Five days of trekking and only one changing shirt? Merino wool makes it possible. But at some point, washing becomes necessary, even if it’s just to remove the remnants of the last mountain cabin party. We’ll tell you how you should wash merino wool.
Some basic information about merino wool
Merino is an excellent fabric that is relatively easy to care for compared to other types of wool. Especially among athletes, this exquisite fiber’s unique advantages are very popular:
Merino wool begins to smell only in exceptional cases. The reason for this lies in the nature of the fibers:
- Merino wool absorbs moisture very fast, and this is then released to the outside.
- Merino wool does not absorb odors, so too frequent washing is unnecessary and will harm the merino wool more than it helps.
Therefore, optimal care also means that you should rather air your favorite piece once more than wash it immediately.
Washing merino wool: The most important at a glance
We explain how you can avoid shrinkage, felting and other unpleasant side effects when washing. The following care tips for your “Merino wool washing” project apply to all garments made of Merino – it doesn’t matter whether the wool is 100% or only proportionally contained. You can also care for and wash garments with cashmere, mohair, angora and alpaca in this way.
- Merino Wool is self-cleaning so airing out is usually sufficient
- Special features make merino clothing machine washable
- Be careful when washing merino wool by hand!
- Please use only detergents without enzymes
- Close the zippers and Velcro fasteners of all garments
- Please do not use fabric softener or bleach
- Never put merino wool in the quick dryer
- Always follow the manufacturer’s care instructions
Merino wool airing instead of washing?
Wool, especially merino wool, is, to a certain extent, self-cleaning. Therefore, it is often sufficient to hang the garment in the fresh air instead of washing it immediately. It would be best to air out the merino wool when the weather is humid because the water vapor in the air transports away dirt particles and bad odors.
Besides, the elastic, crease-resistant wool fibers can always recover on their own. In general, the Norwegian merino specialist Devold, for example, recommends letting the garment rest for at least a day after wearing it – this is how the fibers can regain their elasticity and resilience.
If you want to learn more about the benefits of merino wool? Here you can read all about the unique properties of this natural fiber.
Tip: You should treat stains quickly to increase the chance of removing them without leaving any residue — dab with a bit of wool detergent or bile soap.
Please work in only gently and leave for 15 minutes. Then gently wash out and rinse well. Never use hot water. If necessary, you can use solvent-based stain removers.
Ortovox and Icebreaker guarantee the renunciation of mulesing and focus on sustainable agriculture.
Can I wash merino wool in the washing machine?
Does even extensive airing no longer help? We have good news: Modern quality merino wool is still super fine, but contrary to some prejudices, also very easy to care for. The wool fibers are so equipped that you can wash your merino wool normally in the washing machine. However, the following also applies here:
Before washing, take a look at the manufacturer’s care label because there are definitely differences in the material mix and the appropriate treatment.
Instead of washing individual pieces, you’re better to wait until enough pieces of wool have accumulated for half a drum load. It is essential to keep the laundry dry until the wash cycle. Deodorant, perfume and cream residues or sweat marks should never be left in the garment for several weeks until the next wash cycle.
Aggressive dirt not only damages the sensitive merino fibers but also helps bacteria to multiply.
What to do with stains on merino wool clothing?
For stains, strong bleaches are, of course, a no-go. Just soak the stain a little before machine washing to “soften” it.
Since merino wool is highly stain resistant, this pre-treatment should be enough to remove it. If that’s not enough, there’s always the trip to the professional cleaners as an alternative.
100% Merino Wool
The following should be considered for machine washing
- Wash light and dark clothes separately to avoid discoloration.
- Close zippers, Velcro, buttons, turn garments inside out. Use laundry bags for fine items.
- For heavy soiling, soak items for a while beforehand with a diluted detergent solution in lukewarm water.
- Fill drum no more than half full. Use special wool wash bags if necessary. You can wash underwear, shirts, sweaters and socks together with other wool or silk products.
- You can’t go wrong with the easy-care program – the wool wash cycle at 20°C to a maximum of 40°C is also suitable
- Wash merino wool only with wool detergent without enzymes and fabric softener.
- Alternatively, you can use baby shampoo. Simply add some to the washing chamber, like liquid detergent.
- Be careful when choosing the temperature: If you wash too warm, there is always a risk that all wool qualities will warp and shrink.
- Spinning: spin larger items of laundry such as sweaters or knitted vests only briefly and gently.
The merino garment is not machine washable?
Some manufacturers give other care instructions, and you should refrain from washing the garment in the washing machine. Then the good piece is usually made of a more sensitive material mix, or its fibers are not specially pre-treated. It must either be dry-cleaned or washed in the sink according to the care instructions.
