Here is a quick summary of Do’s and Don’t. Below is a list of some general tips to hand wash or machine wash your merino wool.
Do’s and Don’t with merino wool
✓ Read the label and specifics of your clothing
✓ Do a first wash in the first 3 wear even if it doesn’t smell yet. It will prevent pilling.
✗ Avoid mixing dark and light colors
✓ Turn clothes inside out
✓ Wash below 40 degrees
✗ Don’t use fabric softener
✗ Don’t use the wool program
✗ Don’t wring your clothes and/or don’t leave them long in the wash machine after the program ended as it leave your garment misshapen.
✓ Lay flat to dry and avoid the heat of a radiator or direct sun
So, you’ve bought some expensive merino wool clothing.
You’re wondering how you can wash it without damaging your pricey purchase.
How do you avoid shrinking your merino wool in the wash? Is there a way to avoid unnecessary wear and tear?
Read the label
There are 2 main ways to wash merino wool. And no matter if you are planning to use a wash machine or hand washing it, you want to make sure you have read the label first.
The majority of the specialized merino wool brands offer garnament that are in most cases machine washable. However, better be safe and read the specification as sometimes, it can be wash in machine, or hand washed only or even dry clean only. On Merino Wool Rocks, we try to let you know if a piece of clothes we review is not machine washable as it can be a serious drawback in the long term.
In case, you can’t read the label, here’s a list of the care instructions of some of the bigger brands.
Wash at Low Temperature (86°F or 30°C) on Normal Cycle
Most clothing can be washed at low or medium temperatures on normal cycles. Keep like colors together, so that means washing dark and light colors separately. I usually wash my t-shirts inside out to protect the prints.
Line Dry, Don’t Tumble Dry
Merino doesn’t respond well to tumble drying. You’ll risk having shrunken clothes. Socks will be an exception, as they are usually a blend of merino wool with nylon/Spandex/Lycra/elastane. They can be tumble dried on low heat.
Pilling is an annoying problem with wool where small balls of fiber form on the surface of the wool garment. Personally, I haven’t had any problems with pilling from Icebreaker, but I have had problems with other brands such as Finisterre.
Brands recommend you wash your new garments within 3 wears once you buy it to remove short fibers that cause pilling. Then, every couple of months you can wash your merino garment with a coarse fabric such as denim to flush out these short fibers that accumulate over time.
What About Wool Detergent and Wool Washing Cycles?
Wool detergents are fine for merino wool, provided they don’t include fabric softener. Fabric softeners won’t work on merino wool, which is already super soft anyway, and they risk damaging the fabric.
Secondly, wool “delicate” cycles often don’t rinse as thoroughly as normal cycles, so you run the risk of leaving detergent in the wool. That can also damage the fabric.
Therefore, most of the major brands recommend a normal cycle at 86°F or 30°C. Personally, I set the spin at the end a little lower, so it’s not as harsh.
When I’m traveling as an ultra-light traveler, I’ll only have two t-shirts with me, so I’ll operate on a “wash one, wear one” cycle. I’ll often hand wash the t-shirt in a bathroom sink. It’s important to thoroughly rinse them to get all the detergent out.
Anything you’d add or questions? Leave a comment below!