Shampoo Your Fine Wool

Try this homemade wool wash for your gentle garments.


Gently submerge sweaters into a shampoo bath to clean and soften them.

Photo By Ken Hoyt

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As winter woolies make way for spring styles, be sure to clean them before storing—or moths may find them irresistible. Giving sweaters a shampoo before they take a warm-weather nap helps them last longer and feel softer than dry-cleaning, which relies on toxic, polluting chemicals. (Those same chemicals may even stress fine fabrics, stripping away the very oils that make them soft and comfortable.)

Many clothes that go to the cleaners are good candidates for hand-washing with a gentle or moisturizing shampoo, which is milder than most detergents (and made for hair, which is, after all, what wool is). Never hand-wash garments that are lined or have a built-in structure such as shoulder pads. Leather patches or buttons aren’t suitable for wet cleaning.

Wool wash


• 1 tablespoon moisturizing shampoo
• tepid water
• 2 or more clean, dry towels

1. Fill a basin with tepid water and shampoo. Never run water directly onto wool garments as it can mat their fibers together.

2. Fight the urge to use too much shampoo. It won’t make the sweater any cleaner, and it will be harder to rinse out.

3. Place garment in the still water and gently press to submerge thoroughly. Continue pressing gently to agitate. Avoid scrubbing or twisting, which could damage the garment. Drain the basin and press out as much soapy water as possible.

4. To rinse, repeat the process above once or twice, using fresh water until the water leaving the garment runs clear.

5. Lay garment flat on a clean towel. Fold the first end of the towel over it and begin rolling it up, pressing as you go, to remove excess water.

5. Arrange clean garment on top of a fresh towel in its pre-washed shape. Let dry, turning once after a few hours.

A guru of home style, Portland, Oregon–based writer Ken Hoyt has expertise ranging from entertaining to food to interior design.