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The ultimate guide to washing and getting stains out of wool

There’s no better way to spend a chilly evening than curled up in a nest of warm woolly blankets, with a fluffy jumper on and a mug of hot chocolate in your hands. That said – one accidental splash, and you’re looking at a serious laundry dilemma. How do you go about removing stains from wool without shrinking or damaging it?

The good news is that those wool wash nightmares you’ve heard about (the suddenly baby-sized shrunken jumper, the felted blanket that looks like a flannel) are avoidable, and getting stains out of wool can even be simple. Let’s take a look at the basics!

First, the fundamental rule of removing stains from wool: No biological detergents

A biological detergent is your best friend if you’ve stained a non-delicate fabric, like cotton. When you’re cleaning wool, you’ll want to go for something gentle and non-bio instead. 

Why does it matter? Biological detergents contain enzymes that effectively “eat” their way through protein-based stains (pleasant things like sweat, blood, and spilled food). Unfortunately, wool fibres are also made of proteins. It’s best to go for a mild non-bio detergent that’s designed to work on delicate fabrics instead.

How to get stains out of wool clothing and blankets

When you’re trying to decide how to remove stains from wool, there are two key things to consider. The first is the stain itself, since certain stains require special treatment or specific products. You can find guides to most common stains in our stain removal section here

The second thing to consider is the care label on your woollen garment: this will tell you if it’s okay to treat the stain with bleach or solvents, whether you can wash your garment in the machine or not, and the hottest temperature you can use, too. You can find a guide to interpreting care label symbols here.

If you can’t find any information on your specific problem, the method below explains how to remove stains from wool. Just test it on a hidden area of the garment first to be sure of the results!

  1. Gently blot the stain. Using a clean, damp cloth, carefully dampen the stain and blot it, working from the outside of the stain towards the centre. This will help keep the stain from spreading. 
  2. Pre-treat the stain. If you’re using a specialist wool stain remover, simply follow the instructions on the label for the best results. If not, a solution made up of equal parts water and white vinegar will do. Apply a small amount of the solution to the stain and let it sit for 15 minutes or so.
  3. Blot dry. Using a clean, dry towel, gently blot the stain to help draw out as much of the solution as possible. 
  4. Wash as normal. For this step it’s very important that you carefully check the garments’ care label. Once you know whether to wash it in the machine or go for a hand wash, follow the relevant instructions below. 

How to wash wool 

It’s no good knowing how to get stains out of wool if your clothes end up shrinking in the wash afterwards! Here’s how to wash wool safely.

Machine washing wool:

  1. If possible, set your machine to the wool wash cycle. Most machines have a specific cycle for washing wool – this is usually called the ‘wool’, ‘delicates’, or even ‘hand wash’ cycle. If you need to set the spin cycle separately, turn it as low as possible.
  2. Add a specially-formulated detergent. Something gentle and non-bio, designed especially for wool.
  3. Gently press out any water. Many delicate wash settings skip the spin cycle, so it’s likely that your woollen garment will come out of the machine fairly wet. Lay the piece of clothing out on a dry towel, roll it up, and carefully press out the moisture.
  4. Lay it out flat to air-dry. Skip the tumble dryer, as the heat is likely to shrink or damage the wool. Most woollen garments also need to be dried flat (laid out on a towel, for example) to keep them from stretching.

Hand washing wool: 

  1. Fill a bucket or sink with lukewarm water and add a small amount of OMO Sensitive. Check the packaging for dosage instructions. You shouldn’t have to use much – half a dosing ball is usually enough.
  2. Swirl your garment around in the water. Massage a little detergent into any stained or smelly areas (such as armpits) if you need to.  
  3. Rinse in cold or lukewarm water, and dry naturally as before. 

Now you know exactly what to do if you get a spill on your favourite woolly jumper! So feel free to crack out the hot chocolate any time now.