Hand wash merino wool
If you need or even want to wash merino wool by hand, of course, it is possible. However, you should be very careful and do not rub the fabric together, otherwise, nodules will form.
Tips for merino hand wash:
- Follow the manufacturer’s care instructions on the label.
- Wash light and dark garments separately.
- Mix a small splash of enzyme-, fabric softener- and bleach-free wool detergent in lukewarm water in the sink. Usually, one capful (10 ml) to 5 liters of water is enough. Dissolve powder well. Use enough water to move clothes easily.
- Soak the clothes while gently pressing them into the water. Wringing, rubbing and kneading are taboo. Wash for 5 to a maximum of 15 minutes, repeatedly allowing to rest briefly, gently moving and pressing. Allow water to drain off, fold clothing lightly, squeeze, do not wring.
- Especially when washing by hand, dirt and detergent residues may remain. If these accumulate, bacteria attach to them, and the odor-repellent properties of the wool are gone. Therefore, you should rinse generously with cold to lukewarm water.
- A small dash of vinegar in the last rinse cycle refreshes the color, removes lime residues from the fibers and thus improves the softness.
Drying merino wool correctly
Some garments made of merino wool bear the so-called Woolmark logo, which qualifies them for use in the dryer. However, you should still not set the temperature too high and maybe even choose the cold air variant.
If you don’t find a Woolmark logo or don’t trust the dryer, it’s best to simply lay the merino wool on a towel on the floor to dry. Even though merino wool is comparatively dimensionally stable, you take the slightest risk with horizontal drying.
Tips for the correct drying of merino wool
- Gently spin at low temperatures if the care label allows it!
- After hand washing or a wash cycle without spinning: Gently squeeze out the water, do not wring. Better to wrap clothes in a large towel and squeeze, so excess water is absorbed.
- With a dry towel as a base, clothes can then be spread out lying on the clothes rack or, if they are light, on a hanger to dry best in the fresh air.
- During drying, turn, shake and rehang every now and then. Merino wool is naturally fast drying.
- Do not place on the heater or in direct sunlight. This generally makes wool hard and scratchy.
- Wool garments usually do not need to be ironed! If you do, turn them inside out beforehand and set a low ironing temperature.
Washing agent recommendation for merino wool
In order not to destroy the sensitive structure of the fine wool fibers, there are also a few things to consider when selecting the detergent. If you want to wash merino wool, you should only use detergents that do not contain fabric softeners or the enzyme protease (which is normally supposed to dissolve protein stains).
Wool detergents can also contain protease (enzymes) and are often made for coarser wool. Merino fibers, however, have a finer structure than conventional wool. These enzymes can break down and damage the protein molecules of the sensitive merino fiber – faster wear is the result.
In addition, enzymes cause the fibers to swell, causing the clothing to lose its shape, form nodules (pilling) and the fibers to become matted. You should therefore read very carefully on your detergent whether proteases or cationic surfactants are contained. Wool also does not tolerate bleaching agents.
Which detergents are suitable? Ideal are ph-neutral detergents without fabric softeners, enzymes (protease) and bleaching agents. Even better are organic detergents without artificial additives or organic washing solutions without soap and alkaline pH. These solutions are suitable for wool and silk at the same time..
Special organic Merino detergents are available, for example, from Nikwax, Grangers, Alparino or KnitIQ.
My Merino Sweater starts Pilling
Short fibers in the merino wool after some time reach the surface and then felt. This nodule formation is known under the term “Pilling.”
What can you do about the pilling of merino wool?
Because this simply does not look nice, there are appropriate pilling razors and combs that remove the tangles. Alternatively, it is also possible to wash the merino cloth together with jeans in the machine. However, the razor and comb are the gentler choices.
Storing Merino Clothing
Wool clothing should be stored horizontally. A problem can also be moths because these love the noble Merino wool also. Therefore, add a little lavender or cedarwood to scare away the voracious beasts.
If you want to learn more about the optimal storage of noble wool clothing and the best protection against moths, you can read the article How to care for Alpaca Wool!
All these things are quite crucial for the care of merino wool so that it remains cozy soft, and beautiful to look at. With our hints and tips, you are well-advised, and your favorite merino piece will soon be as clean and beautiful as before.
However, we would also like to point out at this point that despite great care, it can happen that the garment shrinks or fluffs during washing. This is due to the fact that the wool and processing quality of the manufacturers sometimes varies considerably, and it is very difficult to predict how the garment will behave during washing.
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