Before trying to figure out how to wash a wool blanket, first check the fabric laundry care label. Most manufacturers will give you explicit cleaning instructions to ensure the longevity of your blanket. Cleaning a wool blanket involves more careful handling than easy-care linens that typically grace beds.
If you use it daily, wash your wool blanket every three months using a wool-safe, delicate detergent. In most cases, you only need to spot-clean it or clean it seasonally. When washing wool, never use warm or hot water or a clothes dryer. You can hand-wash or machine-wash using a short, gentle, cold-water setting. Wool can shrink, warp or become felted, and it will never be the same if mishandled or exposed to heat.
Read on for more details on how to wash, store, and repair wool blankets.
Equipment / Tools
- Soft-bristled brush
- Clean cloth
- Washing machine
- Soft bath towels (Optional)
- Drying rack (Optional)
- Iron (Optional)
- Pressing cloth (optional)
- Wool-safe detergent
- Club soda or vinegar (Optional)
|How to Wash Wool Blankets|
|Cycle Type||Delicate or hand-wash|
|Drying Cycle Type||Air-dry only|
|Special Treatments||Pre-treat stains|
|Iron Settings||Usually unnecessary; in a rare case, 300 F|
|How Often to Wash||Seasonally or once every three month|
Shake the Blanket
Before you wash a wool blanket, shake it out, and hang it in a well-ventilated area. This step can go a long way in helping the blanket feel fresh again, and you might not have to wash it.
Brush the Blanket
Lay the blanket flat on a clean surface. Brush the blanket, using a soft-bristled brush, with each stroke going in the same direction. This removes embedded dirt.
Treat stains on your wool blanket with cold water and a mild detergent, club soda, or a vinegar solution (1/3 cup distilled white vinegar and 2/3 cup water). Soak the area, and blot with a clean cloth. Stains are likely to set if not cleaned immediately.
Soak the Blanket in Cold Water
Fill the washing machine with cold water and a wool-safe detergent. Put the wool blanket in, and let it soak for 15 minutes.
Don't add warm or hot water at any point in the cleaning process because it can shrink wool.
Wash for a Couple Minutes
Set the washing machine to the gentle cycle, and let it run for two minutes. Cancel the cycle, switch it to the rinse cycle, and let the rinse cycle finish. Send the blanket through one more rinse cycle if you see suds on the fabric.
Roll the Blanket in a Towel
Roll up the blanket in a dry bath towel to absorb excess moisture. You may need to use more than one towel to eliminate the water. Don’t wring out the blanket, as it will ruin the shape of the wool.
Air-Dry the Blanket
Hang the blanket outside to allow it to air-dry, but keep it out of direct sunlight. The sun can destroy the blanket’s softness. Avoid putting the wool blanket in the dryer, too, as it can crush the fibers and shrink the blanket. You can hang a slightly damp blanket to dry over a door, on a drying rack, or on a non-rusting shower or towel bar.
What Is Wool?
Wool is the natural hair of animals, such as Merino sheep, alpacas, Angora rabbits, cashmere goats, camel hair, and more. Wool holds in heat well. It is durable and versatile and can be woven into heavy, coarse fabrics and lightweight, soft fabrics. The biggest producers of wool in the world are Australia, the U.S., China, and New Zealand. After the hair is sheared from the animals, it goes through a multi-step process before it's turned into yarn and woven to form a piece of fabric.
Treating Stains on a Wool Blanket
Wool is naturally resistant to soiling and oil-based liquids because it has a natural waxy coating that repels fluids. So, if a spill or stain is fresh, immediately blot it with a clean cloth. Blotting quickly will likely soak up most of the fluid. However, if left to stain or penetrate the fiber, wool fibers can be very absorbent.
Pretreat stains using the guidelines for the specific type of stain. Gently rub the stain remover on the fabric with your fingers. If using a commercial stain remover, read the product label carefully to ensure it can be used on wool. Test any stain removal methods on an inconspicuous spot before using. Don't scrub at the spot with a brush, which can mark the fabric. Follow it up by washing the item carefully.
Wool Blanket Care and Repairs
Wool blankets are expensive, so it pays to repair them, especially if you spot a moth hole that can only get bigger. Small moth holes can be mended by pinching the hole together and sewing them securely with a darning needle and matching wool thread. You'll need to patch larger holes using a coordinating remnant that you can slide into place and securely stitch on both sides of the blanket. Or, look into darning and wool patch kits to fill a hole.
A common mistake with wool is it can shrink if washed in a warm or hot wash cycle. Wool fibers contract when heat is applied. Several home remedies for unshrinking wool include soaking the blanket in water with some vinegar, fabric softener, hair conditioner, or specialty wool products, which all work to relax the fibers.
If you encounter problems while cleaning your blanket, a dry cleaner's expertise with wool items might prove invaluable to restoring the blanket to its former fresh, soft glory.
Though you typically won't need to iron a wool blanket, there may be a couple of stubborn wrinkles that need a little help to flatten. The steam from an iron can often eliminate a crease in wool without the iron ever touching the fabric. If you must remove a wrinkle, use an iron sparingly on the wool setting (300 degrees), and always use a pressing cloth under the iron. If you don't do the latter, you run the chance of creating a damaging shiny patch on the wool.
Storing a Wool Blanket
Protect a wool blanket from pests and dampness while in storage. Years ago, mothballs were used to keep insects from destroying wool fibers, but this method left a lasting and unpleasant scent that permeated the blanket and the whole room.
Instead, store a wool blanket in a tightly sealed bin or a heavy plastic bag. If pests are a concern, add a few cedar chips or woodblocks. Cedarwood is a natural flying-insect repellent and an excellent alternative to mothballs.
How Often to Clean a Wool Blanket
Wool blankets don't require frequent cleaning. If you use it daily, then wash it every three months. If you only use it seasonally, wash it once per season. Since they're delicate, you can hold off and wash or spot-clean your blanket only when it's noticeably soiled or has a foul smell. Occasionally, hang the wool blanket outside for a few hours to freshen it.
Tips for Washing a Wool Blanket
- Wool clothing and blankets usually have an attached care label, which will indicate the type of fabric used in the garment or linen and how to care for it. For best results, always follow the manufacturer's recommended care instructions.
- If your washing machine has a dedicated wool cycle, use that in place of the "delicate" or "hand-wash" cycle to clean a wool blanket.
- Dry-clean-only wool garments or linens should only be laundered by professional dry cleaners.
Can you wash wool blankets in a washing machine?
You can wash a wool blanket in a washing machine on the gentlest cycle with cold water. Or, if your washing machine has a "wool cycle," use it.
How do you dry a wool blanket?
Never dry a wool blanket in a dryer. To dry a blanket that has just been washed, lay it flat on the towels and roll it to wick away the water. Do not stretch, twist, or wring the blanket. Air-dry on a clothesline or hang it up. It can take about 24 hours before it dries.
How do you keep a wool blanket soft?
A trick to keeping wool soft is soaking the blanket in a tub of room-temperature water for 20 minutes with a capful of no-rinse wool detergent with lanolin and a drop of leave-in hair conditioner to the water. Dry it as you would if you just washed it by wrapping it in towels and hanging it to air-dry.
Eller FJ et al. Bioactivity of cedarwood oil and cedrol against arthropod pests. Environ Entomol., vol. 43, no. 3, pp. 762-6, 2014. doi:10.1603/EN13270