Known for its softness and beauty, merino wool is truly a special fiber. Grown by the breed of Merino sheep, merino wool fiber is uniquely fine; in fact, the diameter of most merino wool is less than half that of a human hair, making it wonderfully soft. This is why merino wool fibers are favored by clothing and textile designers for use in clothing such as sweaters and socks as well as blankets. Like other wool, merino is a protein-based fiber that naturally resists odors and regulates body temperature, which makes it a great base layer for winter. As a natural fiber, merino wool is also biodegradable and environmentally friendly. There is truly so much to love about merino wool!
Here at Heritage Park Laundry Essentials, however, our favorite thing about merino wool is the fact that it’s often washable! For us, saving the time, effort, and expense of dry cleaning is a big win. If you read the label of your merino wool socks, merino wool clothes, and even your merino wool blanket, you are likely to find that you can hand wash or run your items through the washing machine at home. Of course, be sure to check the care instructions for specific guidelines; if your merino clothing item is structured (such as a jacket or pants) or lined, you will likely need to dry clean. Check out our guide to understanding fabric care symbols.
Read on for specific guidance on machine washing your merino wool clothing and blankets.
How Often Should You Wash Merino Wool?
One of the great things about clothing made from merino wool fabric is that it really doesn’t need to be washed that often (with the exception, perhaps, of merino socks). As we mentioned above, merino fiber is resistant to odors and great for regulating body temperatures. This means that merino apparel should require washing less frequently than other clothing which traps odor. As a rule, washing merino clothing and accessories less frequently will help preserve the beauty of the item longer. A quick tip to freshen your wool sweater between washes is to air it out; either hang it outside in the fresh air away from direct sunlight or hang in a steamy bathroom during a shower to allow odors to release from the merino fibre.
Best Type of Detergent for Washing Merino Wool
Washing wool of any type -- especially fine merino wool -- means choosing a mild detergent specially formulated for natural fibers such as silk, wool, and cashmere. We recommend our own brand of wool detergent, Heritage Park Luxury Silk, Wool and Cashmere Laundry Detergent. This concentrated laundry detergent is pH neutral, gentle, and effective enough to get your merino items clean whether you are hand washing or opt to machine wash. It is made with thoughtfully sourced, plant-based ingredients.
Most importantly, our detergent does NOT contain enzymes. Why does this matter? In recent years, enzyme-based, or biological, detergents have grown increasingly popular. Laundry enzymes work to break down the individual components of stains, most of which are protein-based in some form (egg, dairy products, gravy, grass, and blood, to name a few). The problem with using enzyme-based detergents on wool (or silk, or cashmere) is that the fabric itself is protein-based. Over time, washing a merino wool garment, blanket, or even a merino wool sock with enzyme detergent will degrade the quality and performance of the fabric. Learn more about how enzyme detergents work. You should also take care NEVER to use fabric softener on merino wool because it leaves behind a waxy buildup that will coat and damage natural fiber like merino wool.
Pro tip: At Heritage Park, we always recommend avoiding fabric softener. It is not good for any type of luxury linen, garment, or your washing machine.
Steps to Washing Merino Wool
If you are hand washing a merino wool sweater or socks, we recommend using an appropriately sized wash tub or utility sink. Fill it with lukewarm water (enough to submerge items) and a capful of our wool wash. Swish your hand in the water to dissolve detergent before adding the items. Turn the item inside out, and place it into the tub. Using your hand, gently agitate the item around in the water, do not aggressively scrub the fabric. If you are hand washing wool socks, you can be a bit more aggressive or leave them to soak a bit longer. Thoroughly rinse your item in cool water and squeeze out excess (do not wring!).
If you are machine washing merino wool in the machine, follow these simple steps:
- Turn your item inside out (if possible) and place it inside a fine mesh laundry bag. This will help protect your merino clothing and socks from pilling and potential damage inside the machine. You can put several socks inside a single bag.
- Add the appropriate amount of Heritage Park Luxury Silk, Wool, and Cashmere Detergent (note: you can opt for our fragrance free wool detergent variety or our subtle and relaxing lavender mist wool detergent scent).
- Choose a dedicated wool cycle on your machine. If your washing machine doesn’t have this, use either a hand wash or delicate cycle.
- NEVER use fabric softener or bleach of any kind on merino wool.
- If your items are very wet at the end of the cycle, do not wring them out. Instead, roll inside a clean white towel to absorb extra moisture.
How to Dry Merino Wool
If you are wondering whether to put your merino wool clothing or accessories in the dryer, the answer is a definitive NO! Remember that merino wool is a natural fiber, and it absolutely will shrink dramatically when exposed to excess heat. Trust us on this: no amount of dryer time is safe for your fine merino wool.
Instead, lay your merino wool items to dry flat on a clean towel, preferably out of direct sunlight which can fade the dye in the wool. You can also lay your sweaters, socks, or even merino blanket on a drying rack, but please keep it away from the sun, even indoors. Do not hang a merino wool sweater on a hanger, which can cause it to stretch. If need be, switch out the towel and turn your item over to allow it to dry evenly.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about how to wash merino wool. Please check out our blog for more helpful information on all-things laundry related, including how to care for wool sweaters and why wool dryer balls can save you time when drying bath towels.
Heritage Park Laundry Essentials
At Heritage Park, caring for fine fabric is our passion. As lifelong collectors of luxury sheets, towels, and wool garments, we found many commercially available "gentle detergents" either damaged our fabrics or didn't get the job done, leaving stains. We knew we could do better. So we developed a formula with the perfect balance of powerful -- yet safe -- ingredients designed to remove tough, set-in stains while remaining gentle on luxury linens. Please connect with us at (800) 977-1841 or visit our store or email us with any product feedback or cleaning questions.