What Happens If You Wash Wool in the Washing Machine?

Wool is frequently used as a primary component in the production of woolen clothes such as coats, jackets, and sweaters.

These delicate fabrics are usually made from different types of sheep, but the most commonly used types are Merino, Cashmere, and angora.

Since woolen fabrics are delicate and require extra care, machine washing them without any care may ruin the fabric in long run.

In this article, we will go through the consequences of washing wool in the washing machine followed by some quick tips to keep them in good shape.

Let’s dive right into it.

Can you wash wool in the washing machine?

Washing wool in a washing machine can produce negative results if you don’t know what you are doing.

Not all woolen garments are made the same as some may be machine washable while others may be dry clean only.

So, if you are washing a fabric that is not machine washable, there may be some significant disadvantages, including color overlapping and discoloration.

Additionally, it can damage the fibers of wool, thereby making it useless.

Here are some common and well-known disadvantages OR drawbacks of washing non-machine-friendly woolen items in the washing machine.

Overlapping or discoloration

Woolen outerwear is delicate and not made to be washed in the washing machine.

Some garments may be machine washable on the outside, but the interior is not.

Unless it is specifically marked as machine washable, never wash woolen coats or vests in the washing machine.

It can ruin the interior of the coat or vest and cause discoloration.

Furthermore, the fibers may bind with the clothes in the drum, thereby causing the color to shift or overlap.


A washing machine on its own does not cause pilling, however, it can amplify or worsen the pilling process if you directly put your woolen fabrics for washing.

If you own woolen garments, you might be wondering how to prevent pilling.

The straightforward answer to that would be to wash them less often.

With that said, When possible, freeze your woolen garments before putting them in the washing machine. Freezing your woolen fabric for 48 hours is ideal.

The cold tightens up the fibers, thereby preventing them from pilling. 

However, if you cannot prevent pilling, you can purchase wool combs or hand-wash woolen garments.

Excess Lint

Woolen garments when treated inappropriately may cause excessive lint in the washer.

Pre-washing them before you wash them in the washing machine will help avoid the occurrence of lint issues inside your washing machine.

You may also add 1 cup of vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser in order to keep the lint issue in check.

Damage to fibers

Machine Wash can be harsh on woolen garments no matter how delicate OR gentle a cycle you choose.

If you have woolen garments in your wardrobe, you can simply soak them in scented vinegar mixed in cold water for at least half an hour before machine washing. This can help you avoid any shrinkage.

Furthermore, since woolen fibers are delicate they may easily get damaged by harsh detergents.

Therefore use a mild detergent and avoid any detergents with industrial strength stain removers, bleaching agents, or strong fragrances.

May Shrink due to Hot Water Wash

Wool is sensitive to temperature, therefore hot water wash will cause it to shrink.

Wool tends to shrink and discolor if the heat or motion causes the scales to latch together.

How to Wash Woolen Fabrics Safely?

So, there are 3 ways to wash woolen fabrics i.e. Handwash, Machine Wash, and Dry Cleaning.

In this section, we will be covering 2 methods.

  1. Machine Wash
  2. Hand-Wash

For Dry Cleaning, it’s best to get it done through an expert.

Let’s take a look at both processes (Handwash & Machine Wash) in detail.

How to Machine Wash Woolen Fabric?

Follow the step-by-step instructions in order to machine wash your woolen items.

Step 1: Read the Care labels

Whenever washing a wool garment, the care label should indicate the best temperature for the washing machine.

In General, the maximum temperature to wash a woolen fabric is around 30 degrees celsius OR below, but this may vary drastically.

Step 2: Pre-treat stains

Before machine-washing your woolen fabric, it’s always good to pre-treat the stains using a stain remover.

A Wash & Stain Bar or Stain Solution works best for removing grease, oil, dirt, and makeup.

Just be sure to follow the washing instructions on the care label to avoid fading and color transfer while pre-treating.

So the second step is to pre-treat the stains with wool-friendly stain remover.

