August 04, 2022 3 min read
We hear it a lot: "Can Merino Wool be washed?" or "How often should I wash Merino Wool?"
Naturally, when you make an investment into some Merino Wool clothing, from men's and women's Merino Wool underwear to some of the heaviest of our Merino Wool baselayers, you want to know the best ways to care for it, especially when the price is often noticeably higher than cotton or synthetic clothing (one of many reasons why wool is better than cotton or synthetics).
The answer is, yes, Merino Wool can be washed, and its actually very easy to wash wool - so don't be scared, you've got this. The thing is, it just looks a little different than what were used to for most other at-home washing needs.
First, it's important to understand where Merino Wool comes from: it regrows annually on backs of sheep, and in Duckworth's case, it comes from the wool fleeces we clip each spring off of our "Rambouillet-Merino" sheep. And it's important to note that unlike our hair, which is a keratin-based fiber, sheep's wool is a protein-based fiber and therefore doesn't react as we might expect them to, or unlike cotton, which can hold 24-27 times it's own weight in water.
First step: You need to make sure to carefully read the care label on every commercial wool product, whether that's a piece of Duckworth Merino Wool clothing, or a competitor's made overseas with New Zealand, Australian, Turkish, Chinese or Uruguayan wool (can you sense our strong preference? But I digress - our made in USA wool clothing story is one for another time).
Our fabrics - Vapor, Maverick, Polaris, Maverick Peak, Comet, Powder, Sawtooth, Snowcrest, WoolCloud and Socks - all differ greatly on how to approach a wash, from hand washing the wool with just water and light amounts of wool-safe detergent, to washing in a common machine (with a tap-cold wash setting).
Second step: Determine what the goal of the wash is. Are you spot cleaning due to a spilled beverage or piece of food, or is it just that time to wash your Merino Wool gear after a couple of uses (remember, you don't need to wash wool clothing often, thanks to an antimicrobial, no-odor property of Merino Wool fibers). Well, unfortunately, wool is very susceptible to staining and taking on various dyes, so depending on the garment and what you're using it for, you might just have to take it as a badge of life-at-full-speed use, or cycle the item into a baselayer or midlayer use where the stain wouldn't always be visible.
Third step: Separate your Duckworth Merino Wool items that need washing into piles according to their washing instructions (lump together all the hand-washes, washing-machine washes, spot-cleans, and dry cleaning needs).
Fourth step: If you determined professional help is necessary (dry-cleaning or some spot cleaning), then you're done. However, for fabrics that can be hand washed or machine washed (using the coldest possible setting, preferably tap-cold), use about 1/4 teaspoon of wool-safe detergent for each garment. Wash them thoroughly (if by hand), yet gently, in cold water so as to remove all the excess detergent; if by machine, get the settings sorted out and let the technology do the rest. Once done washing, lay flat for optimal drying results.
We rarely (if ever) recommend putting Merino Wool in a dryer, as direct, uninterrupted heat has a knack for changing the shape of a wool garment. Similarly, you should not steam or iron your Merino Wool garments.
Fifth step: Finally, once your Merino Wool item is dry, fold it or hang it just as you would any other garment. Fortunately, wool is incredibly wrinkle-resistant, which makes it a very good travel companion. Pack it up no worries.
To reiterate an above point, one of the best parts about Merino Wool is that it doesn't stink like cotton or synthetics, even on the sweatiest, high-intensity days in the backcountry. For people who don't like to do laundry or are trying to cut back on water use for economical or environmental reasons, this can be a huge benefit and advantage. But, this of course, comes secondary or even tertiary to the cold and warm weather performance properties of our men's and women's Merino Wool layers and apparel.
Mike has been working at Duckworth for over two years, but was a wool fanatic since growing up skiing famously icy conditions in The East. In his free time, Mike enjoys camping, cooking, swimming, skiing and going to see live music.