How Take Care of Wool Clothing: Washing, Drying & Storing
We’ve been wearing and using wool for millennia. Wool is the ideal fabric for cold, wet winter months. Its tightly overlapping fibers make it hard for dirt and debris to stick to it, and these fibers contain a natural wax called lanolin, which provides wool with its water-wicking powers. Warm wool sweaters, coats, jackets and activewear keep you toasty and dry in the winter months.
Everyone wants clothing that will last. With wool, proper care and storage keeps items fresh and attractive for years to come. Learning how to wash, clean and care for your wool clothes will keep them looking, feeling and smelling great.
How to Wash Wool Garments
Caring for wool sweaters, shirts and more starts with knowing how to properly wash them. As with any piece of clothing, before you throw it in the wash, you should refer to the care label's instructions. Some delicate wool items are hand wash only, though many pieces are machine washable.
Wool coats, jackets and vests will likely need to be dry cleaned. Don’t put these items in the washing machine unless otherwise stated on the care label.
Before getting wool wet, you need to remove any dried-on dirt or mud. You can use a soft-bristled brush to remove particles from the surface of your clothes. This is the best way to remove soil from wool outerwear. Brush jackets and vests lightly in a downward motion to loosen dirt from their wool fibers.
Spot clean garments before washing if necessary.
Hand Washing Your Wool Clothes
Delicate wool garments, like sweaters, may be hand wash only. When you wash wool by hand, be sure to wash it in cool or cold water without bleach or harsh detergents. Wool could shrink in hot water.
- Soak the garment in cold water and gentle detergent
- Leave it soaking for up to 30 minutes
- Rinse the soap from the garment
- Let the garment air dry
Machine Washing Wool Clothes
Machine washing items like wool sweaters can save you time and effort. Only machine wash clothing that instructs you to do so. Machine washing is harsher than hand washing. When you machine wash an item, you will want to protect it from possible damage.
- Turn the garment inside out
- If you have a mesh laundry bag for delicates, you can place the garment inside to protect it further
- Set your washing machine to its gentle cycle and use cool or cold water
- Don’t use bleach or harsh detergents as bleach can cause permanent yellowing and discoloration
- Allow the garment to air dry
How to Dry Wool Garments
Throwing wool into a dryer is a recipe for disaster. The result is a shrunken garment that you can no longer wear. Wool clothing should be left to air dry at room temperature. Lay garments, like sweaters and knits, flat to dry. You can place them on a hard surface, such as a kitchen or bathroom counter, or a drying rack. Hanging or line drying these items will cause them to lose their shape and stretch out.
Spot Cleaning Wool Clothes
No garment can go completely unscathed from stains and dirt. Clothing stains are an inevitable part of life. When you stain wool garments, you want to treat the affected area as soon as possible by blotting it with cold water. If cold water alone doesn’t remove the stain, use a touch of gentle detergent or stain remover. Scrape off or absorb any excess solids and liquids before blotting the area.
Tips By Stain Type
- Blood stains. Blood can be one of the hardest things to remove from clothes. Try using undiluted white vinegar and cold water to remove blood stains. Remember to soak up any excess blood before applying the mixture to the garment.
- Coffee stains. You spilled your morning coffee everywhere. We’ve all been there. Use alcohol and white vinegar to dab out stains from coffee spills.
- Wine and fruit juice stains. Wine and fruit are often rich in color. Unfortunately, that beautiful deep red doesn’t look great on your new wool jacket. Tip: mix rubbing alcohol and water together with a 3:1 ratio and dab the affected area.
- Chocolate stains. Chocolate is the ultimate treat...until the flakes stain your favorite cream-colored sweater. Soak a cloth in rubbing alcohol and dab the stained area. After that, use a mixture of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar directly on the chocolate stain
Care for Outerwear: How to Freshen Up A Wool Coat
Wool outerwear isn’t made to throw in the washing machine. Wool coats and vests require dry cleaning. Often, the wooly outside of your coat may be washable, but the interior material is not. These materials could be damaged if put in the washing machine, ruining the coat or jacket. Brushing away dirt and airing out your outerwear will keep it looking and smelling fresh throughout the winter season.