Step 3: Soak your Woolen Garment in Detergent Solution

Next, soak your woolen garment in water mixed with a mild detergent and gently swish it around the water for a few minutes.

This will help soften stubborn dirt and impurities.

Step 4: Add Detergent to your washer’s detergent dispensers

Now add a suitable mild detergent to your washer’s detergent dispensers and place your woolen fabric in the washing machine, followed by selecting the wool cycle.

Step 5: Set the washer

Select the delicate setting and choose a cold water wash.

Here are the ideal settings to wash your woolen fabric.

  • Wash Type: Delicate
  • Water Temperature: Cold
  • Soil Level: Normal (Can be increased if heavily soiled)
  • Pre-Wash: Required (Pre-soak the fabric before washing in the washer)
  • Cycle Type: Wool Cycle

Step 6: Re-run Rinse Cycle

You may need to re-run the rinse cycle to remove any excess suds from the fabric.

Step 7: Air Dry your Woolen Fabric

Once you are done washing the woolen fabric you can air-dry them for best results.

Note: Avoid wringing the wool garment as it can ruin the shape.

How to Hand-Wash Woolen Fabric?

Hand Washing a woolen fabric is easy.

Since you are hand washing them, it gives you more control over the process.

So, Start by placing your woolen garment in lukewarm water. Then, add half a cup of wool-friendly detergent and stir it until the liquid is diluted properly.

Allow the woolen garment to soak in the water for 10 to 15 minutes.

Next, wash the fabric by gently scrubbing and rinsing using your hand.

Once you are done washing, rinse the fabric thoroughly in cold water so that the detergent residues are washed off.

Finally, air-dry the garment naturally.

Note: Avoid using a hard brush as woolen fabric easily wears off, especially when it’s wet.

How to Dry Woolen Fabric?

After your woolen clothes OR fabric has been washed, be sure to run the dry spin cycle in your washer to get rid of excess water.

Next, remove the garment from the washer and place it between two clean, dry towels to absorb any excess moisture. Be sure not to wring out the garment as it may damage them.

Once you’ve removed excess water from woolen clothes, hang them on wooden hangers to dry.

Make sure to place them in a cool location and away from direct sunlight and heat.

You can hang smaller items together if you have enough room.

Tips to Keep Your Woolen Garment in Good Shape

  • Store your wool garment in a cool and dry place.
  • Wool is prone to moths and moths love dirty and damp wool, so make sure you wash your garments regularly to avoid attracting them.
  • Try using wooden or padded hangers and don’t use wire hangers.
  • Store your woolen garments away from direct sunlight. 
  • Folding woolen garments is a better option if you wish to keep them unused for long periods.
  • You can store your woolen garment in an airtight plastic bin to keep it fresh. If you do not have one, you can sachet it with lavender. 
  • Never wash your woolen fabric in hot water.
  • Avoid using harsh detergents, instead, you may use delicate wool detergent, such as Woolite, and use this solution to wash your woolen garments.
  • If machine washing, wash them alone OR you can simply group all the woolen clothes in one load.
  • Pre-wash woolen fabrics before putting them in the washer.

Final Thoughts

Washing a woolen fabric in a washer isn’t taboo.

You can surely wash your woolen items in a washer as long as the care label allows.

Avoid washing them in a washer if the care label explicitly mentions something like “Dry Clean Only” OR “Hand Wash Only”.

Furthermore, it’s always a safe idea to air dry your expensive fabrics as drying them in a dryer may damage OR shrink them.

Bottom line is that if you follow the care label there are fewer chances of damage.

Hemant Sarkar is a seasoned techie with a diploma in computer science and an impressive track record of over 15 years in dealing with speakers, kitchen appliances, and various home appliance-related issues. He is widely recognized for his exceptional expertise in repairing dryers and washing machines from all major brands. In addition to his appliance repair prowess, Hemant maintains engaging blogs on topics related to music and speakers. For any inquiries or assistance regarding appliances or tech-related matters, you can reach out to him at: hemant (at) theportablelaundry.com.