How To Wash Merino Wool & Care For It

Cloth hanging on clothesline
Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

You’ve just got your new merino wool shirt, and you’re stoked about it, but after a few wear cycles, it’s time to wash it. Unfortunately, as our public education fails us so often, no one has probably taught you how to properly care for fabrics like Merino.

That’s where the ultimate Merino wool care guide comes in.

Here at MWG, our goal is to ensure that you aren’t going to ruin this miracle fabric so you can enjoy it for years to come. 

If you already know the benefits of Merino wool, you may think that caring for it is a breeze. I mean, it is odor-resistant, stain-resistant, and has fewer wrinkles than a freshly-botoxed divorcee. But, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns when it comes to caring for Merino. It’s not difficult, just a process that you may not be familiar with it yet.

To truly reap the benefits that merino wool provides, you’ll want to follow the advice from the 90s pop band, New Radicals, in that “you get what you give.” By following this unique care guide, you’ll not only learn how to wash merino wool, but you’ll gain expert knowledge about drying, packing, storing, and your environmental impact. Plus, I’ll answer any FAQs that you may have. Let’s start this laundry party!

Disclaimer: To maintain genuineness and authenticity, Merino Wool Gear DOES NOT sponsor products. Yet as an Amazon Associate, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

The #1 Merino Wool Care Rule

On average, I probably ruin at least one piece of clothing per year in the laundry cycle. Most of the time, I’m in a time crunch, so I’m not very careful. I’ll grab a pile of laundry, scoot over to the washer (losing a few stray socks along the way), and hit start. But, as I’ve shifted much of my wardrobe toward Merino wool, I’ve become more conscious and caring with my laundry.

So, the number one rule I can give you for caring for Merino wool is (unnecessary drumroll, please):

Follow the care instructions on the tag and manufacturer’s website.

Each garment is different, and there is no exact laundry recipe overall for Merino wool clothing. Some companies say to wash every two wear cycles; others say every four. Some say you can tumble dry with no heat; others say to avoid the dryer like the plague. On top of that, many companies have excellent warranties on their clothing. If you disobey their care instructions, well, you may not be able to return it.

Even though each garment has specific care instructions, there are broad guidelines you can follow. Let’s look at the details about how to care for Merino wool so it will last you a lifetime.

The Laundry Cycle

Merino wool’s beauty is that its odor-resistant properties mean you don’t have to do laundry as much. Most companies suggest you wash their garments after about 3-20 wear cycles. There have even been rumors that users have worn the same Merino clothes for weeks at a time without any odor build-up. It’s your call, but remember, the less you have to wash your clothes, the longer they will last.

Definitions to Understand:

Pilling

The tiny yarn balls form on knitted clothes caused by the migration of shorter fibers to the fabric surface. Pilling is common among Merino clothing due to the manufacturing process. Don’t worry, though, since once the pills are gone, the fabric does not lose strength or shape.

Shrinkage

The more heat Merino wool experiences, the more it loses its flexibility and shape, thus shrinking. Prolonged exposure to temperatures over 40 Celsius may result in felting, ruining your garment for good.

Snagging

As many Merino wool fabrics are thin, they can become caught on zippers, straps, hooks, etc. If it snags on these fasteners, it may tear the fabric. 

Merino wool care do's and don'ts
Image created in Canva

Merino Wool Care – Wash Summary

After a few wear cycles, you’ll want to wash your MW clothes inside-out in cold water. You’ll want to stay away from hot water since it may cause shrinkage. You’ll want to wash them with similar colors and fabrics, although it’s good to wash your MW with coarse fabrics like denim every so often to prevent pilling. Do not use heavy detergents, fabric softeners, or bleach. These harsh chemicals can damage the fibers and leave your shirt looking ragged.

Note About Hand-washing

Machine washing is usually preferable since handwashing can trap residual dirt, sweat, and detergents in the fabric, leading to odor and durability issues. If handwashing is your only option, let your garment soak for about fifteen minutes in warm water and mild detergent, agitating it every so often. Then, you’ll need to rinse thoroughly to rid the garment of all contaminants.

Merino Wool Care – Dry Summary

First and foremost, do not even consider putting your Merino wool into the dryer unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer. On top of that, you should not wring out your Merino wool garment after the wash since it may agitate the fiber structure. There are two main ways you can dry Merino wool: line dry (hanging) or flat dry.

Line Dry

Hang your shirt on a clothesline, railing, chair, friend, or whatever is available. Try not to use a hanger as it may deform the shape. Since MW is breathable and controls moisture well, it should be dry in an hour or two.

Towel Dry

Lay your shirt on a clean, flat towel in its original shape. Every once in a while, you can flip the shirt over. Flat drying may take longer than hanging, but it helps to retain the fabric’s original form. Some people have mentioned that once they place the shirt on the towel, they roll it up, like croissant dough, to help squeeze out excess water. I would advise against this as it may deform the shirt if not performed correctly.

Storage

You can store a Merino shirt as you usually would any other t-shirt: either fold it or hang it up in the closet. Don’t keep it in any area that is prone to moths, though, as their larvae will snack on the natural wool fibers, and you’ll end up with a bunch of unwanted holes. If you have no other choice, store your garments with natural moth repellents like cedarwood.

