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The Ultimate Guide to Washing Wool


If you’ve spent any time around these parts, you probably already know that wool is a fantastic way to get through the winter on your bike. It’s toasty, keeps moisture away from your skin, and can be quite affordable. (Tip: wool lasts, so you can often find wool sweaters in fantastic condition at thrift stores!)

Probably the only downside is that unlike a cotton T-shirt, you can’t just toss a wool sweater in the wash with your jeans and towels. Don’t let that scare you away, though! Despite the fussy stigma, it’s actually rather easy to take care of your winter wool clothes.
HEre is your ultimate guide to washing your wool bike gear. Bookmark this page or print it out and tack it to your laundry room wall – it’s an essential keeper.

Read the Label

Read the label.

Unless you’re washing a technical garment with a label that indicates it’s safe to machine wash, don’t just toss your wool apparel in the laundry. And even then, make sure to use the gentle cycle and don’t put your garment in the dryer.

Machine washing can felt (or mat) wool, turning a perfectly good adult-sized sweater into something that will barely fit a two-year-old. If that happens, the only thing left to do is to use it for a craft project, like this purse, or for awkward doll clothes. (I have a very nice knitting bag made out of what used to be my favorite alpaca sweater. *Silent tear*)

Wash Less

It may sound like a hassle to have to be so cautious with your wool, but the good news is that you don’t need to wash wool very often*. As a natural fabric, wool fibers are more resistant to grime and stink. Pendleton Wool, heritage experts in the field of woolen products, says “Wool’s resilience, low static and hairy surface help to repel dirt. Just brush and air out between wearings.” If you want to keep your friends, though, you will eventually need to wash your woolen garments.

(*Sheep wool, at least. Cashmere and alpaca, as delightful as they are, will make you smell like the stables once you start sweating in them.)

How to Wash Wool Apparel

When a label says hand wash, you should wash your garment with your own two hands, not the gentle or “hand wash” cycle on a machine.

  • Fill your sink or a bucket with cold water, then add a small amount (1 tablespoon) of mild, bleach-free detergent. You can use something specifically formulated for wool, like Woolite or Kookaburra, or simply use a mild shampoo.
  • Submerge the garment and agitate it gently, then let it soak for 20-30 minutes.
  • Drain, then rinse gently in cold water.
  • Gently squeeze dry (don’t wring it out) and lay it on a bath towel. Don’t concern yourself with this step too much – it’s better to err on the side of being gentle.
  • Fold the towel lengthwise over the garment, then roll it up tightly. Step on it to get as much moisture out as possible. Repeat with another try towel if necessary.
  • Lay flat to dry on a dry towel.

How to store wool garmets

Moths think wool is yummy.

Moths are not a problem when you’re wearing your wool garments on a regular basis, but if you plan to store them away for the season you need to do it right. Keep in mind that pests that eat wool like warm, humid environments, so when storing your wool you need to take as many of those factors away as possible.

First, wash and dry your garment thoroughly – moths are especially attracted to wool clothes that smell like humans.

Then, store your garments in a cool, dry place, preferably in airtight plastic bins. You can also use old pillow cases to store woolens in, since moths won’t eat through cotton.

If you do find that your wool got hit by moths, put it in a plastic bag in the freezer for a day to kill any leftover moth eggs, then give it a good wash.

How to Repair Wool Apparel

Even if you take the best care of your wool cycling jersey, wool pants or wool sweater, at some point the fabric may develop a hole. Check out this article on two ways to mend holes in wool sweaters where I go into detail on how to stitch the holes shut or use matching wool to felt them.

Do You Wear Wool?

Do you wear wool for cycling in the winter? Do you wear a wool cycling jersey? Wool knickers? How do you take care of your wool biking gear (or regular clothes you bike in that are wool).

Jessie Kwak is a writer who loves to type about the good life: travel, outdoor adventures, food and drink, and (of course) cycling. You can find her at Bictoro: Bikes and Crafts.

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