A DIY Wool Wash That Saves Money

How to Clean Wool Sweaters with Vinegar

Knitted vest hanging on clothesline
antonio arcos aka fotonstudio photography/Moment/Getty Images

Don’t get tricked into buying a specialty detergent to care for your wool clothing. Those little bottles of wool wash are pricey and they don’t do anything that you can’t do yourself.

There is a cheap solution to washing wool and there is no need for a special product or a trip to the dry cleaners. The answer is vinegar!

How to Wash Wool Clothing

Wool is a delicate fabric and needs to be laundered with care.

Pay close attention to the bold words or your favorite wool sweater may shrink or felt. That is heartbreak!

  1. Wash wool clothing by hand or on the gentle/delicate cycle in your washing machine.
  2. Use cold water and your regular laundry detergent.
    • Don’t use laundry detergent with built-in bleaching agents or other fancy add-on ingredients.
  3. Add vinegar.
    • If your machine has an automatic fabric softener dispenser, fill it with 1 cup vinegar. Otherwise, add it when the rinse cycle begins.
    • If you are hand washing, just add the vinegar to your rinse water.

Tip: Your woolens will smell like vinegar until they dry, but it will disappear.

Why Does Vinegar Work?

Wool fibers are naturally acidic. Most white distilled vinegar is around 5% acetic acid.

By adding vinegar to the rinse cycle, you are adjusting the pH of the wash water to bring it in line with the pH of your wool garments. Your clothing will get cleaned without getting damaged.

Benefits of Using Vinegar as a Wool Wash

  • Significantly cheaper than store-bought wool washes.
  • No harsh chemicals.
  • Doubles as a fabric softener and stain remover.

Tip: Add vinegar to all of your laundry and never buy fabric softener again!

How to Dry Wool Clothing

Wool should never be dried in a clothes dryer! It will shrink and felt, if exposed to heat.

To dry a wool garment:

  1. Lay it on a clean towel and lay another towel on top of it
  2. Roll the towels up into a tight log.
  3. Squeeze along the bundle to remove any excess water from the garment.
    • Do not wring the wool out in your hands. You will stretch it out.
  4. Once you’ve removed as much water as you can, unroll the towels and lay the garment out on a flat surface, taking care to reshape it as needed.
  5. Allow it to dry like this.
    • Do not hang your garment or drape it over a drying rack. It will change its shape.

Wash Wool Before Storing

Always wash your woolens before you store them for the season. If you don't, moths, silverfish and other wool-munching pests will be attracted to the sweat and oils left behind. You may not smell anything, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.