How to Wash and Dry Your Woollens this Winter

Wool is an amazing natural fibre and should play a key role in keeping you warm over winter. If a fleece is enough to keep sheep flocking across the Welsh mountains, it’s going to keep you cosy on frosty midwinter days. Buying good quality woollens can feel like an investment though, so you want to care for them (as you’d care for a pet sheep!). This handy guide will help ensure your sweaters stay looking their best for as long as possible.

Firstly, it’s important to remember that there are different types of wool, some chunky and robust, others more delicate. Merino wool is popular for good quality woollens due to its soft handle properties but as a fine fibre it does need more special attention than a chunky wool jumper. You should start by checking two things:

  1. What type of wool are you dealing with?
  2. What do the care instructions say?

The care instructions will largely depend on how the wool has been finished. Thirty years ago a housewife wouldn’t have dreamed of putting wool in the washing machine. These days however, a lot of the wool on the high street has been treated with a finishing agent that stops shrinkage and colour-run. This makes modern life easier of course, but I still don’t think the washing machine is good for wool. Furthermore, organic fibres won’t have had this treatment. Whatever method suits, you should turn your garment inside out to wash it to keep it looking newer for longer.

Machine washing

So the label says machine washable and maybe you have a wool setting on your machine - sometimes it’s just easier to chuck it in and leave it to dance around. If you do this you must keep the temperature below 30 degrees, keep similar items in the machine together (including colour) and use a mild non-bio detergent. Bio D’s environmentally-friendly detergent derived from natural ingredients is ideal (and suitable for hand washing). You can use a fabric softener but again choose a mild one and don’t use too much as over time it acts like a lubricant on the fibres, leading to extra pilling.

Hand washing

Most of your woollens should be hand-washed. Again, to do this you’ll want to turn them inside out and wash in a basin full of lukewarm (not hot) water. Using a mild detergent or baby shampoo, wash items individually in clean water and gently rinse in a separate bowl of water. Less is more when it comes to the detergent, otherwise you’ll spend hours washing it out. Wring the excess water gently.


Dry both machine-washed and hand-washed woollens flat. Lay them down on a white towel somewhere where they won’t get trodden on, or use a special drying rack that can be placed over the bath (not a heated one). Don’t leave wet wools sitting on top of each other just in case the colour runs.

Once dry, woollens should be stored folded flat in your chest of drawers. They will sit there contently until you call on them for a cuddle.

Emma Waight