How to Clean a Wool Coat

Brown and tan wool coats laid on white surface next to tan wool scarf, soft-bristled brush and glass on white cloth

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 2 days
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

From the classic navy wool peacoat to a luxurious cashmere camel-colored trench, wool coats are a winter staple. Wool fabrics can be washed at home if done properly. The three essential elements needed to successfully wash a wool coat are a gentle wool wash or detergent, low water temperatures, and gentle agitation.

Then why do so many wool coats have a care label that says, "Dry Clean Only"? The outer wool fabric is washable, however, many structured or tailored wool coats contain interfacings, shoulder padding, and linings that are not washable and can shrink or become misshapen.

You'll have better results washing a wool coat that has a label that says, "Dry Cleaning Recommended." While professional dry cleaning can become expensive, only you can make the decision for care based on the cost and age of the coat.

Even if you decide to stick with professional dry cleaning or wash the coat at home, there are several things you can do to spot-clean and refresh a woolen coat between cleanings.

How Often to Clean a Wool Coat

Fresh stains should be treated as soon as possible for the easiest removal. Since the coat is not usually worn with direct contact to the body, some coats may only require cleaning at the end of the season. However, if the coat shows visible soil and has an odor, it should be cleaned as soon as possible.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washer
  • Bathtub, large sink, or plastic tub
  • Large terry cloth towels
  • Clothes brush
  • Steam iron
  • Pressing cloth
  • Ironing board
  • Clothes steamer
  • Vinyl tarp or plastic sheeting
  • White microfiber cloth
  • Sturdy hanger
  • Flat mesh drying rack
  • Large mesh washing bag

Materials

  • Wool wash
  • Home dry cleaning kit
  • Fabric refresher

Instructions

Materials and tools to clean wool coats on white surface

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Handwash a Wool Coat

  1. Remove Loose Soil

    Simply brushing a wool coat with a clothes brush will remove a great deal of dust, hair, and debris. Hang the coat on a sturdy hanger and starting at the shoulders, carefully brush down each section to remove loose soil.

    Tan wool coat on black hanger brushed with clothes brush to loosen soil

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Pretreat Stains

    Mix a solution of one-half cup of warm water and one teaspoon of a gentle wool wash (Woolite, Castile soap, or a homemade wool wash). Dip a clean white cloth in the solution and gently rub any visible food or dirt stains or body soil at the collar, cuffs, armpits. Wait at least 10 minutes before washing the coat to give the wool wash time to break apart stains.

    Stain on tan wool coat pretreated with white cloth and gentle wool wash

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Prepare a Solution to Handwash the Coat

    The coat can be washed in the bathtub, a very large sink, or in a plastic storage tub. If using a sink or tub, be sure that it is immaculately clean and free of any bleach or residue.

    Fill the vessel with lukewarm water and add the wool wash. For a bathtub, you will need approximately one-fourth to one-half cup of detergent.

    Bath tub filled with water and wool wash detergent to handwash

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  4. Submerge and Soak the Coat

    Add the coat to the cleaning solution and make sure that it is thoroughly wet. Allow the coat to soak for around 30 minutes but no more than one hour.

    Tan wool coat submerged in tub of water and wool wash solution for soaking

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  5. Agitate the Coat

    Come back after the soaking period and gently agitate the fabric with your hands. Squeeze each section gently to help remove the soil. Do not twist or rub the coat excessively because this will cause the fibers to become misshapen or felt together.

    Tan wool coat agitated by hand in tub of water and wool wash solution

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  6. Rinse

    Lift the wet coat from the soapy water. Do not wring! Drain the soapy water and rinse out the sink or tub and refill with fresh lukewarm water. Place the coat in the clean water and swish to rinse. Repeat these steps until no more soapy residue appears in the water.

    Tan wool coat soaking in tub of clean water for rinsing

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  7. Remove Excess Moisture

    Once the coat is free of soap, lift it from the water and gently squeeze out the water starting at the top of the coat. Again, do not wring it out. Repeat the squeezing motion until the coat is no longer dripping wet.

    Lay several large, thick terry towels on a flat surface. Place the coat on the towels shaping it so that it is as smooth as possible. Roll the towels like a jelly roll to help absorb the moisture. Repeat this step with fresh, dry towels if the coat is still excessively wet.

    Tan wool coat squeezed gently to remove excess moisture from rinsing

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  8. Air-Dry Flat

    Find a flat surface where you can place the coat on some dry towels. The coat will need to remain flat for up to 48 hours as it dries. Turning the coat and replacing wet towels after 24 hours will speed the drying process.

    Do not hang the coat to dry because the weight of the wet wool can cause the coat to become misshapen. Do not place the coat in a clothes dryer. The high heat will cause it to shrink.

    Tan wool coat layed flat on gray towel to air dry

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Tip

    To prevent water damage to floors, tables, or bedding, place plastic sheeting or a vinyl tarp or tablecloth under the damp towels.

How to Machine Wash a Wool Coat

  1. Brush and Pretreat Stains

    Brush away loose soil and pretreat any stains as you would before handwashing it. Be sure to empty pockets and button or zip the coat. Turn the coat inside out.

    Brown wool coat being brushed to loosen soil next to white cloth with wool wash for pretreating stains

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Set the Correct Cycle and Water Temperature

    Set the washer to the wool or gentle cycle and the water temperature to lukewarm or cold. If possible, select the slowest final spin cycle to reduce stretching.

    Washing machine set to gentle cycle for cleaning wool coat

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Add the Wool Wash and Coat

    Add the wool wash following product instruction to the washer. Place the coat in a large mesh washing bag to prevent snags. If you don't have a mesh bag, use a white pillowcase and tie the top closed.

    Brown wool coat placed into large mesh bag to be added to washing machine

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  4. Air-Dry the Coat

    When the cycle is complete, remove the coat and turn it right side out. Follow the steps to air-dry the coat flat on a mesh drying rack or towels.

    Brown wool coat rolled into gray towel to air dry flat

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Remove Wrinkles From a Wool Coat

Once your coat is dry, it will probably need a bit of ironing or steaming to remove wrinkles or sharpen labels and pocket trim. Be sure to use a sturdy ironing board, pressing cloth, and steam iron when pressing wool to prevent damage to the fibers.

When using a clothes steamer, hang the coat from a study hanger and follow the steamer's instructions. Allow both pressed and steamed coats to dry completely before wearing to prevent set-in wrinkles from sitting.

Tips to Freshen a Wool Coat Between Cleanings

  • Spot treat stains as quickly as possible.
  • Wear a scarf around the inside collar to prevent body soil and make-up stains.
  • Use a fabric refresher spray to trap strong odors.
  • Use a home dry cleaning kit, including the stain remover for a quick refresher.
  • Use a clothes steamer or the steam from a hot shower to remove odors and wrinkles.