Sometimes wool can pick up smells from smoke or food. Luckily, you can eliminate leftover odors without taking your coat or jacket to the dry cleaners after every wear. The best way to remove odor from wool is to air it out naturally. Let your garment hang outside in the fresh air or somewhere inside your home.
If the garment is completely dry, you can also let it tumble in the dryer for a short time to remove odor. Just make sure you don’t leave the garment in the dryer longer than a few minutes.
Storing Wool Clothing
When spring and summer arrive, it’s time to put your warm winter clothes away. We’ve all done the haphazard closet switch, shoving our winter garments to the back and forgetting about them until next season. Before you relegate your wool favorites to the back of the closet, spare room or garage, make sure you protect them from stretching, wrinkles, dust and pests.
What to Do Before Putting Away Your Wool
After each season of wear, you should clean your wool garments and outerwear. Cleaning them will help eliminate odor and ensure that they will be ready to wear when winter comes around again. Follow our tips for washing, drying and spot cleaning wool garments. If you are storing outerwear, be sure to use a brush to remove any dirt or debris from the item.
- Empty pockets. Don’t leave stuffed pockets to sit all summer. Pockets that are loaded down can change the shape of your garment. Avoid pocket stretch and sag by emptying your clothes' pockets before storing them.
- Clean garments. Storing dirty clothes is never a good idea. Follow the instructions on the care label to clean your items before putting them away.
- Shave off pilling. As you wear your clothing, friction and abrasion cause the fibers to tangle. These tangles form small, fluffy balls called pills. You can use a fabric shaver to remove pilling and refresh the look of your garment.
- Fold neatly. Avoid odd wrinkles and more work next season by folding your garments nicely before storing them. Folding wool knits will help them keep their shape in the long run.
- Use padded hangers. If you are hanging wool garments, use padded hangers to help avoid stretching out the neck and shoulders. Of course, thick wool outerwear will do just fine on a hanger!
- Protect from moths. Use cedar chips and airtight storage to protect wool from pesky moths.
Ways to Repel Hungry Moths
Moths can chew holes in your precious wool clothes. The last thing you want is to pull on your favorite sweater and find that a moth has taken a few bites from the fabric. You’ll want to store wool properly before summer, when moths are most active and more likely to find ways to sneak into your closet.
Moths are attracted to the odors trapped in wool—not wool itself. Before putting away wool garments for the season, your first task is to eliminate the odors moths find so appealing.
- Tumble in the dryer. You can eliminate some odors by tumbling the item in the dryer. Just be sure that the item is completely dry. Wet wool will shrink if it is placed in the dryer.
- Dry clean. Dry cleaning is another great way to remove odors. You should consider dry cleaning your wool clothes and outerwear after every season.
- Use the power of cedar. Cedar chips have a fresh, earthy smell that you’ll like, but the moths will hate. Place cedar chips in your closet, drawers or storage containers.
- Place wool garments in airtight containers. If you are moving your winter gear to the garage or a storage unit, pack it up in airtight containers or vacuum-sealed bags to prevent moths from getting in.
- Cover items with cloth bags. Put a line of defense between moths and your lovely wool items. Cover wool sweaters and coats with cloth bags before putting them away for the season. You can even put cedar chips inside the bags for extra moth protection.
- Use cedar hangers. You may want to store some items, like wool coats or suits, hanging up. In that case, use cedar hangers to deter moths. If you are hanging more delicate items, use padded cedar hangers to protect the wool fibers.
Are you looking for durable, winter-ready, wool outerwear?
Contact Crane’s Country Store in Williamsburg, MO, to learn more about what we have in stock online and in-store.