Cleaning a wool blanket is more involved than the easy-to-care-for linens that typically grace beds. Wool requires careful handling, so take great care when cleaning a dirty wool blanket. The fabric is liable to warp or become felted, and it will never be the same again if mishandled. If you do 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.
How Often to Clean a Wool Blanket
Wool blankets don't require frequent cleaning. Since they're delicate, only wash or spot-clean your blanket if it’s noticeably soiled or has a foul smell. Hanging wool blankets outside for a few hours once in a while is one of the best ways to keep them fresh and clean.
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 distilled vinegar, and water
|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°|
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.
Stains are likely to set in wool blankets if not taken care of immediately. If there are any stains on your wool blanket, treat them 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.
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.
You shouldn'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 complete. 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.
Though you typically won't need to iron a wool blanket, there may be a couple stubborn wrinkles that need a little help to flatten. Many times, the steam from an iron can eliminate a wrinkle in wool without the iron ever touching the fabric. If you absolutely 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 a good alternative to mothballs.
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 it secure 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.
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