In between wash cycles, you’ll want to store your MW clothing in an area that’s well ventilated to get reliable airflow through the material. While it may be odor-resistant, there are still plenty of other nasty contaminants that need airing out of the fabric. We usually hang ours next to a chair by the window.

Packing

Merino wool is an excellent material for travelers due to its odor-resistance and its wrinkle-free properties. The fibers’ natural crimp gives the fabric flexibility and resilience, making it nearly impossible for wrinkles to form. You only need ever to pack two Merino wool shirts on any vacation. Just cycle through them each day, and you probably won’t have to do laundry the entire trip!

Best Merino Folding Technique

How to Fold a Merino Wool T-Shirt
Image adapted from Unbound Merino

You may be familiar with the traditional way of folding a t-shirt, but MW is a bit different. It’s much more efficient to use what is known as the military roll, but I like to call it the Burrito roll. You cuff the shirt’s bottom, fold in the sleeves, and roll it from the top. Once completed, tuck everything into the cuff for easy storage.

Okay, maybe it’s not exactly like a burrito. Still, I’m sure next time you’re at Chipotle, you’ll probably imagine them rolling a bunch of t-shirts (guac is extra).

Other Merino Wool Care FAQs

We scoured the internet to discover the questions people had when it comes to our favorite natural fabric. Lucky for you, we’ve got the answers!

Does Merino Wool Shrink?

Yes, as mentioned before, high temperatures can cause fibers to contract, shrinking the clothing. To avoid shrinking, make sure to avoid any heat in the overall cleaning process.

Can You Unshrink Merino Wool?

Technically, yes. While the best way to unshrink your shirt is not to shrink it in the first place, If you accidentally throw it in the dryer, don’t fret. You can use a process called knit blocking to stretch it back out. Place your shirt in a tub of warm water with a combination of baby shampoo and a few drops of detergent. Let it soak for half-an-hour before draining (there are specific unshrinking solutions available as well). Then, grab two towels, and make a shirt sandwich – actually, more like a panini – putting pressure on the top towel. Repeat with a few more clean towels, then gently use your fingers to stretch the fabric back to its original shape. When you’re satisfied, rewash it in cold water. Voila, shrinkage begone.

How Do I Prevent Pilling?

Pilling is natural, so the first step is not to fret too much. You’ll want to wash the MW clothes with a coarser fabric like denim, which will help the shorter fibers pull away from the material. Throw them in the washer with your jeans, but make sure all the zippers are closed to prevent snagging.

How to Wash Merino Wool Socks?

Merino wool socks manufactured are a bit different than the rest of the clothing. They tend to have much thicker fabric, which is mixed with synthetic fibers for durability. It’s best to follow the manufacturer recommendations when washing them, but if you can’t find any information, it’s safe to follow the washing process previously discussed,

Can I wash a Merino Wool Blanket?

Yes, washing your MW blanket will help to prevent the pilling and shedding of the fibers. It would help if you used a cold, gentle cycle with mild detergent in the washing machine. Before hanging out to dry, you may want to spread the fibers out with your fingers to maintain the original shape. It’s also okay to dry-clean a washable wool blanket if recommended by the manufacturer.

If you are in the market for a Merino blanket, check out the reviews for our ten favorite Merino wool blankets.

How do I Spot Clean Merino Wool?

Luckily, most MW garments are somewhat stain-resistant due to the natural lanolin that remains in the fabric. Sometimes, stains seem to appear out of nowhere, like the friend you never invite out, but always somehow shows up. For water-based blemishes, run your clothing under cold water for a few minutes. Oil-based stains need to be spot cleaned with water and mild dish soap; just make sure to rinse the area thoroughly.

Merino Has More Value Than You May Realize

Landfill and machine
Photo by Tom Fisk from Pexels

Caring for Merino wool clothes may be a bit different than you are used to. Still, it makes more of a difference than you can ever imagine, especially for the environment. According to Business Insider, the fashion industry is responsible for nearly 10% of global carbon emissions. Almost 85% of all textiles end up in the dump, and every time you wash your clothes, microplastics leak into the waterways. Crazy, right?

With Merino wool, you are washing your clothes less, which uses less water and fewer chemicals. Still, you are increasing the fabric life of your clothing. The increased longevity means that you will buy fewer clothes throughout your life, creating less waste and consuming fewer materials.

While it may be a tiny blip to help combat climate change, it’s a step in the right direction.

Merino Wool Care Final Thoughts

Congratulations, you now have the know-how to care for your Merino wool clothing properly. Okay, it may not be that exciting, but at least you’ve learned the basics, so you don’t screw up your wardrobe. Remember always to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, avoid heat, and stay away from harsh chemicals. With MW, you’ll wash your clothes less, help the environment, and you can use all that extra time away from the laundry room to care for yourself, not your clothes.

For more magnificent Merino wool care instructions, fact sheets, and product reviews, make sure to follow us @merinowoolgear on Instagram!

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