does not, select the cold water or delicates option instead.

Choose the right detergent

Believe it or not, using the wrong detergent can cause your wool sweater to shrink as well, so it's pertinent you choose an enzyme-free option. It's the only detergent that is absolutely 100% safe for wool, as it can preserve the proteins the fabric is made up of, says Manteco. By washing your sweater with another detergent, you're continuously damaging those proteins, thereby risking further shrinkage. To check whether or not your laundry soap contains enzymes, take a look at the ingredients on the label.


Laundry detergent that contains enzymes will have "bio-based" or "plant-based" on its packaging. If you see either of these claims on the bottle, put it down and keep looking. There are several products on the market that don't contain enzymes — it's just up to you to find them. Take the time to read each label thoroughly to ensure it's safe for wool. The quality of your sweater depends on it!

Turn the sweater inside out

This tip has less to do with preventing shrinkage, and more with preventing that annoying pilling that seems to happen with every sweater you own. Pilling occurs for a few reasons, but it all comes down to the age of the sweater. The older it is, the more the fibers have been pulled at and torn, which causes it to fray. When these frayed bits get tangled up with one another, it causes the sweater to pill, according to Grove Collaborative. The best way you can avoid this is by turning your sweater inside out before washing it.


Not only does turning your sweater inside out reduce the amount of pilling, but washing it in this position targets the armpit area where odors are hiding. If you notice your wool sweater is still stinky in the pits after washing, this might be your ticket to finally getting rid of the smell once and for all.

Lay it out flat to dry

Washing it was the difficult part — drying requires much less thought and effort. In order to keep your wool sweater in perfect condition, lay it flat out to air dry, avoiding direct sunlight. You don't want to hang it up as you would other garments because doing so can cause them to stretch, per Woolmark. The weight of the water pulls down on the fibers, so you end up swimming in a giant, shapeless wool sweater. Sure, it didn't shrink, but stretching it out isn't any better.


However, certain wool sweaters can be put in the dryer. Check the tag first to make sure it's tumble-wash safe, then add it to the dryer by itself, Candy explains. Again, some washing machines come with settings specifically for wool, but if not, the tumble setting will do the same job. While we recommend air drying, if you don't have that option, this is the next best thing.

Carefully iron to remove wrinkles

Once you've washed and dried your wool sweater, all that's left to maintain its perfect condition is getting out those pesky wrinkles. Despite what you may think, you can totally iron wool without destroying the fabric! You just have to make sure you're careful going about it. To safely remove wrinkles from wool, you'll need to set the iron to medium or the 2-dot heat setting, says Woolmark. This prevents any discoloration, burn holes, or scorch marks because no one wants a sweater that looks like it has been in a fire.


To get rid of unsightly creases and wrinkles, spritz the sweater with a bit of water before applying the iron to really get the steam function going. Once you've finished, lay the garment out flat and allow it to cool for five minutes or so before folding it and putting it away. This prevents the wool from getting creased or wrinkled again.